EPISODE 5: “PAYING FOR GOOD PODCAST” WITH DAME MOYA GREENE, DBE, OC, ON EQUAL PAY
30th JULY 2020[Corinne Carr: CC] [Dame Moya Greene: MG]
CC: Hi everyone! Today, I’m absolutely delighted to introduce to you Dame Moya Greene, DBE, OC. Dame Moya has a number of roles, including non-executive roles. But I’m talking to her today as the Chair of the #metoopay campaign. I was very lucky to come across Dame Moya last year on the back of a very high profile equal pay case. And that’s the one of Stacey Macken who took BNP Paribas to court over an equal pay case. And that rippled through the industry in terms of the visibility of yet another equal pay case that very much resonated with Dame Moya.
So I was asked to comment on the case by the Financial Times, and on the back of that, the journalist, Eva Szalay, got in touch with Dame Moya. And then Dame Moya created the #metoopay campaign.
So, Moya, would you like to introduce yourself, tell us a bit more about you, what you do and your experience with equal pay cases.
MG: Thank you very much Corinne, and it’s lovely to be talking to you again. Well, you know, I’m really at the end of my career now and I’ve had a wonderful career and a lot of it was good luck. I was, you know, the right person at the right time and happened to be in the right place. An awful lot of it was people prepared me. People had invested a lot of time in me. I had a decent education that was made better by the experiences that people basically went out of their way to provide for me. And so when more senior jobs came up, I was a credible candidate. I didn’t always get them. You know, you could have to dust yourself off from time to time and, and pick yourself up when things don’t go exactly as you would like, but I got lots of them.
And before, you knew it, I ended up being a Chief Executive Officer. In fact, I was a CEO on two separate occasions: once in Canada, here in the United Kingdom of the Royal Mail. So I have been a CEO for 14 years. I’ve been on boards actually much longer than that. I’ve been on boards for about 25 years. I’ve been on all kinds of boards: listed companies, subsidiary companies, privately held companies, charitable organisations. I’ve been on all kinds of boards.
And I have enjoyed board work but I have to say that it is the executive roles that, for me, are the more important ones, especially when it comes to working social change, making it happen, working with the dynamics of social change. Because it is the executive cadre who make the decisions of how people are going to be prepared and developed for future roles, who will be on lists so that the development opportunities can be given in the right time. So that you end up with candidates who are prepared for more senior roles at the right time.
So I’ve always thought that it was the senior executive roles that were the more important ones. I’ve always been interested in fairness and equality issues. I come from a wonderful place, but it’s a very small place. I come from Newfoundland, it’s an island on the East coast of Canada.
And when I was growing up there, it certainly had lots of things going for it in the sense that it was a very safe and close knit place to grow up, but it was also a poor place. It didn’t have a huge amount of economic opportunity. Most people, if they wanted to really realise all their potential, I think they would have found it difficult to do that by staying in Newfoundland. So you had to take your education and get yourself prepared to go and seek out opportunities in a wider geographic area.
But Newfoundland was a great grounding for understanding that some people are just born with more opportunities than others. And I think what we’re seeing now here in the United Kingdom, we know that race is a very important differentiator in terms of the kind of schooling that kids will get the opportunity set that will be available to them. And then sadly, this can follow them for many years as they try to establish careers. So I’ve always been interested in that. And, when I got to be a CEO, of course now I had an opportunity to make sure that our processes for training people, for selecting people were fair.
And I have to say, Corinne, that the reason why the Stacey Macken case really bowled me over and hit me the way it did was I probably was very naive even as a pretty experienced international executive.
I really thought we had nailed the equal pay issue. After all, we have had equal pay legislation on the books here in the United Kingdom for a very long time, more than 50 years. And, I have seen women take their places probably as a result of the huge opening up of opportunity that came to us in the sixties with the women’s movement. And with legislation like the UK’s equal pay legislation in North America, affirmative action programs. All of these things had made a huge difference in making opportunities available to people without discrimination on the basis of their gender.
So when I read about the Stacey Macken case, I was a bit, I was more than a bit. I was very surprised. And I felt that women like me who have had really great careers and who have been able to knock down any walls and ceilings because of a whole lot of reasons: luck, their own efforts, their own skill, the help of many people being in the right place at the right time, etc. But anyway, we have been able to do that.
