gender salary gap

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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Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

#success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing

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It's not all about the money. Or is it?

Gonna winnit, no limit. Strong women we are.
— Rhianna (Winning Women)

Just this week I was talking to one of my champions about some of the wins my clients were experiencing, namely exciting promotions, juicy new opportunities and ....  more money!  And while many of us demure and say "oh, it's not just about the money", maybe it should be.

With the gender salary gap bouncing around between 15% and 19% for the last few decades, the gender retirement superannuation gap is far more concerning at around 44.3% according to WGEA's August 2016 report.  Yep, despite working hard for most of our careers, we're retiring with an average of about $100K (approx) less due to a range of issues such as work deemed as "women's work" not attracting as high salaries, tax issues, career breaks and caring responsibilities all having a cumulative impact over time.

What's most concerning for me is that most women don't negotiate an initial offer. We feel uncomfortable advocating on our own behalf so even if we've been successful previously we may still shy away again in the future.

Cumulative effect of gender salary gap

Two clients (who shall remain unnamed) recently negotiated themselves increases of more than $100K p.a.. This is significant - not only for the significant impact on their future superannuation earnings, but because of the cumulative effect. The estimated LTV (live time value) of $100K increase over 10 years = $1MIL.  Yep, two clients will be better off in 10 years by at least $1MIL.

Obviously, there are a bunch of assumption in my calculation including that these women will keep earning at that new rate with no breaks or change in salary.  Wouldn't it be exciting if they went on to even bigger and better opportunities?

Is the cumulative effect important? You bet.

1. Many of my clients are the sole or major breadwinner in their family unit
2. When we don't negotiate for any more than the original offer we are hurting ourselves long term
3. Not negotiating is a credibility killer. As one of my clients recently told me after she successfully negotiated a second time on the initial offer - "it was as though they were expecting me to negotiate and if I hadn't that would have damaged my credibility"
4. And if you need to align yourself to a cause, do this because it's good for women everywhere. When we don't negotiate, we devalue work on behalf of all women.

So what did they do that some others don't? Key take aways for you:

  • Make a decision to negotiate
  • Do your homework (and there is an entire chapter in my new book dedicated to negotiation if you want to know more)
  • Start to calculate the value of your work and then calculate the value you add to a business bottom line in any given financial year
  • Take opportunities to fly your own flag within the business drawing attention to the results and benefits of your expertise
  • If looking for a new role, identify potential employers who do value the skills, expertise and long term sustainability benefits that women bring to an organisation
  • Don't automatically accept an initial offer - take time to think about it
  • Put mechanisms and systems in place to ensure success
  • Just do it!

Why? Because you're worth it.

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #careerfutureproofing #visibility #womeninleadership

Drop me a line if you have a negotiation story to share. Do get in touch if you need help with this.  And save this email to inspire you to negotiate at your next opportunity.



Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Key learnings from the Women World Changer event in Sydney 12 Oct 2016

I'm a self confessed conference junkie. I've attended hundreds of them, and run more than most people have had hot dinners.   I enjoy the networking, I enjoy the opportunity to down tools and reflect on best practice, brash new ideas and challenging concepts. I also appreciate being in a room with like minded individuals and reflecting that;

"Gee, what I'm doing on the money.  Keep on going. This stuff makes a difference."

Last week I attended the Women World Changers one day event in Sydney.

The speaker lineup was a who's who in gender and broader diversity discussions from Australia and beyond including the following: Wendy McCarthy AO, Holly Ransom, Avril Henry, Ming Long, Mai Chen, Pat Milligan, Dr Simon Longstaff AO FCPA, Ainslie van Onselen, Giam Swiegers, Libby Lyons, Jenny Leong, Christine Bartlett, Veena Sahajwalla, Amy Mullins, John Lydon, Hala Gorani, Jennifer Dalitz, Melissa Browne, Kim-Louise Liddell, Gen George, Karen Beattie.

And "girl" did I have a great day!  It felt pretty fabulous to be in a room full of men and women committed to gender equity - and the benefits for business and society more broadly.  Thanks to both Carla Wall and Deborah Harrigan who joined me at the event. It was great to share and compare highlights afterwards.

