The Gender Pay Gap

I haven't blogged in a while because, excuse is that I have just moved country (from Singapore to the UK) and that takes a fair bit of mental energy and time and planning. And it literally sucks the life out of you trying to set up bank accounts and trying not to stab yourself in the supermarket because you can't find the polenta. The other excuse is I have wanted to blog about many issues but sometimes I can't work out a way to write about these constructively*

But last week I attended a lunch and employment law update which was very helpful on a number of levels. The main being that while I know a little something about employment law in the UK (enough to be dangerous), I don't know much. This is actually a good position to be in because it makes me research and learn and talk to people who know more than me. I know what I don't know, which is better than thinking I know everything. It means I will end up in less sticky situations.

One of the items for discussion was Gender Pay Gap Reporting in the UK. I'd heard a little bit about it before I moved to the UK but as the company I work for doesn't have enough employees in the UK to have to complete the report, I let it fall out of my brain. But after some superior sandwiches and other lunch food tidbits I was in the right frame of mind to take in what this meant for employers.

Employees with more than 250 employees are expected to report their Gender Pay Gap by 2018 in the following ways:

  • the mean pay gap between men and women,
  • the median gender pay gap, and
  • the gap in bonuses paid to men and women.

The brief included what exactly constituted 250 employees and what formulas you used for the calculations and when it all had to happen by. It struck me that this type of reporting has the potential to change the culture of how we look at gender and equal pay in the workplace. Because I'm assuming that the pay gap is not going to be positive for women. Actually I know it's not because of the clever research conducted by the International Labour Organisation and the World Economic Forum and the United Nations and many many other private and public sector organisations. We know the gap is not going to be pretty and this is going to force employers to start to do something about it, because there is going to be a bit of an uproar. You would think.

But then the presentation took a bit of a turn. There was a discussion about how you could potentially avoid reporting and how if you engaged a lawyer to help you look at your data, then the data would fall under legal privilage so you could get away with not reporting (say if your results were really bad and you needed time to sort it out). And then some information on how there wouldn't be any sanctions for companies that didn't report and then I started to feel a bit "half glass empty" about the whole situation.

In my home country, Australia we have been doing reports like this through the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. At least since 2008 the reporting requirements include numbers of males and females at each level, having policies that support gender equity in relation to all parts of people management and some other stuff that I don't think anyone cares about. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is doing a great job driving this agenda but most companies I have worked at have all the right policies on equal employment opportunity and flexible work practices and so on. What is harder is having the right culture and leaders who believe and live the intent of the policies.

In various roles I have either been responsible for completing the report, part of a team completing the report or reviewing the report before CEO sign off. I can say generally that most years it is a scramble to demonstrate that the organisation has done anything to move the gender diversity issue along (though maybe I haven't worked for the right organisations) and to be honest it's exhausting applying creative thought to situations that don't deserve it.

The legislation that sits behind this reporting is well intentioned and should produce outcomes where organisations really look at what's happening in their patch and start to engage in dialogues to improve the situation. Equal pay for women and men has a huge impact on our community at large. Instead the lack of teeth in forcing or reviewing the public reporting means for many HR people tasked with filling out the sometimes excruciating details, is that it is all for nothing. We seem to be lacking some real grit and courage to deal with the problem.

Gender and diversity reporting attempts to create transparency around organisational remuneration, policy and cultural practices but how can this happen when there are no ramifications for non reporting or for reporting poor figures with no robust plan to fix it?

I really like this TEDx video which was shared on my social media a number of times this week so I had to pay attention. In January this year, David Burkus talked about why sharing salaries could benefit employees, organisations and the wider society.

Take a look. What do you think? Would you want your colleagues to know what you get paid? I think the new UK legislation is attempting to create transparency around pay gaps and that's a good thing.

Or maybe we could just pinksource? Its pretty, cheap labour. Go watch this video, now!

*code for writing about a topic without getting sacked

Do you understand your why?

Some weeks come and go without much remarkable happening. We go to work, we do our jobs and come Friday, we look forward to the weekend. Other weeks stand out because we are given a gift that was unexpected, surprising, and that changes our view of the world. I had one of those weeks this week. In the past month I have returned to my job, from being on maternity leave. My job is relatively new, both to me and the company, and I have two new managers of sorts and two new team members, one in the US and one in the UK. I'm still finding my way. What are my responsibilities? What person needs me to communicate what? Which people do I need to build strong relationships with? Who do I need to influence? What do I need to remember? I'm sure many of you can relate. 