We had to do a better job, it seemed to me, because there were still big problems. So that’s how I came to be in my old age, a bit of an activist, because I don’t think anybody would have said that about me until that moment. I’ve been a quiet, behind the scenes activist, but I’ve not been a person that would be in the front of a protest movement. So I’ll stop there. That’s how it all happened. And that’s who I am.
CC: That’s a great introduction. And indeed, it’s not easy when you’re a CEO of a very large organisation to be very close to these equal pay or unequal pay issues. So, so you decided to do something about equal pay and you set out the #metoopay campaign. So what is the campaign about, and how does it work? What are you trying to achieve with it?
MG: The campaign was really very modest in its objectives, Corinne. I just wanted people to know, in the United Kingdom, that there were a lot of very, very successful and high powered women in business who were as shocked and fed up with cases like this in the year 2019 as I was. And to put a bigger light on the problem, because the thing that came through to me when I read about Stacey Macken case, and when I actually read the 92 page judgment, which you gave me, I remember sitting down on a Sunday, a rainy Sunday, and just reading it and being really flabbergasted, which is probably a North American term. Do they say flabbergasted over here?
CC: They do but you’re asking a French person!
MG: Well, I was flabbergasted what a lonely fight it had been for her! And, you know, here she was a professional woman in banking. She had won her stripes fairly. She had good performance ratings. She was sitting side by side by male colleagues with exactly the same job description. So there was no issue around, “was she doing a different job?” or there was none of that. And, everything started to go wrong for her in her job when she said, “can you help me understand my salary and my bonus?”
And in financial services, bonuses are an incredibly important part of compensation. It can be as much as 50, 60% of your compensation, sometimes more. She started to ask very legitimate questions. And when she started to ask those questions, she didn’t get very good answers and worse than that, her whole work world started to change. The ostracism set in, the mean pranks, the hostile glares, the obfuscation, and it became an incredibly difficult environment for her to continue in.
So I, I have to say, that that case was an awakening for me. I know it wasn’t for people like you or that wonderful journalist, Eva Szalay, or for the women at BBC. It was no awakening for them. They knew. They knew that the problems were real and deep, and sometimes in some organisations, very systemic.
And they were just as bad today as they had been when the legislation was probably first passed in the seventies where women’s work was being undervalued. And if they had the temerity to ask a question about it, their situation just got worse. So what our goals were, they were very modest and they still are very modest. We just wanted to call attention. And, we had in our group people who, because of their success, have a bit of profile in the business world, in the professional cadre, they’re pretty senior themselves.
Some were in banking as well. And we just thought, if we just come together as signatories, and we say in a very, very public way, Stacey Macken “we are on your side”, it is a small, little step that lets younger women like Stacey Macken know that we, the more senior women, we now get it.
And, we will try to do a better job if we’ve got the power in our positions, whether they be board positions or executive positions, we will try to do a better job so that fewer people have to take these long lonely fights the way she did. So it is to trust, cut through, at any point in time, in those days, all of the media were serving up Brexit every single day of the week. And now of course, we’re going to be served up with COVID and its aftermath.
It was to try to cut through all of that and to say, as we are reordering our relationships, or as we are now thinking about the future structure of our economy and how we are going to rebuild it, don’t forget that there are huge disparities in our society that are still there, despite the fact that things like failure to pay people equally in the same job, regardless of their gender, that’s been against the law for years. So that was really the goal. And that continues to be the goal.
CC: I remember the little advert that you put in the Financial Times. Over a weekend, you managed to gather the signatures of one hundred women in 24 hours? That was amazing!
MG: It was amazing, but do you know why that happened? It almost went viral. I didn’t know a lot of those women. They went to their networks and they said, “have you seen this?”
And I think it was because we were all so shocked that this was such a clear case, Corinne. Why it took so long to get to tribunal? And there was really no defence that was offered in that case. Usually, if you go to tribunal, I thought it means that you think you have a defence. Well, there was no defence, really, was there?
CC: So I think that’s prompted some thinking for my counterparts in the remuneration world. And you kindly invited me to join your Steering Committee to provide remuneration input to the Committee. Yes, my network is full of remuneration professionals. We need to be absolutely aware of the implications of equal and unequal pay issues. So that’s something that’s intrinsic to the work that we do, but obviously, there are still examples out there that exist. And every so often, when they’re not settled behind the scenes, they make it out to the open.
