Schmooze your way to success. It's not what you know, it's who you know. And, it turns out, it's not what you do, but who your manager is.
A new, unpublished study from Harvard Business School's Zoë Cullen and UCLA's Ricardo Perez-Truglia finds that men and women get promoted at the same rate when their bosses are female, but when men have a male boss, they climb the corporate ladder faster. The gender of women's bosses makes no difference in their careers.
The gender pay gap is defined as the difference in average male salary vs average female salary. You can have everyone in similar positions paid the exact same amount and still have a gender pay gap if one group holds a higher percentage of highly paid jobs.
This study shows that one-third of the gender pay gap can be explained by the men working for male managers phenomenon, which means that two-thirds of the gap comes from other sources--like a personal choice. For instance, another Harvard study showed that male bus drivers chose to work more hours and take on the more difficult routes than female drivers, thus earning more money.
The study limitations
Before we start assigning everyone to gender-neutral robots, let's note this study's limitations. The researchers studied a large bank in Asia. For privacy reasons, they don't divulge the bank or the country. This means we can't make assumptions about culture. They write:
While we do not want to claim that the evidence is representative of the world, it is still useful to understand whether this context is out of the ordinary. The firm may be unusual for the financial sector in that a majority (65%) of its employees are female. Besides that, however, the gender gaps at this organization are quite average by U.S. standards. The gender pay gap at this firm (26%) is close to the average of similar sized firms in the financial sector in the United States (31%)11. Moreover, the firm is also typical in that female and male employees within a given position get paid about the same. The bulk of the gender pay gap, thus, is due to difference in the positions that female and male employees hold.
These are important caveats in looking at the study. But, it's also important not to dismiss it out of hand because of the limitations.
The schmooze factor
"[M]ale employees may schmooze with their managers in ways that female employees cannot." This is especially true in the age of #metoo where some men are unwilling to meet one on one with women. Cullen and Perez-Truglia's data leads them to believe that this socialization factor leads to the difference in outcomes.
The found that ten quarters after a switch from female to male managers men saw a 13 percent pay increase over women who switched to another female manager. To be clear, women are being promoted and receiving pay increases--men are just receiving them faster.
Because men and women are promoted at the same rate under female managers, there does appear to be something in the male to male relationship. Clearly, this research shows an advantage for men in this situation.
What can you do?
Often, making people aware of unconscious bias can help them overcome it. Additionally, to help overcome the negative side effects of #metoo, let it be known that every accusation will be impartially investigated. Remind managers that they need to keep relationships at work professional and not develop strong friendships with their direct reports. And make sure you don't promote based on a single manager's recommendation. Evaluate everyone who is interested when looking into a bona fide promotion (a promotion into a vacancy). Likewise, if person A growth promotion (a promotion in place), look at the others in the same situation and evaluate their performance as well.
Men and women make different career choices and so we should never expect everything to be equal. But, we should expect companies to keep an eye out for bias and mitigate the facts that cause it.