Gender pay gap: are we finally done with it? What do we hear and see when talking to the Kennedy Partner offices in Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Monaco, Paris and Prague?

This posting, number 1 of a series of 3, comes from Wilma Rossieau from Lens/ Kennedy Executive Search The Netherlands.

In Europe, the overall salary in 2015 of women was 16,9% below the salary of men. In management positions this was even worse: women earn 23,4% less!

Regarding the Gender Pay Gap and the disappointing progress apparently being made, Lens, Executive Search/Kennedy Executive Search The Netherlands decided to dive into this subject. Is it true that our female candidates earn less than their male counterparts, how can we explain this and what role do we, Executive Search firms, play in this respect?

First a few starting points:

  1. Successful organizations have women in their boards. Studies show that companies with sufficient diversity on ethnicity and gender at top executive levels generate sustainable better results.
  2. ‘The ability to connect’ is currently the most important competence for top executives and even conditional for generating innovation. The ability to connect has therefor become equivalent to profitability and is generally seen as a predominantly ‘female’ quality.


Further on the subject of diversity – read the posting of Paul Battye from Moorlands Human Capital/ Kennedy Executive Search London as well as the interview from Jorg Stegemann, Kennedy’s CEO – we feel that the gender pay gap is a symptom of the same disease.

Now let’s face reality by looking at the quotes we gained from the conversations we held with female professionals in the Kennedy network in Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, The Netherlands, the UK and the US. First some quotes confirming the gender pay gap exists:

  • “From a hiring perspective, I see a lot of salaries through the candidates I interview. It’s interesting to see the discrepancy between males and females interviewing for the same role and their salaries. In most instances, women’s salaries are lower, so they are negotiating from a lower starting point.”
  • “Independent Consultants frequently have to pitch for new assignments. Afterwards in most cases it appears that female consultants offered a lower fee than their male counterparts.”


It is generally claimed that women earn less due to “poor negotiating skills”.

One of our respondents explained us the different psychological frameworks men and women use in the way they act and communicate:

  • “Women act from a framework of solidarity: I care for you, you care for me. In this framework, you don’t ask for things, you expect things. If women excel in something, they expect this to be seen and rewarded. Men function from a more autonomous and competitive framework. They take themselves as a starting point and ask for the things they feel they deserve.”


Apart from not asking for a pay raise, ignoring the salary topic at all during informal chats at work does not add to a confident attitude towards one’s salary position:

  • “During all the years I was active in the corporate world, I never had an informal chat with a colleague about salary.”
  • “Ever since the beginning of my career, male colleagues earned more money. The strange thing is that it never bothered me enough to take action upon it.”
  • “It strikes me that men always know exactly where they are in the salary scale and how much more they can still get before reaching the top end of the scale.”
  • “During my career I was always happy with my promotions and never felt the need to negotiate my salary. It was when I was promoted from B- to C-level that I learnt about the huge salary differences and became aware of pay differences at all.”
  • “Men always compare with each other. They are capable of going to the pub, open their bonus envelope, compare, and have a drink afterwards.”


Clearly when you do not benchmark yourself, it is very difficult to determine your own market value and by consequence will depend upon others to do so. Even when women do benchmark themselves and find out they are way below their male counterparts, a type of social fear prevents them from taking action:

  • “When it came to light that my male peer Regional Directors were making considerably more than me, I didn’t feel I could say anything without there being backlashed as seen as knowing sensitive information and being labelled as someone wanting money more than anything.”
  • “I see women as not negotiating as hard as men. We don’t want to appear money hungry and pushy and men are mostly in senior leadership roles.”


Women tend to be very demanding to themselves and to their environment and in doing so they lose sight of their own strengths and qualities which make them stand out:

  • “If her experience and background doesn’t match all of the requirements for the job, women either don’t apply or feel they have less leverage to negotiate more money.”
  • “Women usually feel they should master something very well before they use this quality to their advantage. Men often ‘bluff their way in’.”
  • “Female Consultants tend to be too considerate to their client counterparts. They are very demanding for themselves, feel they should really deliver and add value.”
  • “To be hands-on and at the same time take people with them in a change process is a quality I see in particular with female managers. Women should value and present this quality more firmly.”
  • Do you recognize the quotes above and is there anything more to say about this?


No, we are not done with gender pay gap in 2017. It is alive and kicking!

Do you have examples and stories showing how pay differences are handled in your professional environment?

What measurements do you take to ensure this phenomenon belongs to the past for next generations?

In our next blog on gender pay gap, we will zoom in on the actual negotiating process and the fact that women seem to be less interested in their prime salary.

We invite other parties to help us to extend our research, finding out differences between industries, functional areas and age categories.

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Make sure to be back on 10 April for part 2 of this series.