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“5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap”, with Megan McCann, CEO of McCann Partners

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan McCann. Megan is an established IT recruitment and technology services leader known for building and leading highly successful IT services firms, and for the work she does to advance diversity and cultivate talent across the technology industry. Megan is the CEO of leading IT recruitment firm McCann Partners, which she founded in 2011. Megan and her team continue to expand their reach and influence, working with a growing portfolio of diverse and innovative organizations — from Chicago-based startups to companies with a global footprint. Prior to McCann Partners, Megan co-founded and helped build Geneva Technical Services (GTS), and was a strategic force in growing SelecTech — both premier IT recruitment firms. Megan’s impact on the tech community far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO of her own firm. Passionate about attracting, retaining, and advancing women in technology, Megan is a proud co-founder of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship, networking, and open discussion. She is also a founding partner of the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group, and was recently recognized as a 2018 Enterprising Woman of the Year, a Midwest Women in Tech Awards finalist, and an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS award finalist.

Thank you so much for joining us Megan! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

Prior to starting my own business, McCann Partners, I co-founded and helped build Geneva Technical Services (GTS), and was a strategic force in growing SelecTech — both premier IT recruitment firms. I was also the Director of International Recruitment and Assistant Dean of Admission at Wittenberg University, my alma mater.

The catalyst for founding McCann Partners was a desire to open doors for others. That continues to be the company’s guiding principle and daily inspiration. I like to come back to the idea that If I am opening doors for others to opportunity, challenge, innovation, creativity, and success, I am doing something important. The IT recruitment market is a crowded space, but my firm prides itself on being different. With a focus on creating meaningful connections and mindful solutions, we don’t just place talent. We take a deep interest in what matters most to the people and businesses we work with to help them grow and prosper.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

About 18 months ago, I decided to do something I had never truly done before. Turn off my phone, go completely off the grid (yes, from email, social media — everything!) and take a journey of self-exploration and reflection. I headed halfway around the globe to Bali, Indonesia, for a retreat that level-set my professional and personal sides in the most profound way possible. As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult for me to unplug. I have always been fearful about how my time away will impact both my team and the business. This fear led me to put myself on the back burner. After two weeks away and a lot of (a lot!) of time spent meditating, I learned that the magic of putting yourself first is remarkable. It reminded me that to create meaningful change and impact, no matter what your profession or avocation, you have to put yourself first. The shift has not been easy for me: it takes commitment and consistency. The experience inspired and enlightened me, and is certainly one of the most interesting journeys I’ve taken in my career.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This falls more on the “interesting” side of the spectrum, but about five years after I started my own company, I almost made the mistake of letting fear decide my future. McCann Partners experienced a perfect storm where everything that could go wrong, did. I felt paralyzed watching all the great work my team had helped me achieve go down the drain. I couldn’t see the positives, and it felt as if I was looking for a way out. I almost walked away.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t quit. But I almost did. Reflecting, one of the most profound lessons I learned from this near mistake is that the temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed. Because I finally was able to look myself in the mirror and face the fear, I’ve bounced back. I wish I could say I did it all with grace and strength, but it was a messy process. To this day, I keep this experience top of mind, and it even inspired me to create a list of mantras I keep near to help quell the fear when it starts to ebb.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

The gender pay gap is a complicated issue, and varies greatly depending on race, socioeconomic status, and location.

Of the many factors contributing to the pay gap, here are three of them:

  1. Occupational segregation — Male-dominated industries tend to have higher wages than industries and occupations made up mostly of female workers.
  2. Bias against working mothers — Without flexible options to have time to care for family and pursue professional goals, women, more often than men, tend to choose to work part-time after having children. This often affects a woman’s long-term ability to earn as much as men.
  3. Direct pay discrimination — Simply put, statistics show that when men and women interview for the same job and have the same experience, men are offered more. According to AAUW research, in a comparison of occupations with at least 50,000 men and 50,000 women in 2017, 107 out of 114 had statistically significant gaps in pay that favored men; six occupations had no significant gap; and just one had a gap favoring women.

Regardless of the facts that frame the conversation, we all need be transparent about the wage gap and take action. That means women and their male allies coming together and shining a light on the issue, especially at the leadership level. For example, when hiring, companies should be mindful of the discrepancies in compensation at their organization, and fix accordingly.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

As the owner of my own IT recruitment firm, McCann Partners, I’m in a unique position to observe the impact of the gender wage gap on the women we recruit each and every day. I see first-hand how they earn less than men in virtually every category, with minorities at the greatest disadvantage. I also see how moving up the corporate ladder can make the disparity even greater. As part of my work, I help women confront these realities and provide them with strategies for mitigating the effects. In addition, I spend a lot of time coaching women — industry peers, colleagues, mentees, and more — to do their research. There are a variety of tools available to ensure they’re equipped with facts (vs. fiction) that empower their personal advocacy. With my client partners, I often frankly discuss the cost of hiring — and retention — and the importance of not only pay equity in that conversation, but building programs to support women in the workforce as they advance.

