Women In Media Profile: Diane Smith-Gander

Women In Media Profile: Diane Smith-Gander

In B&T’s latest instalment celebrating the launch of our Women In Media Awards, today we chat to Diane Smith Gander the president of leadership group Chief Executive Women who’s also the Chairperson of Transfield Services Limited.

Niki Waldegrave
Posted by Niki Waldegrave

As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out, women have this success likability problem… The more successful they are the less likable they are. It’s very different for men, where the more successful they are, the more likable they are. It’s the same with this assertiveness, aggressiveness. If a man asks for a pay raise he’s assertive and if a woman asks of a pay raise she’s aggressive.

At entry level there tends to be a seven per cent start point pay gap between men and women in the post graduation salary… It doesn’t seem so much but when you add in the affective accumulation increases on salary and bonuses, the woman ends up having to work eight years more than the man to end up in the same position. I always say it’s very lucky women live longer than men.

Men control more than 60 per cent of the superannuation balances in Australia… Women generally retire without enough money because when they go on maternity leave they don’t continue to receive super so it’s creating a contribution gap, as well as less time to accumulate if they take a career break.

No one is doing research on women in leadership in Australia because nobody really cares… Because the power structures in media, like in other parts of Australian industry, disproportionately have men in them. What is the incentive for those people to really start to push through and do the research and understand what’s going on and change the rules of the game? It’s depressing we don’t have much in the way of stats. The University of Sunshine Coast spoke to 650 journalists across Australia in 2012/13 focusing on women in leadership and pay and found just 7.4 per cent of leadership positions are held by women, which is startling and horrible. They tried to understand how the trajectory was, but the only previous survey that they found available was more than 20-years-old.

The only finding that correlated strongly with pay increase was experience… So it seems it actually doesn’t matter in the media how good you are, the game is just to hang in. It’s easier for men to hang in than women due to childbearing years.

The biggest civil productivity lever we can pull in Australia today is to get women in the workforce and to get them to stay there… That’s why the government is taking so much attention – should it be paid parental leave, should it be childcare? What’s the right way to get women into the workforce and leadership positions? The Grattan Institute did some calculations and said we would improve GDP $25 billion per annum if we fixed the problem of women’s lack of participation in the work force.

Women are opting out and dropping out because they’re not seeing those female role models above them… If you look up in an organisation and you don’t see somebody that looks like you, you assume you’re not included or able to have that strong view of, ‘well, I can have a voice too. I can be a senior person’.

I think the most important thing is transparency… I would ask a prospective employer when I’m negotiating joining them how the salary system works. On this particular rate of pay that you’re suggesting, where would I be, in the middle of the pack, or more towards the top? What sort of salary increases could I expect? How does it all work? If you’re asking those questions, you’re also making them think about equity.

Women should be prepared to have a courageous conversation to make sure you’re being paid the right amount… If you get yourself in a position where you’re not getting paid equitably, it’s time to move on. If you don’t receive equal salary increases then percentage increases in the future are on a lower base so smaller in absolute terms. You can then understandably get very upset and cranky and be more likely to opt out, because why should you be doing the same job getting paid less money?

The most important thing is to make sure you’re looking for jobs that ring the cash register… I put jobs in two classes – hand-maiden jobs, support or helper jobs, and ‘ringing the cash register’ jobs that really generate the money for an organisation. Look for organisations with women in cash register jobs. Women that are running businesses that have got profit and loss accountability. If you’re going to run the whole show you’ve got to have been ringing the cash register at some point in your career.

And make sure you enter our Women in Media Awards, or nominate a colleague, here!