I was invited by the Association of Women in Finance of Quebec (AFFQ) to discuss the gender balance in organizations. It was an invitation that caught me off guard. I am a bearded white man in his thirties who grew up in the rooms of competitive hockey, and I am not known for my ardent feminism.
You will understand my initial astonishment.
That said, to ask me the question, I believe that Le Chiffre is the embodiment of the new “normal” among young organizations, where the values of male and female clans are almost the same, and where men make more sacrifice than before to organize work around the family. This phenomenon improves the chances of success but does not completely eliminate all the differences. Here is what I had to say on the matter:
What we’ve realized at Le Chiffre is that a less billable hours model and flexible hours of work attracts a lot of talented women who have already had a more competitive experience, in practices that glorify attendance at work and billable hours, and want to change the air. We have a corporate culture that fosters a more diverse lifestyle. In addition, the nature of our highly digital approach makes it easy to work remotely, allowing even more flexibility for young parents.
At the moment, we have three colleagues on maternity leave and one who is leaving soon. It’s 15% of our staff. Of course, it makes things more complicated, but it allows us to shuffle the cards and be creative.
We are two male partners for the simple reason that we are childhood friends. At the very beginning, the only people who trusted us and who had the courage to follow us were friends, more often men. We had the boy club problem early enough, which we wanted to break quickly. We found it important to have more diversity in the organization, not just in terms of gender, but especially in terms of personalities. In fact, we fired one of our first employees for his behavior with his female subordinates and colleagues, despite the fact that he was a very competent man.
Compensation and promotion
People who impose themselves less often have lower wages if nothing is done in organizations to counter this phenomenon. In personality tests, we know that women have lower assertiveness scores, which often results in negotiation, where they compromise.
For example, in more traditional corporate cultures, people are given increases or promotions when they have held office for a while, sometimes 1 or 2 years. The characters that impose themselves more quickly tend to demand a salary that matches their responsibilities quickly, without waiting for the next negotiations or having proven themselves. Numerically, by adjusting salaries when we give new responsibilities, we accept to “lose” short-term salary negotiations, by giving salary increases that correspond to immediate responsibilities, to win in the long term. Pay inequities are thus reduced and the feeling of being cheated is less strong, reinforcing the commitment of our employees.
Psychologically, a person who recruits 10 people will have a different approach than 10 people who recruit a person. Committees tend to recruit less daringly and to take on less “dangerous” profiles for the organization. By giving clear recruitment responsibility to one person, there is a natural tendency to come and diversify profiles. Thus, we have a good diversity in the team. The only type of person we find it difficult to recruit are more experienced profiles, with more than 10-15 years of experience, because we judge that the ratio brought value/salary does not correspond with our current business model, based on automation and new technologies.
In addition, we pass a technical test to all of our recruits, which gives us a clearer and less biased picture of the results. Again, this allows more timid and less confident profiles to enter the organization and make their place.
The fact remains that we all suffer from unconscious bias, including me. Numbers have a long way to go, like all organizations, to find a balance. Asking the right questions is a great start.