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Why I took the Pledge for Pay Equality

By Chris Stemple, Vice President and General Manager at AbbVie

Pay people the same amount for doing the same job. It’s a simple principle. Seems commonsense. Certainly fair. It’s even the law. But is it happening?

Well, believe it or not, there are still people out there who think it shouldn’t be happening. Last year AbbVie talked about the gender pay gap on social media, and some of the responses were frankly shocking. 

‘Of course women get paid less, they do less work and are usually less educated and qualified.’ Or how about this one ‘Women don’t mind getting paid less, they are mothers. That’s their first priority.’ Or the inevitable, ‘Get back in your kitchen..!’

But in their own way, the more moderate responses were even more distressing. Many people believed that there was no such thing as a gender pay gap in modern Australia. It’s not like it’s still 1914, the argument goes. Back then a woman could be paid a third of what a man would receive for doing the exact same job. No, it’s 2020, and the law says that everyone must be paid the same wage for the same work.

And yet, the gender pay gap persists. It is insidious. Employers don’t consciously set out to pay women less than men. But somehow, they still do. Unconscious gender biases creep in, influencing decisions about hiring, performance ratings, promotions and pay decisions. It’s so unconscious that many companies don’t even realise that they have a gender equity pay gap. Workplace Gender Equality Agency data shows that only four in ten employers actually analyze their payroll for pay gaps, and of those only 13.9 per cent report the results to their board.

This is the reason why at AbbVie we analyse our pay data regularly across all demographics. Unconscious bias can sneak in whenever there are difference such as gender, race, religion and disability.

At AbbVie we have a strong focus on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In recent years, extensive research has been conducted about the impact of diversity and inclusion ( by organisations such as PWC, Deloitte, World Economic Forum, McKinsey & Co., LeanIn, HeForShe). The benefits of inclusive organisations include: higher employee engagement, better problem solving, more creativity and innovation, better access to new markets, diverse groups of customers and consumers, as well as to a wider talent pool, and ultimately, better business performance. This focus was a big part of what drew me personally to AbbVie. And I can already see that this is a big part of AbbVie’s success.

So, when AbbVie looked at our pay gap, what did we find? Turns out, we too have a gap. It is only a small one—7.5%—but we were surprised when we ran the numbers and saw it. It was tempting to just dismiss it as a minor anomaly, one due to natural causes or the way the data was collected. After all, AbbVie takes pay equity seriously, and we have fantastic gender balance, especially in senior positions, so we couldn’t be doing too bad, right?

Wrong. That’s the same kind of insidious justifications that make the pay gap so persistent.

So now we have a plan to address it and we actively measure our progress, as even a small gap needs to be address as the crevice can quickly widen if we don’t.

That’s why I put my hand up to sign the WGEA Pay Equity Pledge and I am a proud Pay Equity Ambassador. So why not join me and the other pay equity leaders and put up your hands as well?

The Pay Equity Pledge

“We recognise gender bias can creep into performance, talent development and pay decisions to create like for like gender pay gaps.

That’s why we analyse and monitor our talent management data, including pay, by gender and take action.

We also set the expectation among people managers that they address gender bias in their decision making.

We do this because we know we can’t attract and retain the best people and improve workplace productivity if there’s any unfairness or perception of unfairness in our workplaces.

We encourage all business leaders to take the first step.

Equal pay is in your hands.”