gender pay gap

Have you drawn your line in the sand? Sexist comments perpetuating the cycle

“We’re going to pay [insert male name] more because he is a man and needs it more than you.”
“Let’s give the' little woman' something to do to keep her busy.”
“I prefer to employ women, because they’re cheaper.”

These are all comments I’ve had said to me over the years.

Shocking I know.

Some might argue that they were ‘of the times’

However the last was shared with me in 2017!

Were the people saying these things bad people?

Not necessarily.

Simply misguided & mistaken.

These comments are insidious.

They did damage then & they do damage now.

Plus are symptoms of a far bigger issue still at play.

Women & women’s work is still under-valued.

And when women move in & become more dominant in an industry, the salary drops.

Yet, the tide is turning.

With globalisation & technological innovation comes increased speed, competition & new problems to be solved with DIFFERENT thinking.

Social media is providing a platform, along with increased awareness & education.

Drawing a line in the sand.jpg

Iceland is leading the way too.

Condescension is part of the problem. 

Laughing at sexist jokes is no longer OK.

Employing women because they’re cheaper is exploitation.

And if you aren’t careful, that little woman will be too smart to want to work for you anyway.

My line is drawn in the sand. Right here, right now.

Where and when is yours?

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Will fixing the gender salary gap close the gender gap?

Wow! Great topic and one I'm happy to explore because it's such a complex issue.  And in June 2017 I got to take part in the AIM Great Debate in Canberra on this very topic.

And while the issue is serious because of the very real impact it has on women and families more broadly, the format was fun which enabled us to go far and wide in creating compelling arguments.

AIM Great Debate Canberra 23 June 2017 - Virginia Haussegger AM, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Alex Sloan, Dr Saraid Billiard, Arabella Close and moi!

AIM Great Debate Canberra 23 June 2017 - Virginia Haussegger AM, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Alex Sloan, Dr Saraid Billiard, Arabella Close and moi!

My fellow debaters are listed to the right and thanks to Jane Caro for hosting with humour, a light touch and commentary to fill in the gaps between arguments.

Closing the gender salary gap won't close the gender gap

I was on team negative so we argued that closing the gender salary gap would not close the gender gap, because discrimination comes in many forms, and while salary is one significant area, it's not the only one. 

Yes, I taught the audience how to adopt a manspreading pose - to take up more space and appear more powerful

Yes, I taught the audience how to adopt a manspreading pose - to take up more space and appear more powerful

I explored issues such as power and influence as other arenas where discrimination occur regularly which aren't always closed by money - as evidenced by some of my senior level clients who are frequently the highest paid person in the room, yet still fend off power plays, discriminatory comments and dismissal because of their gender, rather than being accepted for the contribution they are making to the value of the organisation. Sad but true. And to lighten the mood I got to talk about my four pet peevs - mansplaining, bropropriation, manterruptions and ...... manspreading. (More on that in a future post).

My fellow panelist Arabella Close, shared her experiences in educating high school students on bias and gender stereotypes and how she sees that gender stereotyping and fixed ideas start young and are hard to move. Her closing argument "the salary gap is just a symptom, not the cause" was an absolute winner, reminding us that one woman is killed each week in Australia as a result of domestic violence.

I am a feminist because it bothers me that a woman gets killed by her male partner every single week, and somehow that doesn’t qualify as a tools-down national crisis even though if a man got killed by a shark every week we’d probably arrange to have the ocean drained.
— Annabel Crabb

Virginia Hausegger AM rebutted and closed on our team's behalf with hard data about representation of women in parliament and leadership more broadly, along with compelling evidence that it's not just about the money so let's not imagine that if we get rid of the salary gap, the other issues will simply go away.

And team negative won!

Other arguments included:

  • Women in STEM as a minority

  • Ingrained attitudes towards women

  • Pink jobs for girls, blue jobs for boys

  • Feminised industries and lower pay in feminised industries

  • The cost of being female - yes our grocery basket is 7% more expensive at the supermarket

  • The tax on feminine hygiene products

  • Abortion laws in Australia

While a comedy style lunch debate on the gender salary gap probably didn't do justice to the complexity of the topic, it did allow for a really broad range of issues to be introduced.

