For International Women’s Day, the Cisco board member tells Moneyish her views on the gender pay gap, how men get fired differently than women, and her No. 1 piece of career advice
As part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, Moneyish asked some prominent people to share their thoughts and experiences regarding issues important to females. Read more here.
Women aren’t valued the way men are.
I sat on several boards and constantly asked why the women VPs weren’t paid what their male counterparts were. There is no reason with the same job that they should not be paid the same. I have been told all kinds of things such as: “We can’t move her salary up that fast.” (But then, she’s never going to catch up to the man because as she’s slowly moving up, the man is moving up even quicker.) “Her background is different.” “We have to see how it’s going to work out first.”
I tried saying things like “What about your daughter or niece? Aren’t you thinking about them for their future?” They get shamefaced but then don’t do anything. They always have wonderful reasons to make them feel like they’re doing the right thing by paying women less, but none of those reasons are quantitative. It’s the craziest thing.
This pay gap – women only make about 80 cents of what men do – is just one part of how women aren’t regarded in the same way men are. We also aren’t valued in terms of our intelligence, ability to solve problems in the workplace, or how we manage people. This is part of a whole hideous level of inequality that women live with.
Think about when women, like Mary Barra at GM, get the big CEO jobs. That’s usually when companies are in trouble. Similarly, I wouldn’t have been hired at Yahoo if the company wasn’t in trouble. They go through the list of candidates and it’s only when their top choices, usually all men, reject it- that they offer it to a woman. Then they can blame the women when it goes wrong. They blamed Marissa Mayer for everything. Instead, they should look back at what happened in the early days way before the two of us were hired.
Or think about how I was fired from Yahoo. It was via a phone call. I was literally fired in a limo on my way to Manhattan. It was by the chairman of the board who was blocks away in his apartment and he didn’t even have the nerve to meet me in person. That was something that would never have been done to a man. When men get fired- they get told midweek. Three days later, a statement is issued saying that they want to spend more time with the family. Everyone agrees on the statement, they put the release out on a Friday afternoon, and the men disappear that weekend.
And when women are paid well, there’s backlash. [In 2010, proxy advisor firm Glass-Lewis voted me as the “most overpaid CEO,” though many men earned more than I did.] The numbers used in that article weren’t right. They showed what I could have earned, not what I earned that year. It was just an attack on corporate women. My PR department was so freaked out; but part of me thought that since there is nothing we could do, the more we protested, the more it would stay alive. I thought: So what is wrong with that kind of pay? Look at what some of the men make. It was nothing compared to that. This is another example that people can’t stand the concept of women getting paid well.
The issue of gender inequality is so big and so ingrained, you wonder if it is even solvable. But we can make inroads. About a year after I started as CEO at Autodesk, I learned that two men had also been in the running for the CEO job. They had both demanded more than I did. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I got the job — though I know it was because I was the best candidate, not because I was paid less. Still, I just wanted to hit myself on my head and ask: Why didn’t I figure this out before?
So now I tell women to look at the stats on salaries for the job that they are after and ask for 20-30% more than they think they should. Stand in front of the mirror and practice asking for the salary until you are comfortable. Get out of your comfort zone. Women tend to think that when they get the job, they are going to have to prove themselves with hard work and the company will look out for them. Instead they sit in the same job- getting small raises and slow promotions, thinking that the company will look out for them because you’re a great employee.
Most importantly, don’t view your career as moving up a ladder in which you do the same kind of job function again and again. Instead, build a pyramid of experience in different areas that you can use to move up, because you become much more valuable. Don’t be afraid of lateral moves. A woman coming out of college will work for 50 years. You have time to get a lot of good experiences. If you branch out, you become more important to the corporation. And most of all make sure you consider work along with life balance, which might or might not include having a family.
Carol Bartz is an entrepreneur and businesswoman who has extensive experience leading global technology companies. Currently the lead director on the board of Cisco Systems, she has served as the CEO of both Yahoo! and Autodesk.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved