Kiwi firm eradicates gender pay gap

With 1,000 employees across the country, the move came at a significant cost to the company

Kiwi firm eradicates gender pay gap
HR professional sets out to establish a gender pay gap within their organisation but a number of external factors combined with unconscious bias means disparity can quickly creep in – however, putting it right isn’t always as easy, or is it?

Robin Davies is the director of people and culture at beverage giant Lion – her firm was recognised as a gold-standard winner at this year’s YWCA Equal Pay Awards after it eradicated its gender pay gap in one fell swoop.

The company, which has approximately 1,000 across New Zealand, identified a 3.2 per cent pay gap across its workforce and chose to take immediate action.

“I found it quite confronting to be honest because I’d heard about the gender pay gap but I just didn’t feel like it could apply to us,” says Davies. “From conversations I’ve had since, it seems that’s quite a common perception.”

With a gap of 3.2 per cent, Lion’s initial disparity was significantly lower than New Zealand’s 9.7 per cent national average but Davies says the entire senior leadership team agreed any disparity was unacceptable.

“It wasn’t difficult at all to convince any of our senior leaders to close the gap and to close it immediately,” Davies tells HRD. “I was really blown away by the unconditional support we had across the New Zealand business, from our CEO, Stuart Irvine, and from our board.”

Davies, who has held various roles since joining the company in 2003, also said there was no hesitation about the timeline for closing the gap.

“We had various options about the time period over which we would close it but we all felt that it had to happen immediately,” she says. “I really think this is an amazing example of a board demonstrating its values and being prepared to stand up for something.”

For organisations that hope to achieve something similar, Davies says they should seek the support of their executive team and prepare to absorb significant financial cost.

“It absolutely requires the commitment right through the organisation from all of the senior leaders,” she stresses. “Then obviously there is a significant financial cost but we’ve proved that we can make a decision in accordance with our values, we’ve closed it immediately and we managed the cost of what it is. We just get on and make it happen.”

Despite the cost, Davies says the initiative has already had a huge impact on employees – both those who saw their salaries rise and those who were left unaffected.

“One of our core principles is transparency with our people and our people saw that we were demonstrating transparency in action so it’s strengthened our culture even further and developed the trust they have in us,” she says.

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