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Equal pay is not a demand - it's a right

For all its old world charms, the Swiss mountain resort of Davos is not a great place to be in winter if you're used to the Arizona sun and don't like the cold. But after speaking and listening to so many inspiring individuals at the recent global gathering, my heart is warmed: the news may be challenging, but there's much to be positive about, too.
© Ion Chiosea – 123RF.com

Take gender equality. Female political leaders are speaking out and making news around the world, but on the other hand, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies declined by 25% in 2018. Worse, it’s supposed to take 202 years to close the global pay gap between men and women, according to a December 2018 World Economic Forum report. I know we’re living longer lives, but that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?

To some extent I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve owned companies and earned leadership roles. I come from the communications world, where glass ceilings are cracked, if not shattered. It’s an industry that provides opportunities for women to lead and have real shots at the top, provided of course that they put work first in the never-ending struggle for work-life balance.

I’ve been happy to do that. I never wanted or expected to have a conventional family life, so I didn’t have the worry of wanting more than what my career and social life gave me. I traveled everywhere, whenever I was asked; I took extra work in the form of board appointments. I skipped vacations because I was the captain of my own identity.

However, it’s painfully clear to me that women with more to juggle on the climb have to make crazy awful choices about what, where and how.

Still, looking back on Davos, there is much to be optimistic about. My favourite line from the week goes to Laura Liswood, secretary general of the Council of Women World Leaders, who may have reclaimed the word “snowflake” with her brilliant riposte to those who criticise millennials: “Women are like snowflakes. One alone may melt, but together we can stop traffic.”

It’s been 15 years since I helped popularise the term “metrosexual man”, which seemed to capture the zeitgeist of gender confusion. To some degree you can still see this uncertainty today — just witness the fevered response to Gillette’s recent ad campaign calling out toxic masculinity in the home and workplace.

But for millennials and the Gen Zers who come after, there is less confusion. They will handle these problems without earlier generations’ hang-ups. They date on equal terms, live together on equal terms, think more similarly than any previous generation. For them, shared parenting and equality is normal; it’s what they’re used to. Equal pay is already the norm for many 20-year-olds. They don’t hold the unconscious biases of their parents or antiquated ideas that to get ahead they need to pander to entrenched patriarchies or play by somebody else’s rules. They will not stand for inequality.

It’s at my end of the workplace where the wheels turn more slowly. I frequently sit in meetings and at meals where I’m the only woman, or one of few, and that makes me cranky at times because we need lots of perspectives to get to the right decisions. Having more women around also makes work more fun for us.

Like senior women everywhere, everything I say, do and even wear is often up for scrutiny. I may be a member of PMI’s senior management team, but I am also the human Marian who can be intense or flakey, and who can occasionally show up looking like an unmade bed. In any case, I hope I’m an example of where hard work and smart thinking can get you, regardless of gender.

I’m also heartened to be working for a company that takes equal pay seriously. So seriously that we have engaged an external organisation to ensure we’re EQUAL-SALARY Certified globally. We hope to be the first multinational to reach this milestone.

At Davos, I met plenty of inspiring women and talked about a wide range of topics, politics, trends, travel and our industries. But there was one thing I wish we didn’t have to discuss — and that’s being women. I’d love never to discuss my gender again, but so long as sexism, overt or more subtle, continues, it will stay on the corporate agenda. To me, this is so basic: Equal pay is fair and shouldn’t be considered a demand; rather, it’s what we all have a right to expect. Full stop.
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About Marian Salzman

Marian Salzman-known as one of the world's top five trendspotters - has a communications career that has spanned more than three decades, across multiple industries and the globe. She now heads up comms - , owned and paid - at Philip Morris International (PMI) as it embarks on its transformation to a smoke-free landscape...
Comment
Fanie Brink
"Gender equality" is not a;ways possible just because not all woman "put work first" as men do because the majority of woman do want to "have a conventional family life," while men do not have that choice. "Equal pay" is only possible on the basis of "equal merits" in terms of qualifications, expertise and ambitions!
Posted on 9 Feb 2019 08:50
Anonymous
Fanie, Your argument is flawed. Are you suggesting that if men don’t put work first that they should accept a pay drop? I have seen many women accomplish much more in the same work hours as some men, so does that mean those men should also accept a wage decrease? Or what about single fathers? What if you suggested they take a 30% drop in salary because they are the primary parent? Would that father be able to take you to court for that? But yet women don’t have the right to take companies to court for the gender discrimination that occurs on a daily basis. It’s a joke.
Posted on 11 Mar 2019 09:08
Anonymous
The wage gap doesn't mean inequality. It's the result of different choices between the genders. When you give maximum opportunity to everyone, you maximise the biological differences between men and women. Men tend to work more dangerous jobs, work longer hours and put work first. This doesn't make men better just different to women. Seriously the world wouldn't work if people didn't put families first. I work in an environment were all the top positions are held by women. Listening to them talk about how oppressed they are is just sickening.
Posted on 17 Mar 2019 22:22
Anonymous
What are you talking about? Women don't take a 30% pay cut for being a primary parent. Nothing about pay rate changes, but obviously if you work more hours you should get more pay. That sounds like equal pay to me.
Posted on 8 Apr 2019 21:55
Anonymous
How many times does the gender pay gap need debunking? If women are paid less for the exact same work then employers aren't stupid, they would hire women instead. Writing an article that claims a gender pay exists shows a level of ignorance that should preclude you from writing articles, you have done no research whatsoever on the topic
Posted on 9 Apr 2019 22:20
Anonymous
Equal opportunity should not produce equal outcome. Period.
Posted on 13 Apr 2019 08:54
Anonymous
The equal pay discussion often use average hourly and weekly statistics as proof of a gender gap. There is no attempt to match the unit of labour. It's a ridiculous application in a market economy.
Posted on 14 Apr 2019 04:12
Anonymous
I, as a male, am not equal to my colleagues who is of the same gender. What is impoerant is gender fairness. WE should work toward making the working environment fair to both males and females. Hopefully, we may see some positive results.
Posted on 25 Apr 2019 13:19

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