Is your pipeline problem a company culture program?
"Annie" worked in the technology department of a top investment bank ABC in New York City. She questioned me about the need to discuss women's challenges in the workplace because she believed that there was enough awareness and programs to handle any related issues. Besides, in her area of the bank, there was a significant amount of women managing directors (who exhibited feminine qualities and didn't feel the need to conform to male behavior patterns).
We decided to look at the numbers to evaluate her gut feeling. Indeed, we discovered that there was a reasonable amount of woman managing directors at 18%, given the percentage of women who graduated with computer science and engineering degrees in the United States. With the constant shortage of tech talent, the bank made great efforts in past years to recruit and retain female engineers.
But then we looked at the Investment Banking (‘IB’) division. Wow. Only 10% of 435 managing directors were women. Given that IB recruited from all majors and women have gotten a larger share of undergraduate degrees than men since 1982, this was pretty disappointing. The investment management division was not that much ahead.
You can draw your own conclusions about the discrepancies among departments in Bank ABC but here's an interesting FT article about Sexism in the City and another one about What It Was Like Being a Woman at Goldman Sachs.
Lessons to take home (or to work): 1) Bank ABC is not unique in its gender composition at the top. You will find similar patterns in other banks. Barclays, for example, recently reported that it had 43% salary and 72% bonus pay gap between women and men, attributing it to the men occupying most of its higher paid positions.
2) It's important to look beyond company-wide numbers. Within an organization, different groups will have different cultures and challenges with promoting women into leadership roles. It is, therefore, important to look at the data more granularly in order to better understand what’s happening and focus efforts on the right divisions.
3) When we talk about the leaky pipeline of women in leadership, many different factors play out. While some may attribute the leak to women's life choices, it's clear that culture plays a huge role in terms of retaining and promoting female talent. In more aggressive cultures like investment banking it’s harder for women to thrive. But do they have to be so aggressive? Perhaps everyone will benefit from not having 20 hour workdays or alcohol-infused socialization, for example.