A Solution for Women Seeking the Future of Equality

It is both shocking and interesting that the debate around women being treated less than equal is still going on in today’s society. After the huge leaps and bounds we have made as a human race, you would think a problem as small as this would be solved by now.

I hope in reading this blog post you seek to add to the conversation, take action or stand for moving this debate forward. It is time to move on. Specifically, I will be talking about the inequality in women’s salaries, some perspective on the debate, and some actions that will resolve this issue if we all take at least one.

I am a firm believer that people should and will be paid fairly for the value they provide to a business or society. However, to get what you think you are worth, you need to ask for it.

I think a contributory factor to the statistic that women get paid 13% less than men in the same position is that women are not asking for what they are worth. And if they are asking, then they are not standing for it with resilience. If you believe you are worth $78,000 p.a. then why would you accept any less?

There is a natural human tendency to make others feel small and inadequate, this comes from our survival instinct: “If you win, I lose. If I win, you lose.” But, we are no longer animals fighting to survive. So we need to let go of this mindset.

This is mostly in the mindset of the employer. Men have controlled the job market for centuries, and arguably still do “control it”. And, many men get off on the idea that they are powerful and superior to others, women especially. This superiority comes from a difference:

  • I am better because I am white.
  • I am better because I am older and have more experience.
  • I am better because I am a man.
  • I am better because _______.

Any difference I can find between you and me, is something I can be better at than you. And, that’s the mindset dominating our society.

We really have to start reflecting on our reasons for doing anything. Am I a CEO because I want to dominate and be more powerful than others? Or am I a CEO because I want to further grow and develop this organisation.

Honestly, if your answer was the latter, then this debate would not exist. If a women employee complains to you that she earns less than an equally-placed male staff member, and she is providing equal or greater value than the male member, why not give her the salary for which she asks? An empowered, respected employee will be loyal, hard-working and substantially more productive and value-adding. The cost of disempowering your staff is: (1) higher staff turnover, (2) higher human resource costs, (3) lost brand equity, and (4) lost productivity due to poor morale.

Is 13% really worth all that cost? Or could a 13% increase in salaries for women remove this dilemma, empower your staff and unlock the hidden potential in your organisation?

(I’d bet on the latter!)

On the other hand, women could be using this debate to dominate too. What if there are two employees – one male, one female – both doing the same job, with the same responsibility…and the salaries are different?

Well, it could be bias as we have already talked about. But, it could also be a material difference in performance. The male could actually be outperforming the female, and adding more value to the organisation. If that is the case, and the woman is using the defence of “You’re paying me less because I am a woman!” then that is not fair or just. You can be sure that there are some people playing this card in the real world.

Ultimately, the solution to both these problems is transparency. If everyone knows what everyone is earning, what value they are providing, what objectives they are achieving, and what they are delivering, there can be no argument. A male cannot argue that he should be paid more when all that information is open. A female can argue for equality when something is clearly not equal. Men cannot dominate based on superiority and an empty argument about “children” or “productivity” or risk.

Now, you might argue that being open about salaries can cause a lot of conflict. And, if inequality exists in the organisation, then clearly that will be the case. But if everyone is paid according to the value they create in the organisation, then these conflicts will be irrelevant and not based on evidence. There is nothing wrong with being paid more than another person. And nothing wrong with being paid less than another person.

If you believe you can provide more value, sit down with your boss and plan out how you will do that, demonstrate you have a plan, show how you will measure your value and what you add to the organisation. With a solid proposal you should definitely have cause for an increased salary.

If you don’t get accepted and supported for this, and excuses and reasons come into play…First, listen to the reasons. Are they justified? Are they founded in reality? Do they make sense? Or are they egotistical? If you end up in an organisation or with a boss that doesn’t empower you, you need to make a choice: leave or stay.

If you stay, you will be stuck in that place complaining and fighting forever. You will be unfulfilled, dissatisfied, disempowered and disrespected. Do you want these things for yourself and your life? If not, leave. It’s your choice.

When you leave, you can do one of two things:

  • find an empowering job and boss; OR
  • start a business with an empowering culture.

It’s a sad and problematic world out there, with so few businesswomen and women entrepreneurs. From my perspective, women add significant value with the creativity and empathy they bring to a team. Often, with more women in a team the dynamic is different; personable, trusting and relaxed. I’d love to see more women taking on the lifestyle of running their own business. Starting a business can seem like a risky option, but if you do it with the right people and your team is committed to a purpose, those risks can be significantly reduced. I encourage you to attend events like Startup Weekend or courses that teach you the basics and foundations of business.

From what I can see, every person reading this post (men included) can take one of these three actions:

  1. Be a champion for transparency at your workplace. Stand up for equality, fairness and evidenced-based salaries. Stand for opportunities to demonstrate and grow your value. Will you do this? Join this Facebook page and find others like you.
  2. Find a job and a boss that empowers and enables you. Leave the organisation that doesn’t give you opportunity and respect.
  3. Start a business with others’ like you. Form a culture that empowers and enables other people.

If you won’t do any of these actions, ask yourself why? What are you holding on to?

If everyone does one of these three things:

  • the organisations that are empowering and enabling will get more amazing people and will win.
  • more great businesses will be started, which will create more jobs that are empowering.
  • the businesses that are NOT changing will gradually lose people, and face competition that is powerful and effective, until eventually they wither and die.
I can’t wait for a world of equality to exist. Can you?

What did you take from this post? What would you like to add? Please share in the comments below.

2 Comments to “A Solution for Women Seeking the Future of Equality”

Hi Justin,

Really interesting post.

I guess the real issue is when the relationship between workplace actions/behaviours and performance is not obvious. Further, in team environments it can be hard to pull apart whose contribution is more value adding.

These issues aside, there might be a way to create transparency whilst not letting salary issues ignite workplace jealousy. What if concerned employees just had to write to a government department which would ask the business to report on diversity, pay equity etc in the organisation. These results could be returned to the government for them to decide if their might be an issue and let the employee know they might have a case for action.

I’ve heard this is how it happens in Britain for example, at least in the case of dismissal.

July 27, 2012 Reply

Thanks for the comment Kim. You’re completely right – implementing a value-measurement system + transparency programme is difficult. However, it can revolutionise a business by adding a deep layer of accountability as well as enhancing relationships between staff and the organisation (brand). The impact on culture alone is worthwhile.

I’m not a fan of diversity for diversity’s sake, and I think requiring businesses to pay equity for diversity differences is not particular easy to make sense of or reinforce (measure). However, I am a fan of workplace empathy training – that is bringing diversity to the forefront of a business’s mind. An environment that is supportive of ideas (innovation) and perspectives is perfect for diversity – and will gain the most value from a diverse team. However, if a team environment is not ready for this type of diversity, I hypothesise that it would be more damaging to enforce diversity in that workplace. Hence, why I support empathy awareness schemes (also look up holistic business/systems thinking). Get them there first and then they will choose to be diverse on their own.

I do really like your suggestion about a diversity report – and I’m not sure if there is one already in existence. Much like a sustainability report, a diversity report would initiate a conversation. It’s these conversations that need to be had before a noticeable change will occur.

July 27, 2012 Reply

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