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Krishna Kutty of Kuroshio Consulting Inc: 5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap

Transparency in pay helps women ask for equitable pay and pay raises. Equalize knowledge, as when pay and bonus criteria are a closely guarded secret, women tend to suffer the most.

As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Krishna Kutty.

Krishna Kutty, the Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Kuroshio Consulting Inc., a boutique management consultancy that specializes in strategy (corporate and product) and transformations (digital, functional, and operational) across the healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy, and manufacturing sectors.

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

I had been working as both an internal and external management consultant for 17+ years between Canada and the United States before I decided to set up my own consulting practice along with my business partner. We enjoy thinking through complex problems that our clients face and designing pragmatic strategies and tactics that help them obtain real results. We had both spent years in male-dominated industries and were looking for a way to change that — in our case it is a women-led consulting practice.

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

Early on in my career, I remember an executive that I reported into, trying to force-fit clients into boxes based on the services we offered, instead of recommending improvements based on the client context and their needs. This is unfortunately still the way several consultancies continue to practice. In fact, when I worked at an Oil and Gas company, a consulting firm we engaged used a cookie cutter solution they had used at their previous client with built in recommendations that didn’t work for our business. I learned then that the client needs pragmatic results, not your “services” and so if you aren’t the best consultancy to provide them with those results, bow out graciously. Force-fitting the client into your service offering and not delivering results for them is far worse than being honest about your expertise and boundaries. At Kuroshio, we take this to heart and work as trusted advisors to our clients — this means offering our expertise when it fits clients’ needs but also connecting clients with partners for areas outside our expertise.

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?

When I began, I was often on the search for that perfect framework or approach to the client’s problem, thinking one existed. What I learned was that there is no “right path” to solving a client’s problems — there are better consulting frameworks and implementation approaches that you can take, but there is no one or right path. As a junior consultant, I used to be in awe of certain frameworks and thought leadership, but over the years, I have learned that they just fall on a spectrum. If there was a “right path” to pursue and achieve organizational transformations, there wouldn’t still be a ~70% failure rate!

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2020, women still earn about 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

The three main factors causing the wage gap are employer biases (conscious and unconscious biases towards women from hiring through every promotion), delayed promotion or lack of a promotion (implicit microaggressions take a toll on women who then choose different careers), and the fact that women predominantly leave the labor market due to their inability to find childcare or eldercare (and even when they don’t leave do a vast majority of the unpaid labor).

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

At Kuroshio, we are committed to equal pay for equal work across gender, race, and other demographics. We also do our best to address any bias in our employee lifecycle, from recruitment advertisements through to promotions and to retirement. We are committed to establishing and maintaining a gender-responsive and inclusive culture throughout our company. And finally, three out of five of our executive leadership roles are held by women — specifically, women of color.

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.

  1. Transparency in pay helps women ask for equitable pay and pay raises. Equalize knowledge, as when pay and bonus criteria are a closely guarded secret, women tend to suffer the most. Providing salary ranges in job postings and continuing to be transparent about bonuses and salary bands, helps both candidates and the company, as you are rooting the conversation in skills, experience, potential, and role responsibilities, not solely on negotiation prowess.
  2. Address occupational sex segregation. Gender pay disparities on a global basis are driven in large part by occupational sex segregation, and so governments should continue to provide incentives for firms in male dominated sectors to hire and retain more women, and vice-versa.
  3. Undertake mandatory gender pay audits. Governments should make it compulsory that part of an employer’s responsibilities include conducting regular gender pay audits and developing action plans to eradicate the gaps. Non-compliance should result in meaningful penalties.
  4. Assist women’s careers throughout their tenure. Beyond recruitment efforts, once women become your organization’s employees, include specific provisions and measures that support women’s careers.
  • Have leadership focused on reducing the daily microaggressions that collectively result in women looking for other careers.
  • Develop sponsorship programs for women in middle management to broaden their exposure and lessen the perceived “confidence gap” that are attributed to women. Gaining the opportunity to participate in stretch roles early in their career helps close the confidence gap women may experience early on.

5. Provide paid parental leave and flexible working hours

  • COVID has shown us that the burden of childcare continues to rest predominantly with women.
  • Providing paid parental leave, including some use-or-lose quotas for fathers, along with flexible working hours, would allow more women to remain in the workforce.

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. :-)

We are currently working on our debut book on how women, specifically women of color, can better navigate their career paths in male dominated workplaces in corporate America. Stay tuned!

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

“When we pay women less than men, we’re telling women their work isn’t as valuable. We’re all equally valuable. And we should be paid equally.” — Maria Shriver

This quote resonates with me because I have experienced the direct impacts from the gender wage gap, especially in my early career when I didn’t know how to approach pay discussions but was keenly aware that my male peers were taking home significantly more than me.

Much of our self-esteem and self-confidence is derived from work since we invest significant energy and time working. The discrepancy in our paychecks as women compared to males in the same roles, represent the reality that we are direly undervalued. The mental health impacts of this type of discrimination can also be substantial, with research having shown that women at work suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety.

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. :-)

I remember reading the report that Maria Shriver put together with the Center for American Progress on “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” in 2009, and it’s taken until 2021 for something like California’s Equal Pay Pledge to take a hold, as announced by California’s First Partner and documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom. I would love to have a conversation with both Maria Shriver and Jennifer Siebel Newsom on what we can continue to do to close the wage gap and boost equity in the workplace — there is still a long way to go!

Maria Shriver: Twitter & Instagram: @mariashriver

Jennifer Siebel Newsom: Twitter: @jensiebelnewsom / Instagram: @jennifersiebelnewsom

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.



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