When Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers roller skate to a seat to discuss their differences in the ‘tomato, tomayto’ song (Shall We Dance 1937*) they seem, actually, to understand each other pretty well. (Perhaps dancing is the answer, and all meetings could profitably begin with a quick Paso Doble.)

I’ve been listening to clients discuss the rumblings from the Pay Gap revelations in July.
Especially the dawning realisation of the significance of Sir Philip Hampton’s comments that he has ‘..never, ever had a woman ask for a pay rise.’ This is the man chairing the review on FTSE Women Leaders, apparently charged with improving gender balance in FTSE Leadership.

Sir Pip is unintentionally illuminating for us all – in his narrow certainties – something serious and unacknowledged; that there are contrasting systems of perception and value operating in our workplaces.  Alas, he can only see – literally – certain forms of data. The only data he can perceive is the data that belongs to the dominant system of value (his system), where individualistic effort is expended to secure status and reward.

There is another system of value where collaborative effort is expended to achieve satisfaction from work well done, others benefitted and team success supported.
This is the system that women, on the whole, tend to operate.

The reason this really, really, matters is that this ‘other’ value system keeps businesses afloat. Covering for someone else, going the extra mile for a customer, helping someone else shine for the good of the organization is good for business.

The pay-gap is a blindness (what tomato?) to talents that show up in the business world in a different way: essential yet still, alas, invisible.

The contrast of value systems works in both directions.

I have never, for example, had a man ask me whether his work is good enough.

Fred and Ginger were onto something: acknowledge the differences, value all options and just start dancing together. With Equal Billing…..


*Fred actually sang ‘you like tomato..’

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