Significant moments for me?

Wendy McCarthy AO as the opening keynote drawing attention to:

  • "the gap between well intentioned programs and programs that deliver real outcomes"
  • "the face of poverty in the future is an older woman with no super"

Patricia Milligan - on the data

  • "Companies who measure the progress and publish the results get better results"
  • "One of the biggest issues cited by women for leaving the workforce is health and well being issues"

Ming Long on encouraging men into the conversation

  • "Slavery didn’t end because black people thought it was a good idea. It disappeared because white people thought it was a good idea. Let’s get men into the discussion about gender equity"
  • "For the men in the room understand gender equity in the workplace is a smart business move, not just a nice to have because you have daughters"
  • "Some of the male champions don’t quite get it, but they’re on the journey and most importantly in positions of power to do something about gender equality"

Mae Chen on Super Diversity

  • "Cultural capability (CQ) is the new currency of success for business and individuals"
  • "I came to this conference because the title is Women World Changers - we need to change the world for humans, not just women"

Holly Ransom on the future of work

  • "The nature of work is changing and becoming portfolio in nature with consulting, freelancing and flexibility options seen as more and more attractive"
  • "6 degrees of separation is out the window - with impact of a social media it's estimated to be more like 3.8 degrees"

Avril Henry with a rousing close on how women can make a bigger difference for themselves

  • "No-one is more interested in your career than you. Put up your hand and manage it!"
  • "Winning women don't play nice, they play fair"

Please enjoy (and share) the Twitter highlights below!

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

If you enjoyed this please spread the word! Let's inspire women everywhere to keep their eye on the prize

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


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Three Things they Probably Didn’t Teach you at Business School

So you’ve just quit your job (or you’re dreaming about it) and starting to establish your own brand new business venture.  Exciting times!    Well you are not alone.  Right now, there is a big shift by women to step into the realm of the entrepreneur.

Across Australia and the  USA data is showing that an increasing number of women are establishing their own businesses – either in addition to their paid employment, or as their main income source.

The gender salary gap

Traditionally, paid employment for Australian women doesn't have a great track record when it comes to salary. In fact in Australia, according to the 2014 WGEA report, the gender salary gap is still sitting at around 18.8%  - and strangely this is right back at the levels it was some 30 years ago.  Even more alarmingly, the higher up the ranks you go and the gap widens to about 45%, with the gap average being the largest in the finance and insurance sector (29.6%). 

Just this week the Financial Review provided some pretty compelling insights from both KPMG and PWC further highlighting the discrepancy in salaries between men and women in professional services firms and laying out some of the strategies that they are putting in place to mitigate this.

ANZ Bank has recently capitalised quite cleverly on quantifying the gap with some very slick media and advertising that estimates that this gap pans out over the span of a career to around $700K.

So perhaps it’s no wonder women want to do something about this and are heading out on their own to see if they can carve their own piece of pie, rather than rely on others.

Avoid being a statistic

“According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.” — Forbes Entrepreneur September 2013 

But if you've worked in paid employment - and not run a business before, then as you might guess it's highly likely there is a HUGE  gap in both your skills and knowledge.  And that gap is not necessarily in the technical aspects of running a business.   From my own experience in speaking with both men and women heading out, this gap is about the things they don’t teach you in business school – the emotional and energetic requirements for running a small or medium sized business venture.

So in the absence of cash reserves, chats with peers, a boss who has done it all before and a team of fully qualified others in the office (those things we might take for granted) - here are a few of the things that I've found particularly helpful around remaining buoyant and resilient, bringing you closer to achieving that successful new venture you are set on. 

“Being an Entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death" — Elon Musk

1. Eliminate Frazzle

When you first head out  it is highly likely you’ll start on your own. As mentioned above, you’ll be doing everything from marketing, to cleaning, to graphic/website design, to setting strategy, from book keeping right through to social media. And the whole lot combined is a surefire recipe for feeling "frazzled".

Frazzle is actually a technical term and it feels and means, exactly like it sounds. 