Thanks to the team at AIM Australia for hosting the debate! Thanks to a highly engaged Canberra audience who made it all worthwhile. And thanks to our opposing team members who kept us competitive and ensured the arguments were rigorous and well thought out. 

And let's be honest, winners will only be grinners when the gender gap (including the gender salary gap) is closed.

AIM Great Debate Canberra w Amanda Blesing.JPG


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The Shocking Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

Over the past few months I’ve been writing about gender diversity, addressing issues such as unconscious bias, the differences in male and female brain biology, socialisation differences between men and women, how all these things interplay and impact on our working lives and career and keep us playing small.


In recent weeks a range of articles or sources of information have come my way that are painting a rather disappointing picture around the gender pay gap – and for many women who read this, the following information may make your eyes go wide. 



But if we go right back to when men and women first enter the workforce as graduates we begin to see a very interesting picture. Professor Linda Babcock, Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask has found that;

"men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do."

Marilyn Davidson from the Manchester Business School in the UK asks her students each year what they expect to earn, and what they deserve to earn, five years after graduation. 

"On average the men think they deserve $80,000 a year and the women $64,000—or 20 percent less."

And most recently in the news here in Australia headlines have been reminding us that women need to work extra 15 years to retire with same money as male colleagues. What with women starting on a lower salary, then not asking for increases, taking career breaks for family or study, not negotiating as hard when they have the opportunity, not being offered or considered for the same higher salaried opportunities, combined with biases both conscious and unconscious – women will need to stay in the workforce for far longer before they can retire.

So what are some of the contributing actors behind these discrepancies?

  • Unconscious bias- where men and women judge a woman negatively if she negotiates too hard, or if she says she sings her own praises amongst other things,
  • Lack of confidence when it comes to asking for a raise – there are multiple studies now proving that when it comes to negotiation in general women are less confident than men
  • Socialisation – young girls socialised to not rock the boat, with the concept of the ideal woman being diminutive, likeable and unassuming runs through all of this and is a too large a topic for this post but in all likelihood has considerable impact
  • Lack of societal expectation for women to be the breadwinner or take the lead with salary (although we are seeing more and more role reversal in recent years)
  • Roles that are deemed to be “women’s work” and are paid less well i.e. secretarial, admin support and child care
  • Career breaks and flexible arrangements to raise children or undertake further study
  • Stereotype threat – which deserves a whole article of its own.

Then if we move into accepting some responsibility for the part that we as women play in perpetuating this cycle:

So what can we do about it?

1. If you are a women wanting to advance your career and earning potential then you need to accept some responsibility for your part in the equation – and by examining how the way you were brought up, the cultural and societal expectations that underpin some of your belief systems is a great way to start.

2. The next step is to start playing the right game. Get really clear about what it is you want and need in your career, when you expect to retire, how much you’d like (and need) to earn, and what possible steps you could put in place right now to get the ball rolling. Put a plan in place. You probably work with a strategy in your role. Do the same for your career.

3. Do you research. In recent weeks some really big name organisations such as Salesforce have come out publicly to talk about how they are going to address this gender salary gap issue. What can you learn from their approach? 

4. Start asking for more and a great starting place would be learning more about negotiation tactics that work for women. Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever’s book Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide is an excellent resource.

5. Start practising. If this skill doesn’t come easy to you (and it probably won't) rehearse it with a trusted friend, colleague, coach or mentor. 

6. And finally understand that it will never feel like a good time. It will always be busy, you will frequently feel underprepared, ill equipped or like a fraud. You simply need to initiate discussions anyway.

This is an important issue and its not going away any time soon. The WGEA report highlights that the gender pay gap has not shifted much in 20 years. Now is the time to do something about it. Start with you.

Vive la révolution! Ambition Revolution! 

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
  • I mentor ambitious professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.
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