Women have a tougher time than men climbing the corporate ladder, and a huge contributing factor to this disparity is ‘the old boys’ club’, a study has revealed.
The "boys’ club" refers to male employees having an advantage over their female counterparts in their relationships with male managers, which sees their careers fast-tracked, while women’s remain stagnant.
“Men can schmooze, network, and interact with more powerful men in ways that are less accessible to women,” the working study stated.
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“This mechanism can create a self-perpetuating cycle: male managers will promote a disproportionate share of male employees, who will continue promoting other men.”
The study, which is testing the old boys’ club hypothesis using data from a real-world corporation over a four-year period, revealed male employees who were assigned a male manager were promoted at a faster rate than their female counterparts.
“Women, in turn, are promoted at the same rate whether assigned to a male manager or female manager. The male-to-male advantage can explain one-third of the gender gap in pay grades.”
The Silicon Valley bro-code
The report used a large commercial bank in Asia as a case study, but the findings are consistent with what women experience in the western tech industry too.
According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review study, around 50 per cent of women in tech jobs eventually left the profession. And the Australian Computer Society warned the same thing could happen in Australia today, which could see an exodus of 40,000 women from the IT talent pool.
According to Gretchen Scott, director of Women Who Code, tech has a branding issue.
“Most of the technology time where you start wanting to learn to code is when you’re playing video games, and video games are so gendered,” Scott said.
“They’re designed for boys, by boys. They’re hyper-sexualised. No wonder girls are dropping out.”
And the industry is man-heavy as a result.
US journalist Emily Chang exposed the sexual underbelly of Silicon Valley in her novel ‘Brotopia: Breaking up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley’ last year, and revealed that women who engaged in the same activities as men did found their careers suffered as a result.
“The problem is that the culture of sexual adventurism now permeating Silicon Valley tends to be more consequential for women than for men, particularly as it relates to their careers in tech,” Chang wrote in Vanity Fair.
What needs to change?
The study found companies could reduce favouritism by changing their promotion review systems.
“For example, involving multiple managers in promotion decisions may make it more difficult for employees, male or female, to schmooze their way into promotions,” the report stated.
Alternatively, companies could promote gender-neutral social activities.
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