"Sorry, I'm feeling rather frazzled at the moment!"

Daniel Goleman refers to the term in his book Focus: the hidden driver of excellence.  He says that;

“Frazzle occurs when the brain switches into crisis mode. Thought control shifts from the executive center in the prefrontal area just behind the forehead to the more primitive emotional circuitry in midbrain, roughly between the ears. This emergency response causes the brain to give priority to speed (over thoughtfulness) and knee-jerk responses (over creativity).”
— New York Times

In a nutshell, frazzle makes you unproductive, stressed, less creative and unable to execute bold and audacious moves.  It’s a passion killer and productivity killer all in one. It definitely keeps you playing your B game.  

I strongly recommend you develop a bunch of really good techniques for dealing with frazzle so you can nip it in the bud before it does serious damage to your motivation and output.  Here are mine - and I practice most of them on a daily basis.


2. Undertake some failure practice

Who knew that practicing failure could be so helpful?  Certainly not most women that’s for sure!  We’re socialised as young girls to value the condition of perfect: doing things right and doing things well.  

I’m sure you’ve read by now, even if you haven’t quite worked out how to apply it in your work and life, that success correlates just as closely (if not more so) to confidence as competence. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code have unearthed heaps of evidence that clearly points to the power and importance of confidence when it comes to getting ahead.

The problem being that as young girls most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that competence will get you there!

So how does this apply to making mistakes?  Well if you are socialised to believe that perfect is good, then the opposite of perfect must be bad. Ergo mistakes must be bad.  

So what happens?  You become less likely to take action in case its wrong. You slow down and inertia sets in and nothing happens. Lack of action in and of itself contributes to lower confidence. It's definitely a Catch 22. Nip that one in the bud early.

  • If you are scared of failure you don’t take risks, you play safe, you play small,
  •  If you always colour inside the lines, you end up doing things the way they’ve always been done and there is zero need for creativity,
  • If you keep on doing what you've always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

So instead why not think about mistakes with the following framework. A mistake allows:

  • Finding one more thing that doesn’t work,
  •  One option to be ticked off the list as not needing to be done again,
  • One step closer to finding something that does work.

So bring on the failure practice for kids (girls) in school. Help them design experiements and tasks where finding out that something doesn’t work is part of the process. Help them see that testing ideas and eliminating options is equally as (if not more) valid as being right the first time.  When we colour outside the lines, new solutions to old problems are easier to see – and maybe that new way of operating that you just discovered by accident fills a gap in the marketplace and could in fact become your big ticket to success anyway.

3. Create a game out of rejection

Unless you’ve got a product or service that’s got "genie genius" (like a never ending packet of Tim Tams), the reality is that in your first year or two, you’ll have to face rejection. A lot. And rejection of your own ideas, products or services that you’ve lovingly crafted, selected and tended for months, is a whole other ball game.  

So instead of resisting rejection – make a game of it like Jason Comely, a freelance IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario did.

Jason was terrified of rejection so he designed an approach to immerse himself in his fear in order to lose the fear.  He decided he needed to get rejected by someone at least once per day.   And by making a game of it – by needing to get his rejection, this turned the actual receiving of a rejection on its head. In fact it made receiving a rejection a good thing! He couldn’t wait to ask someone for something because it got him closer to his goal of getting his rejection.

“Jason had totally inverted the rules of life. He took rejection and made it something he wanted — so he would feel good when he got it.”

So how does it work? Well if you are scared of rejection then you won’t put yourself out there in situations where you will get rejected (i.e. making those sales visits). But if instead your goal is to get 10 rejections per day, then it actually becomes a win win. Get the sale? Win! Get rejected? Win! 

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good - simply get started

So while the lessons they teach you in business school are immensely valuable, I reckon some of the lessons we can learn around failure, rejection and focus are equally, if not more, important. Even then, don't let your tendencies to over prepare get in the way of getting started. Rest assured you'll get to experience plenty of "frazzle", failure and rejection along with way - and just in time learning is equally as valid as old school learning in most instances.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill
  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor busy 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.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months