MG: They do make it out to the open. And, we were all pretty bowled over by that case. But we learned in the process of this campaign over that weekend and over the weeks and months that followed, that’s far from unusual, there are lots of cases. And I just think that this has got to be a topic where we have to find way to cut through and examples like this one are so powerful because there is no defence. They didn’t even provide a defence. Sometimes, people will say “well, wait a second. No, there’s a very big material difference between what this person is doing and what that other person is doing.” And then at least you can examine that and say, “well, is there any merit to that argument?” They didn’t even present that in this case.
And of course another wonderful case, terrible case, but a very enlightening case was Samira Ahmed, the BBC case, where they did present evidence that her job was different from the comparator. But it turned out that in the law courts, she won hands down. There was no justifiable difference, for paying her such a significantly smaller amount of money.
And, the other thing about this pay inequality and pay injustice is that it follows women all their working lives. And once they get to the point of retirement, their retirement income is also significantly lower than a man who has done the same thing. And so these are inequities that only get understood maybe halfway through a career, halfway through a life, when you feel strong enough that you can start asking those questions.
But the saddest thing is to know that in terms of a lifetime of earnings, there really is no way to make it up because your earning runway is always getting shorter and shorter as you go along your career path.
So that is why you are right, Corinne. It is the remuneration professionals like you and your colleagues that are going to have to be very alert inside these big corporations to try to pick through the thousands and thousands of pieces of compensation data to help people understand that here lurks unfairness.
CC: Absolutely and reputational damage as well. As we saw in Stacey’s case, BNP Paribas has been fined millions of pounds on the back of that case. So there’s a huge downside to it as well as the fine, which is the reputational damage. So if we had to give practical advice to employer, investors or employees, let’s talk with employers, what advice would you give them in terms of eradicating or being aware of these unequal pay issues?
MG: Well, the first thing I would say, and ‘faute de moi’ as well, because I was a CEO for 14 years. Don’t assume that your pay structures are fair. So you, as the CEO, are in a position to scratch and scratch and try to put people on the spot a little bit, to go and look and analyse carefully. But certainly do not assume that the pay structures are fair.
The second thing I would say is that if you’ve done the necessary reporting about gender pay in the organisation, which is a totally different thing than equal pay in a particular job category. But if you have looked at your whole organisation and all of the different categories of work in the organisation, and you’ve presented your gender pay gap, then don’t assume that it’s all okay, that it’s all explainable by, really important and material differences.
MG: We have learned now, or at least I have learned, that you have to go beyond that. And, so for example, if you’re running an airline, probably 95% of your pilots are men. And the pay gap in airlines is going to be very big on a gender basis for that fact alone. Because the captains make a lot more money than the cabin crew. So you can’t stop there. You have to do as Carolyn McCall did at EasyJet, you have to say, “Hmm, there are a lot of women who are fantastic. They’re sportive, they’re in all kinds of science occupations. They’ve been explorers around the world, why aren’t they pilots?” And you might need to really study that carefully and then put together a programme that is designed to be almost an outreach, to go find the women that will have the ability to be good pilots, and to gradually start breaking down those barriers.
MG: Now it won’t happen overnight because, you’ve got find those women first. You’ve got to convince them to do that training. The training is expensive training. It’s going to be years. But if you don’t start, it will never happen.
And I would say the same thing about any kind of what I call structural inequality, where the outcome just does not look right. It’s only one kind of person that seems to be in that job. In Royal mail, for example, about 90% of letter carriers, our posties, were men. That is not the case in Canada where the weather conditions are a lot more extreme than they are here. In Canada, I think it was roughly 40% of our letter carriers were women. And they’re great jobs for women, especially for women who are trying to combine, keeping a career going whilst they’re looking after school aged children. Because usually you can get a shift in a postal or personal operation that will allow you to be there when your kids are coming home from school.
So why was it at Royal Mail that there were so few women posties? Well, a lot of reasons. But a part of that was the culture was not very inviting for women. That’s fixable. And when Sue Whalley took over as the COO, I think the first female Chief Operating Officer that Royal Mail ever had, she set to work and with her team, she started to put in place programmes that would change that.
And so it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. And it will never happen, if you don’t start. So that’s what employers can do. They can ask questions. They can think about why things look the way they do. They can figure out with their managerial teams, what they might do to change the look of something that seems pretty vanilla. And, over time, if you do that, you will see change. And Oh, by the way, if you don’t, you never will.
