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Regardless of allegations, Bridgewater may need to bridge the gap

Fundamental fairness holds that employees with similar credentials deserve to earn similar pay regardless of their gender. In 2020, large asset management firms such as Bridgewater Associates surely provide equivalent pay, especially among their competitively and equally qualified executive staff members - right?

A recent Wall Street Journal report states that the firm's most senior female executive, Karen Karniol-Tambour, filed a complaint about receiving less pay than men working at similar or lesser levels than she did. These allegations come shortly after the female Co-Chief Executive, Eileen Murray, left the company and filed a gender discrimination lawsuit related to male executives being paid more compensation.

Do roles factor into or exemplify gender gaps?

While these women's cases might represent a pattern of gender-based employment discrimination, a Reuters article asserts gender is not an issue in the current dispute with Karniol-Tambour. Yet, questions remain about whether situations like these arise due to gender or because of the different roles men and women typically hold within the financial industry.

Entry-level positions may be filled by a more balanced representation of men and women within the consumer finance and banking industry. However, there is no way to overlook the increasing disparity as responsibilities and, therefore, earning opportunities increase.

Many women hold positions within marketing, talent acquisition, and other back office positions. Men, by contrast, typically have a greater presence in roles managing money, which positions generally afford higher earning potential. Karniol-Tambour's role was within money management, and she therefore should have been able to expect higher earning potential, equal to that of similarly situated men.

Data suggests men have a distinct advantage in the Financial Services Industry

Globally, men claim the majority of leadership positions among financial services firms. Last year, women represented less than 25% of the members serving on Boards of Directors for financial firms. Instead, more than 60% of such firms who place women in leadership roles, put them in non-investment positions.

One might accordingly wonder why, if large corporations were truly dedicated to fairness and gender quality in their hiring and advancement decisions, less than 10% of CFOs for such companies are women.

The answer, research suggests, is that men receive stronger advocacy for executive advancement from senior leadership than women do. Such lack of support for women could partially explain why many women are overlooked for the C-level career track.

Gender discrimination likely exists, despite contradictory news reports

The pending charges discussed above involve women in executive roles, less frequently held by females in the financial space. Time will tell whether either former executive's lawsuit is successful against Bridgewater, or if their matters have an impact on how other financial firms compensate their female employees.

Despite potential conflicting news reports about these disputes, women in leadership roles plainly should receive equal compensation for their contributions to a company as men do. Employees at all levels of the firm should feel empowered to speak out if they notice pay discrepancies between men and women. The more vocal we are about gender-based pay gaps, the faster we can hope to reverse unfair trends in the future.

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