Despite this, my week has been one of connections: meeting new people, having new experiences, consolidating my views and passions,  learning some new things, being inspired and as a consequence challenging where I am at, where my career is heading and our priorities as a family. While lots happened this week there, were two main events that stood out.

On Tuesday I attended the Simon Sinek workshop in Sydney run by Business Chicks. I joined Business Chicks fairly recently as they run interesting events and networking opportunities. When I first moved to Sydney, over 10 years ago, I attended as many free networking opportunities as I could to try and meet new people and build my contacts in what seemed an overwhelmingly big city. Not a good strategy. The only thing I achieved was eating bad food and being a captive audience for marketing opportunities conducted at 7.30am. After a couple of years of this I decided no more free breakfast networking events. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for!

A couple of other awesome 'business chicks' I know also had joined so I thought I would give it a go too. So far I have been to two events and I can say they are well organised, professional and awesome. The food has been great and I haven't been 'marketed' to. I even got out of bed to see Danni Minogue over breakfast (my first Business Chicks event). Anyway, back to Simon.

I had seen Simon's video on TED and knew he was going to talk about leadership. It was a inspiring workshop and I'm glad I went. He had some great things to say that relate to personal and career development, as well a leadership and business. He comes across as authentic and passionate and is a great storyteller. The key takeaway for me was that organisations need to understand why they exist, and it's not to just make money (most of the time that's a given). What is their purpose and why do they exist? A goal to make an unrealistic amount of money by a particular date is not something that employees or customers can connect to.

The same can be said for individuals and leaders. What is our purpose? What do we exist to do? This is really important when you are thinking about your career. The best most inspiration leaders I know are very clear about the "why" they do what they do, not what. A discussion with one of my favourite Managing Directors this week revealed that while she obviously wants the business she leads to do well, grow and be profitable, her purpose and passion is looking after the people who work in her organisation and providing a great place to do that. When you meet her she is very authentic about this. It is evident in the way she communicates, the way she leads her business, and the way she lives her life. As a consequence people want to work for her. A true leader has followers.

Yesterday I was invited to a networking event with the HR Leadership Forum.  This is the second time I have attended as a guest and they, like Business Chicks, provide interesting speakers and solid networking opportunities. They also hold their events in really nice places at lunch time. Yesterday was a function centre on Sydney Harbour and on a sunny, sparkly Autumn Sydney day like it was yesterday you couldn't help feeling positive about the world.

The first speaker was Dennis Shanahan, political editor of The Australian. He talked about the current state of Australian politics and the recently released labour government budget. Dennis obviously lives and breathes politics and his intimate understanding of all things related was inspirational. Passion is a very attractive trait. Unfortunately I just can't get excited about politics so I was hanging out for Peter Murray (Director of Operations) and  Peta Jurd (Group General Manager) from Veolia. Veolia had been featured in the Australian series of Undercover Boss and were to speak about their experiences being involved in the production. Don't you love a "behind-the-scenes" story?

When you are sitting enjoying a lovely lunch with a nice glass of wine, with a nice view of the harbour you don't expect to have your perceptions changed about waste management companies, have a laugh, empathise, be inspired and then be in tears. All in the space of an hour. However it bought home to me again (and again and again) that organisations have great responsibilities in looking after the people who work there. Veolia benefited greatly from being part of Undercover Boss. They received lots of media attention, got amazing feedback from members of the public and their Senior Managers gained a lot more insight into their operations.  The stars though, were the featured employees who demonstrated that when organisations are clear about their "why", employees will be attracted to work for them, be passionate about what they do for that company, and will go waaay outside their position description to help the organisation. It was clear that Veolia takes recycling and their environmental responsibility seriously and their employees are passionate about "why" Veolia exists. 

The trick in our life and in our career is to work out our purpose and be true to that. As Simon Sinek says "When we have a clear destination the route is flexible."

Inspire me

"When you work really hard but don't know where you're going it's called stress. When there's a destination it's called passion." Simon Sinek

Develop me

Not sure how to work out your "why"?  Check our Simon Sinek's website for tools and courses.

Just for me

If you want to learn more about Veolia and Undercover boss you can watch the episode here