No, before you ask, this isn't about the pay inequality between men and women (although I have plenty to say about that and, YES, on average women do earn between 30 and 50 percent less than their male counterparts). But, the thing I want to talk about is just as troubling and, I believe, it does contribute to the compensation gap. If anything, this is more about one of the numerous causes of the pay inequality. I want to talk about applying for jobs. Yes, that's right. There are application inequalities and there is a significant gap between the number of men and women that apply for roles. I know, you have questions, and so do I. My questions are: Why is that? And more importantly, how do we fix it? Ladies, in this case, we are our own worst enemies but, fortunately it is within our control to correct!
Before I go further, let me revisit the past a bit. I spent 20 years working in Human Resources. During that time, I recruited for more than my fair share of jobs at every level. During the course of my career, I noticed a common trend, with few exceptions: I received more applications from men than women. This statistic held even when I accounted for population differences and industry trends. There was still a larger number of men applying for jobs. The most concerning part was, the higher the position the more significant the gender gap. For example, women might account for 35 percent of the applicants for a coordinator-level position, and only 20 percent for a vice president-level role.
I'm sure many of you are just as puzzled as I was. I know more women are graduating from college than ever before, and statistics show that more women are graduating than men, so this trend made no sense to me. My confusion made me want to get to the bottom of this gender gap. What I discovered made me sad, while confirming my suspicion that women tend to feel like we have to be twice as good before even filling out the application.
You may now be wondering, “But what does that have to do with the 60 percent mentioned in the title?” I'm glad you asked! On average, a man will apply for a job if he meets at least 60 percent of the requirements. Conversely, women tend to apply only when they exceed 100 percent of the basic AND preferred qualifications. Did you hear that??? We have to feel like we are more than they want us to be before we are typically comfortable putting ourselves out there.
There are several reasons for this but, most boil down to a combination of confidence, entitlement, and a general (dis)belief that we are good enough. From a very young age, many girls are taught to be gracious and to take care of others before they think of themselves. We are often encouraged to avoid competition and instead opt for being humble and unassuming. Those lessons generally stick with us, and we tend to apply them universally to all areas of our lives. That means we are more likely to lead with what we can't do, instead of what we can do. We wait to be asked instead of doing the asking and, obviously, we don't apply for a job unless we believe we are over-qualified.
So, what do we do to change that? The simple answer is: Apply for that job. Regardless of your resume, take the risk, put yourself out there, go for what you want, and every other slightly cheesy but entirely accurate self-help phrase you've heard! I realize all of that is easier said than done, but if we wait for everyone else to tell us we are ready, we may be waiting for a very long time. There is a silver lining. Pay attention, because this is the really good part. In my experience, once a woman is interviewed, she is just as likely to be hired as a man. So, all we have to do is put ourselves out there! What's the worst that can happen? I mean, yes, there is the chance of disappointment but, very few people regret trying. I know, and I bet you do too, several women who regret NOT trying. There is often regret for not asking the question and not putting yourself out there. Just think about it! When you put in that application, you are likely up against a man who is only 60 percent qualified anyway. YOU GOT THIS!
Author and Our Truths founder, Christy Pruitt-Haynes combined her 20 years of leadership in organizations including The Memphis Grizzlies, MTV Networks and Infiniti with an education in Human Resources and Organizational Development to create Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting and change the professional landscape for women and people of color while helping organizations achieve excellence. This TEDx talk giving executive, wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister and friend loves travel, laughing uncontrollably and losing herself in great music.
Theme song: I was here by Beyoncé
Proudest moments: The births of my daughter Christiana, niece Nia and organization Our Truths