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Gender Equity Rebels are Breaking the Chains: Fighting for Equal Pay on November 15th


Transcript Cynthia

Well, hello and welcome to today's chat. I am joined by Emily, who I will allow to introduce herself, and we are gender equity rebels. And so today's conversation will be very interesting as to where we take that conversation. It is unscripted. Emily, would you like to do a brief introduction for the folks?


Emily

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Cynthia. So, I'm Emily Buttonham. I'm the founder and director of Emily Button Coaching. And we call ourselves a powerhouse collective of coaches, trainers and facilitators. And we partner with companies to help support them, to elevate the women within their organization. So we do a lot of programs, we do a lot of workshops, one-to-one coaching as well. So, yeah, Cynthia and I were speaking on LinkedIn and we had a great conversation a couple of weeks ago and we really wish that we recorded that. So we thought we wanted to do another one that we could share with everyone in our network.


Cynthia

Absolutely. For those who don't know me, Cynthia Portlage, she her pronouns. I am a global gender diversity consultant speaker and have been fortunate to work with organizations in over 30 different countries to date. I come from a background as actually a national feminist leader. As I tell folks, I learned to fight for women's rights before I ever learned to fight for trans rights. So it very much influences the way that I see a lot of the issues today and how things evolve. And I love helping organizations create inclusive places where everyone can feel they belong. And so with that, why don't we dive into our topic? I know there's an important date coming up, Emily, isn't there, about the middle of this month?


Emily

Yes, there is. So, equal payday, which depends on the region, but for Europe, is the 15 November, and this is effectively where women work for free for the rest of the year due to the average gender pay gap. So the latest stats from a UK perspective, from the Office of National Statistics, is the gender pay gap is at 14.3%. We've only actually reduced that in the UK by 0.1% in the last year, and that is an average. So when we look at full time and part time workers, when we look at part time workers, that gender pay gap is even more diversive.


Cynthia

Yeah, and that's really hard to believe, Emily, given that we're over 50 years with equal pay legislation, not only here in the UK, but in North America, in both Canada and, United States, they have similar legislation. And so it's really atrocious that we're talking about it and at times we're talking about a cost of living that has exceeded double digits. And to that statistic, you talked about, it's 0.1% of a change. That seems almost insulting.


Emily

Yeah, it is insulting, and especially when you think about so much of the legislation around gender pay transparency for certain companies. And I feel quite conflicted about that because I think it's great that companies are having to share their findings but there is so much work that can happen behind the scenes to convolute a lot of those figures. And I think I have been quite surprised about the lack of people's awareness around this women, men companies and talking about this and I think things like International Women's Day people can get behind as a celebration. We're obviously highlighting something as more of an awareness. It's obviously not a celebration that we want to be celebrating the fact that effectively women are working for free, but it's something that I feel that more of us need to be aware of and talking about.


Cynthia

Absolutely. And obviously that stat itself doesn't directly reflect that. When we came out of COVID and looked at the impact of the pandemic and so forth and even the pay associated with more entry level roles is actually reflected in that, that women are very much held back. We know that because the 23% representation and that is overall industries on average of women who make it in senior leadership. And I mentioned that for the relevance to obviously when they make that point, while there's still a pay gap, they at least make it into a much higher pay band and therefore the ability to contribute to the family or support a family because there's many women who are sole income earners within families. And so being able to do that and actually create spaces where women are fulfilling their whole self at work but in life in general really seems to be contradicted by these numbers and that we're proportionately affected at the lower entry level where both were held back, but even more so, more proportionally by about 50 OD percent. We represent the workforce at that level, yet we don't see it, quote, transitioning into the more senior levels.


Cynthia

I mean, what has your experience been related to that and what you've seen with the pay gap along that way?


Emily

Yeah, and that's really interesting and just kind of building upon what you said. I feel that we have become a bit complacent. I feel like the world has evolved and it is much better for women when you think about working women than it ever was before. But I feel that with that pay gap and it's so much more than pay. Like it's money as a conduit because it impacts investments and stability and how women are able to live their lives. And you can see that across the board and I think it's just very interesting in terms of there is still a problem, but I worry that we're not talking about the problem and we're not addressing the problem. And even though there have been a lot of these kind of legal requirements for companies, we're only seeing that 0.1% change. And I feel that I do a lot of coaching and training with women in organizations at various different levels like we are seeing impacts right from the very first stage of women entering the workforce. So there's the broken rung, which is the first step up to management, where for every 100 men that are promoted, we only see 82 women promoted.


Emily

And although we're seeing women within organizations and women holding senior positions, like you said, it's not representative of the fact that women are over 50% of.


Emily

The.


Emily

Workforce at the world. And I feel that in my experience and my working experience, there was equity to a certain standpoint until you got to a level and then when you looked at the disparity in ages, that's when it increased even more so and even my own personal experience. So it was only until I got to the point where I was getting to the stage of nearly having children that I start to really personally feel the impacts of gender related pay issues. When I was able to raise that, I had some maternity pay issues and all of these kind of things that we know I'm not the only person that has felt this because we see the data related to that.


Cynthia

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I wanted just a shout out to the organization Pregnant then Screwed. Here in the UK. They have done amazing work and not that it's all happy go lucky, but they are so focused and they absolutely bring to light. And it made me kind of think about, as you were sharing there, the impact of when we talk about again, that pay gap from a European perspective, that Europe does have these targets at the vast in senior levels, both board and directorship level. And the fact is, what we know, because these are not new, they have been around long enough now that companies that have moved to the target plateau and they don't go beyond. So people go, well, we have targets because without a target, businesses aren't aiming at anything, which is why we don't see it moving. And when we give them a target, we absolutely see them working at it and moving to the target, but we don't see them working beyond the target. And yet the current target, which was updated in the last 18 months from the European perspective, is now moved up to 40% representation, which is still atrocious after 50 years of legislation over 150 years of the women's movement being active and fighting for all aspects of women's rights, that we're still only fighting for 40% of what is 50% representation.