CC: Yes, there’s plenty to do from the employer side, that’s for sure. Do you think investors have got a role to play as well? I’m not hearing that equal pay comes up as a question in the engagement process that investors have with employers. I’m just thinking whether it should be part of that.
MG: I totally agree it should. These structures which curtail opportunities for such a big part of our workforce are not only wrong, they’re inefficient. And I do think that if we get onto investors on this, that will change. Because remember the whole ESG movement didn’t exist 10 years ago. And now we have people like Larry Fink writing to the ex-chairman of BP, who’s now the chairman of Volvo saying, Blackrock is going to vote against you as a Chairman because we don’t think you’re doing enough to reduce your carbon emissions as a company. Well, if investors can do that, they can do things about racial inequality and gender inequality too. And it’s only when a light of that kind is shone on a company and at the highest level of a company, will you see the agenda of board meetings change.
Now, it won’t be a nice to do, we’ll have a look at it once a year. It will be part of the target setting for all of the senior managers of the company. So investors have a very big role. Certainly, their ability to say to a Chairman, a very successful Chairman like this one, “we will vote against you unless you convince us that you are paying attention to this issue, which may not be a great thing for your company. We want you because we think that it’s a very important thing for society.”
CC: That would focus attention. What about employees themselves? Because as you rightly said, the Stacey case illustrated the complexities and certainly her resilience in putting a case together for years and hundreds of pages worth of evidence. So it’s not everybody who’s able, mentally, and has the capacity to have the attributes to put a case like that together without any support. What can employees do? And maybe that’s where the campaign can help as well.
MG: I think the campaign can help here. We’re not gonna win this industrial tribunal case by industrial tribunal case. We’re gonna need actions on a whole lot of levels and a whole lot of fronts. But these cases are hugely important because they are so egregious. They are a call to arms. They get people moving. What can employees do? Well, first don’t shun the woman who’s taking the case. Because she’s taking the case for you, as another woman, for your daughters. She’s taking it, not just for herself. And it is a long lonely fight. And so her female colleagues really need to support her and not shun her. But what happens is they become afraid for their own careers. They are afraid that they will be seen as a troublemaker.
They, because that’s how the Staceys are characterised in companies when they start to ask the questions that she asked. And so they’re going to have to be a little strong. They don’t have to be as strong as Stacey. There are very few women who have that kind of intestinal fortitude. But they need to be strong enough to not let them bad mouth her in front of them. They need to be strong enough to support her. They need to be strong enough to tell her the facts. If they have that, in her case, it was one of the secretaries who told her the facts and who left her the information that she was seeking on her desk. So there are quiet heroes in that case as well. And so employees can give support. They can give information. If information is being withheld and being withheld wrongly, they can sometimes be the hand that makes that information available.
They can go to their superiors and say “look, this is a problem. This is not somebody who is complaining about nothing. This is a real problem. And we are going to lose here because we don’t have a defence for what has been paid here.”
I think the other thing that employees can do is they can call for audits. If two or three occupational areas look odd in terms of where women are being paid relative to men, they can, as a group, go to a diversity committee or band together themselves, and they can get to the CEO and they can say this needs to be audited here. And they can be almost like an internal action group. So I think there is a lot more that employees can do. And, you know, Carrie Gracie, whom I really admire as a journalist, she has written a wonderful book on equal pay about her own case.
One of the points that she makes is that she had a wonderful support network inside the BBC. The BBC women did support each other. And I think that has made a world of difference. They didn’t feel alone, or they didn’t feel that they were from a career wise point of view in a situation of unparalleled and unmanageable risk because they had support.
CC: Yes, and indeed equal pay audits can also be requested as part of the engagement process between investors and corporates. That is part of the engagement. “When was the last equal pay audit carried out and what came out of that particular investigation?”. So it would be good if it was standard as part of the engagement process.
MG: It would because CEOs would then be forced to prepare for that question. Having been a CEO and been in front of investors, I will tell you, we do lots of preparation because we don’t want to look flat footed in front of our investors.
And it’s in the course of preparing for those questions that you learn a lot about your company that you didn’t know.
CC: Yes, absolutely. It’s a good exercise to carry out on a regular basis. So for people who are listening to us, Moya, what would you like them to do? They may hold different roles; we’ve talked about employers, investors and employees. They’re able to go on the website and to check out the resources. What would you like them to do?
