Partner of
Kennedy Executive

Gender Pay Gap Part 4: the Role of Hiring Managers and Recruiters.

In the first three blogs,  (go to if you missed them), we discussed why the Gender Pay Gap is still a relevant issue. After interviewing female professionals in our network, it became clear that the Gender Pay Gap is silently though firmly present on the work floor. Few aspects seem to be crucial when trying to understand the gender pay gap, amongst them: typical male/female behaviour, mutual miscommunication or misunderstanding and the effect of motherhood. Creating awareness seems to be crucial in an attempt to close the gap.

In the first blog we recognised that women often have difficulties positioning themselves. In the second blog we gave some practical advice that could help women during the negotiating process. In the third blog we zoomed in on how motherhood might influence the gender pay gap (link). In this fourth and last blog we will shine our light on the role of hiring managers and recruiters.

First a practical example illustrating the day to day reality in search & selection: In the final offer stage of a recent assignment, our contact person in HR insisted on receiving a copy of the current pay slip of the preferred candidate. Moreover, the HR Manager stated that without this total transparency she would not consider offering the position at all. We agreed with the candidate to cooperate on this and met the requirement of our Client company. All went well, our candidate was offered the position against a salary that included a fair rise compared to his previous salary and all were happy.

But does it help to close the gender pay gap? Knowing that women are paid less for equal work, to take the current salary level as starting point of the negotiating process, will include the risk of an ever-existing gender pay gap. Women will stay behind since they start from a lower salary position. If the above candidate, male or female, would discover afterwards that peers are paid significantly more, this will have a negative effect on job satisfaction on the long run. In our conversations with female professionals it was mentioned that the main reason for women to quit their job, or even stop their professional career at all, is bad experience with their direct manager. An HR Director (male) put it this way:

“Women tend to save their criticism to the very last moment when it’s actually too late. It often happens that during the exit conversation, after handing in their resignation, women finally open up and talk about what they had really wanted and expected all along in terms of promotion, career development or extra education. We lost several female employees with strong career perspectives in our company by this.”

To avoid this type of costly miscommunication, it takes extra responsibility of those who are involved in defining salary levels and extending offers to new hires: budget keepers, hiring managers, HR Managers and recruiters.

We heard a terrific example of a company taking this responsibility very serious:

• “Our policy is to hire within the benchmarked range. Even if a candidate requests a salary that is below the range, we increase it to make sure it’s within range and matches experience level.”

• “We have also done an internal compensation audit. Discrepancies between any employees with the same title are reviewed and adjusted if warranted.”

• “We ended up hiring one of the women. We offered her a salary within our benchmarked range and it was higher than what she requested.”

• “I was 30K lower than the benchmarked salary range for my job title. I presented the data on where the benchmark was and my company did a salary adjustment to get me in range.”

A big hooray for this company located in the Midwest of the US, known as a rather conservative area of the country. As an Executive Search consultant, doing all the right things at the very beginning of a hiring process, seems to be even more important when your mission is to close the gender pay gap.

We are in perfect position to discuss matters of diversity during the intake with client companies. We can make an extra effort when approaching candidates and create a safe environment during the interview where candidates feel at ease and show their best. When presenting female candidates, we may put extra attention to emphasising strong points. We can take an active role during the negotiating process and prep our female candidates with comprehensive salary information.

As one of our respondents told us: “Executive Search companies can add significantly to this issue by bringing awareness: blogging, writing and talking about it.”

This was our fourth blog regarding the Gender Pay Gap. We will continue to discuss the subject in our professional environment and hopefully inspired you to do so too.


Wilma Rossieau is involved in search for positions in healthcare consulting, business development, market access – and quite a few med tech start-ups.





Eline Joseph recently joined Lens, after finishing my Master’s degree in Culture, Organisation and Management at the VU University here in Amsterdam. 


next item