Cynthia

And I find that in my work as a certified mentor, when I've worked with young women, we talk about this idea that you weren't aware of that gap until from a gender perspective, it hit you. And yet when I work with these young women, definitely young women in technology, because that's a bit of my background and they were seeing stuff like 67% pay increases in the first year, it didn't all come at once. And everyone was a fight and you had to work through it, but that they were seeing that or the fact that once they realized their full potential, that they were able to move out of a role into other roles and see as much as 200 plus percent increase in the base pay they were offered. And it just to me reinforces what you were sharing of women. Just don't see that until you're kind of there or you're kind of looking in the rear view mirror and going, yeah, that wasn't right. Not then.


Emily

Yeah. And how have you experienced that through your own personal experience in your transition? And this is what we spoke about when we spoke a couple of weeks ago. How has that experience changed your view of the world? Big question.


Cynthia

It is how do you put words to something that is so profound in that a taking off the blinkers of bias, right? It was actually privilege, male privilege. You take off those blinkers and you actually see all this social injustice, which, again, when I talk about it, I always like to remind people that women are the largest group of marginalized people on this planet. And so in doing so, we need to collectively that for me, when I look at my identities as a trans person, as an LGBTQ plus person, and as a woman, that all of these collectively together, we all share the same concerns. And if the audience can imagine that one day it was like I was treated like this male privilege. Didn't know it because the blinkers were obscuring that view, but that's it. But the next day I was treated as a woman, and it was like this. And I can still see and feel that difference. And so, you know, when I speak to many women and they go, oh, well, Cynthia, that's the way it's always been. And I go, no, it isn't, because I can tell you exactly what the other side is like.


Cynthia

And that's why I love to do sessions like what I love to call 50 years of male thinking in 1 hour for women. And it was simply taking all of that socialized way that men are taught to be and share it with women so they understand what men might be thinking or a bit of perspective and whether it's a boyfriend, a husband, a coworker, a boss, that there's all of these experiences, and they really relate to the way men are behaving, especially in the business world. And for me, it was 50% of the workforce should not be at that much of a disadvantage to not know these things and to hopefully empower them to use that information to better their life or their career path as they see fit. And that's why I love doing the work that I'm doing, is to see women taking control of their life and bettering it the way they perceive that it needs to be better. Not me telling them that it needs to be something. How do you see that connecting and impacting with the audience?


Emily

Yeah, and I feel that socialized way of being like that phrase is so interesting. And that's what I find with the women that I work with that it's almost like this reconditioning and relearning and pretty much all of the women that I work with, whether it's called this or not, there's this foundation of a lack of confidence and I find confidence such an interesting thing. I do feel like confidence can be weaponized against women and that's probably a whole different discussion. But there's this lack of confidence as a foundation that actually is empowering in Some ways. Because if you can make small Tweaks to habits and I always talk about what the small 1% changes, you can make that then snowball. Actually, it can improve everything in terms of Impostor Syndrome and Career Progression and putting yourself Out There and personal branding. And I feel like confidence is this layer that I think as individuals, women can see the importance. I still feel sometimes there is a gap with companies about, okay, cool, yeah, we know we have certain things that we need to do to help support our female employees and our female colleagues.


Emily

But actually do we value confidence? And that's what I find quite interesting actually. The needs of the women transpiring against what companies need. And I think actually everyone benefits from more confident women and I think it is sad that we are having to go through that process of relearning some of that stuff. And I think that's why the work that both of us do, it's about kind of the grassroots thing, supporting people to step into their power and to see their potential and put themselves out there. Which is a world that men that's just commonplace for men, but it's the society changes as well. And expectations. How can we create these environments that are diverse, that are equitable, that are inclusive, that allow everyone to thrive but also psychological safety? How do we create those safe environments for women?


Cynthia

Yeah, that's well said. Well said. Yeah. Believe it or not, our time is almost up. I can't believe it. Our conversations always go so fast. They do. I wondered if you had any kind of a synopsis, a closing thought in kind of a last minute that you would like to share.


Emily

I guess my closing thought would be start talking about these kind of things. I think the first step is having these conversation is educating yourself regardless of your gender. It's all of our responsibility to change things. And I feel like sometimes we can feel this sense of powerlessness but actually we are such powerful beings and it's the ripple effect that we have. So educate yourself, ask questions, start having some of these conversations. We don't have to be experts in any of these spaces to be able to question the status quo and also to demand better of ourselves, of the people around us, and also of the companies that we work for.


Cynthia

Absolutely. Yeah. Couldn't say it any better. I just want to thank you for the phrase gender equity rebel.


Emily

I love that.


Cynthia

Yeah, you brought that into my life. So thank you and absolutely echo it. It's about educating and awareness, and certainly I think that's one of the unique value propositions that I bring is what I call I am one leader, but I have two genders worth of experience, and it is bringing that different view into the corporate world to be able to evaluate those things that people might see as well. That's the way it's always been to actually put a completely different lens on it. So thank you, Emily, for this conversation.


Emily

Thank you very much, Cynthia. And thank you, everyone, for watching. Thanks. Bye.


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