Companies and individuals need to take the lead, we can’t simply wait for the government to make reforms and acts. During our Journey to Excellence forum, our panelists and audience discussed numerous ways in which we can create change, from speaking out about gender diversity and pay equity, starting education first and foremost in the home and walking the talk. Here are a few ways in which individuals, and companies, can begin the march toward meaningful change:
Education first and foremost in the household was a common topic of conversation throughout the forum, with Ballantyne encouraging women to educate the men in their homes: “We need women in their own homes not allowing their husbands and their sons to think that [and] to tell them that that is not right. You need to have those conversations so that those men are not going to work and taking that attitude with them.” During question time, education also came up when Shona from Iconic asked the panelists where does the education start. Cross recommended starting in the home in the first instance. “I think everyone has a role – boy, girl – to get those right messages across. And then I think absolutely there is a role in the schools for that, regardless of what type of school it is.” However, on the other hand Ballantyne questioned whether it is the younger generation that needs help: “I am not sure we have a problem with young people. I think as somebody else said, it is that middle group. They have come through and risen through the ranks because they, to a degree, were men and want to hold onto that, to take their career where they can see it get to without the sort of competition. I don’t think it is the children.” Instead, Ballantyne said it is calling out your husbands and your partners and your fathers, which comes back to education in the home.
Stand Up for Change
The panelists have all, in their own ways, created change toward gender diversity and equality. But throughout the event, they made it clear that in order to make change, we all need to stand up and start somewhere. Gattung suggests every company should start by doing an audit. “You should establish the facts and don’t tell yourself a story, because it is very easy if you are in the senior leadership team or on the board that tells you the story about the organisation. Establish the facts. Most companies will not have pay equity; there will be gaps in most organisations unless people have been essentially working on this for years. So establish the facts and get a commitment to what you, as a group of leaders, are going to do about it. Don’t work for a company that just thinks that this is not important.” Ballantyne agrees, and suggests going back and asking your company if they have any reporting. And actually, this noise is coming at us and maybe that is something I can do. They look and then they discover actually how it is. That is the catalyst for change, right?” An incredibly significant point was made by Cross, who reminded us that change can come from all levels. “You don’t have to be a leader to be asking the question and then following through. I think there is a role for everyone in the room to go back to our organisations and even if we’ve got policies, it is always a time to review, and the practices and what is happening in reality. I think we are moving towards a real focus on authenticity and we want to work with those who are aligned to our values and we want to see them doing things and walking the talk, and being able to show us what they can sort of do. I think we have all got a role to play there.”
Women and men getting equal pay for equal value work was a goal of Kate Sheppard and the National Council of Women when they got the vote for women 125 years ago, yet we are still fighting for pay equity. Similarly, the 1972 Equal Pay Act made it illegal for men and women to be paid differently for doing the same job. “But how many of you lawyers think you are being paid the same as the guy in the cubicle next door? How many journalists in the room, female journalists, got a big shock when at some point they found out. Look, it doesn’t have to be the BBC, it doesn’t have to be Australia – the last month has been several high profile global journalists resigning because they found out they were paid half a million less than their male colleagues,” Gattung says. Iceland is leading the charge toward pay equity, making it illegal to pay men more than women. They mandate equal pay in both the private and public sector by requiring companies with more than 24 employees to obtain governmental certification that female and male employees are paid equally for the same work. Unsurprisingly, pay transparency was a topic of conversation when it came to making meaningful change. Gattung believes, “Transparency would make a huge difference.” This is also where legislation and reporting comes in, as it did for Iceland. Having something to hold people accountable to is more likely to create change.“Reporting I think is definitely something that could be easily implemented,” Meade suggests.
Getting Men on Board
It is important to acknowledge that not all men are adverse to pay equality and offering equal opportunities. But, as our panelists said – if they aren’t starting to make change now, or in the past few years. They may never: “ I would choose my organisations carefully,” Gattung suggests, “There are [25% of] NZX companies that still have no women on their boards. Even now. Even with all the media pressure, even with Joan Withers Chairperson of the Year, with all the stats that Justine referred to that show that companies lead by women do better. There is still 25% of companies on the NZX who have no women – well, if you are a woman who wants to be a CEO, don’t go and work for one of them.” When it does come to getting men on board, and getting support rather than getting their back’s up, Cross believes we need to move on: “I don’t think we should be worried necessarily about what they think. Diversity, pay equity – it is the right thing, it is good for business, good for the bottom line, it is good for them – get over it, get on board.”
During the panel Nadine discussed the argument that is often made that sometimes women are responsible for holding themselves back. She pointed out how a woman won’t go for a job until she ticks ten out of ten boxes, where the man might do it if he ticks six and wings the rest. This opened up discussion about how women don’t always believe in themselves enough and one prominent example was when Meade brought up unnecessarily saying sorry: “I think all of us in this room probably would say they would be guilty at some point of downplaying their skills. I tell a lot of women every time you write [and email], look and see if you’ve used the word sorry and you will be surprised at how many times you find yourself using the word sorry where you’ve got absolutely nothing to apologise for. I think we do need to just take a step back as women sometimes, take a deep breath and think – if I look around me, if I think objectively about what I’ve achieved here, I am actually really doing fabulously well, but we’re not very good at it.”
E-Sabotage: Consider how often you use and do the following: unnecessarily apologise and use other passive words such as ‘just’ and ‘actually’ and justify your email with phrases such as “Does that make sense?” and “I’m no expert but”.
Embrace Being Disliked
As our panelists have said, when men speak up and are in power, they are seen as being assertive and strong, yet when a women acts the same way, they are being bossy and unlikeable. A lot of our panelists have encountered this unfair treatment, as do many women in power. “We have got to be careful about judging women as to whether they are likeable if they are powerful. It is many, many women who are critical of Hillary Clinton – yeah, she is powerful, she is the best prepared candidate, but she is not likeable – I just don’t like her,” Gattung says,“[There is] this dilemma of being powerful as a woman and likeable – that dichotomy. Women politicians, women business leaders – it is really difficult. Men do not have that. Men are not being coached to be likeable. They’re OK about just going out there and being powerful. We have got to be careful about criticising other women.” Overcoming this inequality is something our panelists says comes down to having faith in yourself: “I think you have to decide to be authentic, to be yourself and not worry about it,” Gattung says. Similarly, Ballantyne says it doesn’t matter what you do, if you are successful, someone won’t like you because they don’t like they have to compete with you or that you make them feel in some way inferior because they haven’t achieved what you have. “They won’t like you, so the only person at the end who can truly make a difference to you, is you. If you like you, then you can live with that because it doesn’t settle. But I you are not confident in who you are, then it will destroy you. You have to get to grips with that really early on and wanting to be liked is different than being likeable, and understanding that allows you to be yourself and not try to be someone else.”
This event was just the beginning. As more questions are raised and society slowly changes, we will continue to hold these forums to persist toward gender diversity and pay equity.
Journey to Excellence Future Forums
Friday 1 June – Christchurch
Friday 8 June – Wellington
Friday 15 June – Auckland
Friday 5 October – Auckland
Friday 12 October – Wellington
Friday 19 October – Auckland
Head to JourneyToExcellence.co.nz for all the latest news and features.