I’m also actively involved with addressing the gender wage gap as co-founder of ARA (Attract, Retain, and Advance women in tech), a national organization that has reached more than 6,000 people in seven cities across the country. Finally, I’m an ongoing mentor in the Chicago Innovation Women’s Mentoring Co-Op.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

Here are five things I’ve identified for closing the gender wage gap:

  1. Eliminate base pay discrepancies — Simply put, offer the same salaries for base pay regardless of gender. That’s it. It seems obvious, but we’re not doing this enough as business leaders. Level out the playing field right from the get-go. Transparency within an organization is key here, and leadership needs to play an active role in educating their teams and hiring managers on pay equity.
  2. Teach women negotiating tactics — I strongly believe we can do more for young women, especially those just starting out their careers, when it comes to negotiating tactics. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from women that have never countered a salary offer, whether as part of a raise or as part of an initial job offer. If negotiating isn’t learned at an early stage, then women are already playing catch up right out of the gate! This is something we can begin to introduce earlier to give women and girls to educate them about the issue and how to take matters into their own hands. In the past few years, the Girl Scouts have added badges for STEM activities like coding and space science. I’d love to see one on salary negotiation!
  3. Provide them with mentors (both female and male) — This is one I’m especially passionate about as a co-founder of ARA (Attract, Retain, and Advance women in tech) and as an ongoing mentor in the Chicago Innovation Women’s Mentoring Co-Op. Mentorship. It is more important now than ever for men and women to come together to forge valuable relationships that are essential to career growth. A mentor provides insight into the complicated nature of corporate structures and relationships because they’ve “been there.” This type of input is invaluable, regardless of gender, and this transfer of knowledge is key to closing the wage gap. As a mentor, I am passionate about opening doors, creating connections, and empowering future generations. I also aspire to be an advocate and role model so my niece, goddaughter, mentees, peers, and colleagues, can stand tall and achieve in ways we’ve never seen before. I like to think of it as being a daring tribe together — forging stronger ties to help advance other women and impact future generations.
  4. Recommend women for internal career opportunities — Studies show that women are less likely to apply for a position if they don’t feel like they qualify or haven’t completed all the requirements. Internal business leaders need to keep this in mind and remember to recommend qualified women when positions open. It’s a win-win approach, as the company gets to keep valuable internal talent with less time needed to recruit and/or onboard, and women get a better shot at competing for leadership roles. I’ve recently wrote about a successful diversity and inclusion program that Groupon recently created called GREAT (Groupon’s Resource for Emerging and Aspiring Talent). It provides resources and opportunities to the company’s high performing, under-represented employees. By helping develop women, and other under-represented groups, into future internal leaders they’re creating change within their own ranks.
  5. Provide flexible work arrangements Flexible work, such as telecommuting or shifting work hours, means that women with caregiving responsibilities can hold jobs in higher-paying industries and companies. It makes it more realistic for talented women who have children or are caring for a relative to find meaningful work in a job that otherwise wouldn’t be a fit for them. Even if a company doesn’t offer a formal flexible work policy, I often encourage women to speak up and ask about options. Some departments and/or managers may be able to make flexible arrangements for their teams, and it’s the start of a compelling (and very timely) conversation. In the end, it may be something that ends up changing throughout the organization.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one of equality for women and girls in our society, not only in the United States, but around the globe. It spans politics, sports, the workplace, family life, and so much more. And, while wage equity is vitally important, it is one piece of the puzzle. For generations, women have pushed boundaries and created change. Are we done? Not even close, especially when it comes to women in lesser developed nations. To be at the forefront of a movement for true equality for women worldwide would be an accomplishment for the ages. Even if my voice and actions don’t result in monumental change on that level, I am hopeful that stepping up in the ways that I do and working to make a difference will help create more cracks in the ever-present glass ceiling.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t ask, you won’t give someone the opportunity to say yes.” This is one of the mantras I developed for myself after almost letting my fear get the best of me early on after starting my own business. Whether it’s reaching out to a prospect, asking an industry colleague to speak at an event or negotiating a contract, this is one of my cornerstones. It is an especially helpful outlook if you’re asking for a raise or negotiating a job offer, and this attitude is helpful in battling imposter syndrome. Don’t hold back in asking the question even if you feel like you don’t belong, shouldn’t ask or should remain quiet. As I tell my mentees, and myself, the worst you’ll get is a no, and you’ll have the clarity that you spoke up for what you deserved.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Because it takes more than one person to make sustainable change, I’d like to propose another scenario: a dinner party for MANY. I would invite those who have come before from who I can (and have) learned and those of the future, like my niece, nephew, and godchildren who will be tasked with carrying this mission forward.

If I had to limit it to one individual, I’d invite Melinda Gates. Not only is her recent announcement to commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to expand women’s power beyond impressive, but the way she consistently uses her voice to advocate for women across the globe is incredibly inspiring.

Thank you for all of these great insights!



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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.