Three steps to pay equality for women

I was having dinner with my daughter, 17, and son, 15, and my son asked me if I would prefer to be a man or a woman. I instantly responded, “A woman.” When he asked the same question of my daughter, after some deliberation she said, “A man.”

When I questioned why, she said, “They just get everything easier and they are paid more.”

This saddened me. At such a young age my daughter is already experiencing limitations.

I have heard many ‘truths’ espoused by both men and women about the gender pay gap. This is not a ‘men don’t get it’ debate, rather an opportunity to hold up the mirror to ask why this is so. And it can be changed. Does our community have an unconscious bias regarding pay equity?

Here are 10 myths:

  1. Women don’t want the top job
  2. Women who are successful are ‘aggressive’ and self-serving
  3. Women hate office politics – so are happy to sit back
  4. Women don’t negotiate hard enough because they are thinking of the ‘team’
  5. Women have other priorities and work is not important
  6. Women won’t do the ‘dirty’, cold or hard jobs
  7. Women have fewer networks and are less connected
  8. Women have less experience
  9. Women would rather stay home and look after the children
  10. Women see themselves as nurturers

It does not matter if you are a young female graduate, a teacher or an executive; women are paid less at every level. “Show me the data,” I hear you scream!

Bloomberg published an article today which states that the 198 women of the 2500 top paid executives in the US are paid 18% less than men: “Female executives say they can be less demanding than men when it comes to pay, partly out of fear of being labelled as overly aggressive and self-centred.”

I wrote last year in my LinkedIn post ‘Could your sex determine what you are paid?’ that most western cultures have a persistent pay gap at every level. And Australia is no different. Between 1990 and 2009, the gender pay gap remained within a narrow range of between 15% and 17%. In 2010, it sat at 16.9%.

“Using robust microeconomic modelling techniques, based on a comprehensive and critical evaluation of several methodologies, we found that simply being a woman is the major contributing factor to the gap in Australia, accounting for 60% of the difference between women’s and men’s earnings.” – 2009 report by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.

How women regard themselves is critical to pay equity – women often define themselves by societal ‘norms’ (‘but they need me’, I hear women say). Many women still innately believe that they need to ‘prove’ themselves, as such they will perform a role for much less financial gain – and until women are paid the same for the same effort then there is no equality.

Most organisations keep salary information private – people do not know what their peers are paid. As such, the obligation to drive pay equity must start with the human resources folks, or a request from the board to review it.

Step one – do a review of all employees’ remuneration

Step two – present the facts to leadership

Step three – make the change. Simply increase female salaries to get them in alignment! Review annually.

The key is visibility and leadership.

Something has got to change, and organisations will continue to pay women what they think they can ‘get away with’, or what women settle for (often not knowing what their peers are paid). Leadership has to want it, pursue it, and not settle until they know – hand on heart – that their organisation has eliminated the inequality.

Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded,, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


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