MG: Practically I’d like them to first accept that this is an issue. Corinne, the other surprising thing when I started to educate myself about this, there are a lot of people out there who just don’t believe it’s an issue. And that’s the first problem, because if you don’t believe it’s an issue, you’re not going to ask any questions you don’t have just going to ask for equal pay audits.
You’re not going to think that your colleague needs support. You’re gonna believe whatever hogwash is being thrown at you in terms of your colleague and her performance. You’re not going to ask any questions. You’re just going to put your head down. And if you do that, you won’t get change. So the first thing that I would say is we need, and it is mostly men that are still making these decisions about hiring and training and what the pay contract is going to be. So we need men to be sensitised that there be dragons here, and you need to be aware of that. And that’s still a big issue. I now know raise this at dinner parties and things like that, where I’m going. And, these are old colleagues of mine and they’re very broad minded people, honestly, for the most part. They’re in their sixties and seventies, the way I am, many of them don’t believe it’s an issue. So that’s the first hurdle. And that’s what I say to the signatories and to the steering committee. We have to find a way to keep the issue alive, to make it a discussable issue, make it a debatable issue to inform ourselves first, to have the facts at our fingertips and not to be afraid to raise it.
CC: And that’s what we’re doing today, Moya, through this podcast. If people want to carry on this conversation and learn more about equal pay issues, can they sign up to the campaign?
MG: Well, absolutely. Everybody’s gotten put on pause for the past three months because of COVID. But I did manage to write a little something early on in the COVID to just keep the issue framed, because it was very interesting to me who was the essential worker here in Great Britain in the middle of a pandemic. And it certainly wasn’t people like me. It was people on the frontline, nurses, carers, people who were delivering things to our houses, people who were cashing out our groceries in the grocery stores. Those were the people. And some of these people, they’re not very well paid.
And I remember saying to my husband, as we started clapping for the NHS, which was a wonderful, warm gesture of pride and thankfulness. But one thing that came to me was, in addition to clapping for all of these nurses and carers, maybe we should look at paying them better?
MG: And that was something that occurred to me. So what can people do? Yes, of course they can go on the website. They can help me think through the next steps. We’re going to need to raise some money. And we’re going to be raising money in probably the worst situation ever because every charitable undertaking has been put on pause as well. And, keeping their charitable organisation alive has been incredibly difficult as you can imagine through this whole thing. So we’re going to have to wade into those waters and swim our way and make sure that we can build something that has some sustainability. So the first thing I would say is keep raising the issue. Keep the issue alive. Keep talking about it. Get yourself informed. Raise it informally when you go out with your friends, when you invite people over, but just keep this issue alive. And there are many contexts now, as a result of this pandemic that give you an entree into this topic.
Then the second thing I would say is start thinking with us how we can raise money to make it sustainable. Because we want the site to become a very spiffy, high class, easy to use, site that has all of the information. A ‘Go to’ site with all of the information that anybody would want on equal pay: how to get it, how to recognise when you don’t have it, what to do if you’re in HR, what to do if you’re in other segments of the employee group, what to do if you’re a union. Unions have a huge role to play here. I think the wonderful women of Dagenham whose work was undervalued, they were sewing machinists making the car covers in a car plant in Dagenham for Ford.
It was they whose strike really made it possible for the first Equal Pay Act to be passed. Well, they were very, very brave and in some cases, their union was behind them in more ways than just that word, usually meal means. They definitely did get there and they did help to negotiate an agreement for them that was far fairer than the one that they had been working under. So unions have a big role to play. So what can they do? Keep talking about the issue. Make sure that you’ve got facts at your fingertips. Support women who feel that they are not being paid properly. If you’re a union, take those cases. If you’re an HR director or if you’re someone that has information about pay structures that are not quite right, get that information out there. Transparency changes everything; putting the sunlight on something generally fixes it. It may take a while, but it works.
So all of those things are things that people can do.
CC: Great! I think that’s a great list of action points for everyone. So look up the campaign,#metoopay and see if you would like to sign up and support the campaign in any way. Dame Moya, I’d like to thank you very much for sharing your insights and certainly a very personal experience as well. That was great to share that with us today. Thank you. And let’s carry on supporting the, the campaign. Thank you
MG: Bye for now
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Corinne’s website: www.peoplenet.ltd.uk