By Georgina Dent
Like many Australian kids who grew up in the 80s, Meggie Palmer spent the first two decades of her life believing what she’d been told about girls and women being able to do anything.
That bubble was burst for the journalist and entrepreneur when she was in her 20s and learned — quite accidentally — that her employment contract wasn’t identical to her male counterparts. Their terms and conditions were more generous.
She raised it with her boss assuming it would be rectified immediately — surely it was an accident? It wasn’t. She was effectively told to take it or leave it.
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“That was the moment I realised the hype that ‘You can do anything!’ wasn’t true,” she says.
“In the real world it wasn’t “even Stevens” for all.”
Once Palmer saw it, the floodgates were opened: she started to see inequality everywhere. From women getting sacked on maternity leave, to pay disparity to double standards and sexism in the workplace.
“The illegal stuff is obviously unacceptable but I was also disturbed by seeing how many of my talented and successful friends were doubting themselves,” the New York-based Palmer says.
“One woman was promoted to CEO of a major company and she didn’t ask for a raise. ‘I’m lucky!’ she said. I said ‘No way!’.”
While Palmer’s lightbulb flashed a little over a decade ago it provided the genesis for her business, Pep Talk Her, which is seeking to close the pay gap by supporting, cheerleading and equipping women to recognise their worth.
But not in nebulous terms: in actual dollars.
“It is about changing women’s views of themselves and their self-worth,” Palmer says.
“I believe if we can change that, then women will be better able to advocate and negotiate and then, hopefully, conditions will improve.”
Until recently Pep Talk Her has been Palmer’s side hustle as she has supported herself through her media consultancy and training business.
Three months ago she took the leap to focus on the business full time, and having secured clients like Revlon and JP Morgan in New York, it’s clear she’s doing plenty right.
Palmer has engaged a number of consultants who work in the business and has a board of advisors who she describes as extremely generous in their time and expertise.
“Our board is mixed men and women which is intentional. We want to live our values and have men involved in the conversation. PepTalkHer is targeted at women because that’s where we see our niche but 15% of users are men and I think that’s great.”
Networking has been critical to the success of PepTalkHer.
“It’s all been relational. We run lots of events in the US and at most events we get two or three pieces of work,” Palmer says.
“I ran a big International Women’s Day event and someone loved it so much they referred us to JP Morgan. We went through their rigorous procurement process and now we have a contract with them.”
She actively targets prospective clients and goes to events where she knows certain people will be.
Palmer is in Australia currently for the launch of the PepTalkHer App, which she describes as similar to a period tracker, but that helps to keep a record of your successes and achievements at work and helps you bench mark your salary.
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Suuuuuuuuper excited to officially launch the @peptalkher app at #VogueCodes today! ????⠀ ⠀ We built this product because we want to remind women how awesome they are. ⠀ ⠀ We’ve interviewed hundreds of women about when they feel their best. Why they do or don’t negotiate and what helps them feel confident, their best self. ⠀ Head to the App Store, search PepTalkHer and let us know your feedback – excited to iterate & adapt to help serve y’all better! xxx
The free app prompts users to record their wins at work and then provides data to back up their pay rise and promotion conversations.
“I got into media to change the world. I thought if we told stories people would be able to empathise and then change their behaviour accordingly but now I think technology has more power to change lives than media,” Palmer says.
“Think about Instagram or Slack or Evernote. These are technologies that have changed behaviour patterns at work.”
She wants PepTalkHer to legitimately change the way women view themselves — and how they’re remunerated.
Outside of the App, Palmer is proud that through coaching Pep Talk Her has already helped women — and men — secure pay rises.
“We do a lot of coaching in corporate of women and men in their early 30s and we’ve been able to get them $60,000 pay raises,” Palmer says.
“It’s not rocket science. It’s about mapping out where you are, how your perform, what the market is doing and quantifying any non-financial benefits in your role.”
Being intentional and specific about seeking a pay rise often works.
The PepTalkHer app is free to use and available globally.
“Millions of users is our target. We’ve been self-funded until now but we are speaking with investors,” she says.
“We are looking to develop an enterprise product that organisations can roll out and while we are looking at capital raising it’s in the very early stages.”