Lyndsay Burns explores life after Vodafone’s big Win at the YWCA Equal Pay Awards.
It has been a few months since Vodafone won the Leadership and Supreme Awards at the YWCA Equal Pay Awards last November. We feel very honoured to have won these awards in recognition of the work that we have done to date in our battle for gender equality but my message is- we aren’t done yet!
The spotlight on gender pay issues is not going away and if anything it’s getting more intense. Whether you are just starting out on your journey or have made some headway already, here are some thoughts about where to next.
1. No need to start big, just start
Don’t try and “boil the ocean” when you start. Baby steps are just fine. Prioritise making a start and begin by breaking things into bite size chunks e.g. like for like roles by grades. Whittle your data down by excluding explainable differences e.g. length of service or experience until you have the “unexplained” left over and try and use any budget on fixing this first. It is not likely for anyone to have an endless budget, so prioritising is essential.
The government have published their Action Plan for the public sector. At the moment these initiatives are reasonably vague in the methods (which is probably warranted given the diverse organisations it covers) but the desired outcomes are clear. If we follow in the likely footsteps of the likes of Australia and the UK, we won’t be far off from legislation ensuring organisations publish their pay gap information. Think of it as a positive though because as the old adage goes, you can’t change what you don’t measure!
2. Nip it in the bud
Measure regularly: Measuring your gender stats is key, but doing this regularly is even more essential. Frequent measurement may help you spot key trends. Are there certain areas of the business where the gap continues to grow or remain static, despite it being a focus? Could this be hiring manager bias or perhaps a lack of gender-diverse skilled candidates? The solutions would be totally different depending on the situation but it’s best to know as soon as possible to have a good shot of preventing this from reoccurring.
Monitor hiring/ promotion pay decisions & annual remuneration reviews: These are the key times where you have the opportunity to prevent your gap from worsening or, better yet, to fix it for a certain role or business area. Having oversight during these times from a reward perspective could help give managers a different perspective of deciding on what to pay their team.
3. Have a look at your policies
Review all your policies and push the boundaries where you can. Not everything will cost heaps of money but a fresh approach may mean your organisation can now attract female talent with policies that strike a chord with them. For example, at Vodafone we offer car parking (where possible) for pregnant women from about 29 weeks. This is an example of a simple, reasonably cost effective policy change that could be the start of a mind shift change for your organisation.
Flexibility is also outlined in the government action plan to encourage more participation from women in the workplace. For some this may mean variable start and finish times but I think to really make an impact on enabling women in the workplace, it needs to include flexibility of location as well as hours and again, it doesn’t have to mean a lot of expense to the business.
This is an area we take great pride in at Vodafone. For me personally, this has been crucial as I live in Wellington but have been given the opportunity to work in a team where the majority of the people I interact with on a day to day basis are Auckland based. Saying that it is without its challenges (for me or those I work with) would not be true but it is not insurmountable by any means with the right tools and culture. If you have ever done a telephone conference, watch this video for a laugh!
Where Vodafone has implemented flexibility really well is in the tools provided for employees. Of course flexibility has to work with the role that you do, but I can really vouch for it working in teams where you would usually think it couldn’t. For example our first line HR admin support team can work from home because so much has been automated meaning there is no need for printing and scanning. Electronic solutions have freed up the need for being in the office. The technology enables true flexibility (being able to work from anywhere, anytime) but more importantly, the culture begins from a point of trust, rather than having to “earn” it. For some people leaders this may be easier said than done, but this culture of trust truly makes a difference, ensuring people are accountable for their outputs and trusted to deliver – from wherever you are!
4. Share ideas (and the burden!)
Get out there and network. Ask other companies what they are doing and how they are tackling the issues. In my experience, people are very helpful and are happy to discuss their challenges and ideas to overcome them. After all, we are all battling this together. It is a deeply complex issue that will not be solved by a silver bullet. Money alone will not solve this as there are usually underlying issues that need to be changed over time and everyone can play their part in coming up with solutions, as this is about what’s right, not about commercial advantage. I also found putting in the YWCA Equal Pay Awards application was quite helpful, as it makes you take stock. We spoke to a lot of other organisations too to see what they were doing and how they had approached their application too which was really invaluable. The team at the YWCA are very helpful so if you aren’t sure where to start, contact them as they have some great tools and advice that will help you with any gender pay challenges you may have.
Feel free to get in touch, I am more than happy to have a chat sometime (although it may be when I am working at home!)