Pay Equity Ambassador Alison Monroe in The Hot Seat

Peoplecorp’s Renee Clarke delves into the subject of Pay Equity with Alison Monroe.

What would you think if I was to tell you that on average women in Australia will have to work 64 days more in the year to make the same amount of money as their male counterparts?

What if I was to tell you that despite people talking about this very issue, at the rate we are changing it will take another 118 years to reach pay equity? By my calculations that means my great great-granddaughter will be entering the workforce and facing the same issue.

It seems incredible that these facts are true in this day and age, but they are.

This is clearly a topic that needs to be addressed with more gusto, so I decided to sit down with Alison Monroe to find out more about the pay equity gap. Alison Monroe is a founding member and CEO of Sageco. She is a WGEA pay equity ambassador and a passionate advocate for raising awareness around the pay equity gap.

RC: Alison why do you think the gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19% in the last decade without improvement?

The glacial pace at which the pay gap is closing warrants serious attention. As you mentioned, with the current rate of change it’s predicted to take another 118 years to close the pay gap. One of the main issues surrounding the slow pace of change is simply a lack of awareness. We need an accelerant and to some extent the WGEA In Your Hands campaign ignited action in 2014 with a very clear and distinct message around executive advocacy and ownership of the issue.

I love the Steven Covey quote:

“Awareness provides us with the opportunity to choose to respond and to change”

 

so unless an organisation raises awareness and acknowledges that a workforce pay gap does exist, it manifests and will never be resolved.

It is a complex issue with a number of contributing factors – including the sheer lack of numbers of women in senior roles in non-traditional industries, the fact that women are over represented in the part time workforce and career breaks. Through talking with people leaders in organisations I would estimate around 80% are not even aware of the factors. When you raise awareness it becomes obvious, it is like the light bulb turns on, the invisible becomes visible!

At this point organisations can address the issue, look at the data, see to what extent it exists, identify where the walls are and then take action. Much of the problem is due to lack of awareness resulting in very little changing.

RC: You are one of the WGEA’s pay equity ambassadors encouraging CEOs to lead the pay equity campaign. Can you tell me more about the scheme?

AM: The WGEA pay equity ambassador program is designed to cross industry and engage a diverse range of business leaders on this issue. It involves the most senior person in the organisation (at the c-suite level) taking responsibility for pledging pay parity and committing to change, firstly within their own organisation. I’m proud to say there are now over 100 pay equity ambassadors across a range of industries in Australia, but there is so much room for this to grow!

There’s something inherently very powerful when an executive is prepared to stand up and advocate. This form of advocacy is an essential part of the tool kit in any gender strategy. I believe that if we all take our role as ambassadors seriously we’ll play our part in closing the gap.

RC: CEOs that I talk to often have an appetite to address their pay equity gap but don’t know where to start. What tips would you give them?

The first step is to collect the data. The WGEA toolkit provides a comprehensive means to carry out a detailed analysis. Couple this with qualitative data gathered from conversations or focus groups held within the organization. Collect the stories – these are very powerful.

Apply a risk lens and use the data. Consider what could happen if you don’t address pay inequity?

From a legal perspective there could be discrimination claims, if someone finds that they have been overlooked for a promotion on the basis of gender, or that they’re being paid 24% less than a male colleague for performing the same role.

Also consider female customers being extremely passionate about pay equity and how they’ll perceive brands that ignore it. 50% of the best talent is female so nobody wants to miss out on that! Let the executives nominate these risks (which could include lack of attraction and loss of top female talent to organisations who report a zero pay gap).

RC: At Peoplecorp we work with HR – the function responsible for changing the culture of inequality and getting understanding at the senior level. Can you tell us all what a winning pay equity strategy looks like?

AM: The WGEA details some comprehensive pay equity case studies including Telstra, CBA and ThoughtWorks.

At this year’s International Women’s Day luncheon, Westpac announced a zero pay gap, and again it’s around that drive for inclusivity and looking at pay from the outset – starting pay, graduate pay and flexibility for all. It’s not just the domain of the working mother, flexibility should be all-inclusive. Google is another business which is incredibly impressive in this space and reports a zero pay gap.

The 2012 Workplace Gender Equality act had a major impact on compliance and how gender equality is now reported from within organisations. The WGEA now release annual reports which make the issue far more transparent for listed organisations and pay equity is gradually becoming a more commonplace conversation.

RC: In terms of addressing the graduates coming into the workforce, how do you mitigate the pay divide at the career starting point? What advice would you give them and also other more senior women in the workforce?

AM: Even now, in 2016 there is approximately a $5,000 starting pay gap between male and female graduates in Australia. Males tend to be more confident and prepared to negotiate their salary from the beginning; whereas females tend to come from the psyche of “I will prove myself first and then ask for the pay rise later”. Businesses should have processes and policies in place that prevent this happening at the entry point into the workforce.
Apply a value to the role. Disclose it. Apply equal pay.

My first piece of advice for individuals would be do your research, know your value and what your skills, experience, attributes and achievements are worth in the market. Talk to recruiters, head hunters and internal recruiters; look at salary surveys and think about where you actually sit.

Secondly, have the self-belief and confidence to reframe your worth. Do not be afraid or feel that it’s an awkward conversation to have, instead go to meetings armed with knowledge and facts to allow you to be more confident about the discussion of fair pay.

The third thing is negotiation, make sure you seek advice and coaching if required, practice and become comfortable and confident in having a conversation about pay and benefits.

RC: What would your final piece of advice for anyone reading this interview?

AM: Review the ‘In Your Hands’ and ‘Daughter Water’ campaigns.

I would implore everyone to have a look at the people around them. Sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, their destiny is in our hands!
We get to create the future for young people! Do YOU want equal pay for your son and daughter?

In terms of sharing the message, I find it resonates best when your audience can relate. So personalise the message and use the statistics and data to grab peoples’ attention. When faced with the facts, people will come up with more ways and reasons to do it than not.

In fact, you’ll probably have a new ambassador on your hands before you know it!