On the eve of International Womens Day, we hosted a talk entitled “Show Me The Money; becoming a greater NegotiatHer” in fireside chat with Ziyanda Ntshona and Soria Hay. This discussion tackled issues around gender parity and solutions to closing the gender pay gap among women in law firms and those in corporate structures as represented by Ziyanda an equity partner at Webber Wentzel and Soria the founding partner at Bravura.
In an intimate gathering of 25 women in various stages of their legal careers, we started the evening with a short negotiation exercise that encouraged the women to find middle ground by playing two temperamental sisters vying over a single orange.
Ziyanda who sits on the remuneration committee of Webber Wentzel shared about the work that is happening in the firm to address the gender pay gap and also pointed out that the highest paid partner at Webber Wentzel is a woman- Sally Hutton who is also the firms Managing Partner. She shared about the reality of the biology which affects the practice of a woman as she takes maternity leave, as it means when she returns to work after 4 months, her pipeline of work may have dried up and she has to start knocking on doors of clients and also other partners to build up her practice. Ziyanda also noted that her salary increase in the years her children were born wasn’t as high as when she had put in a full years of working. In her opening remarks, Ziyanda acknowledged that women of colour are at the lowest point of the totem pole when comes to pay across the legal industry, due to simply billing lower hours that their counterparts because of a lack of access to work, opportunities and social capital.
Ziyanda shared the following comments on the solutions to close the gender pay gap:
“When you get your salary letter its too late to start the negotiations. You can’t try to moonwalk.”
- Salary negotiations must be held at the beginning of the financial year. She noted that women have a very high strike rate, but tend to set targets too low, so challenge yourself and set high targets!
- Women need to participate in their own gender initiatives, so support and appoint female leaders. We spoke briefly about the lack of female representation on the JSE Top 40 companies with only 1 female CEO.
- Income is performance based, so its important to perform and also to make sure that your boss knows you are performing when its time for salary increases. You need to know what you have to do to achieve the increase you want.
- Network in your own way, if you can’t connect the white male general counsel, rather connect with his junior legal officer who is a black female and your careers will grow together.
“Be deliberate about your career or you will have to take whatever you are given.”
We asked Candice Pillay, an equity at Hogan Lovells to also contribute on the discussion with her views creating male allies in the legal industry. She shared on the importance of finding a sponsor who will create the work pipeline for you, so you need to make your sponsor aware of all you are doing in your practice so they can represent and also protect you. Candice emphasised that the success of your relationship with your sponsor rests with you, so you must drive the relationship and also take a similar approach when looking for work- so get to know the clients. She also stated that the challenge with women supporting each other in the workplace may arise when female partners are fighting their own battles, and not where they want to be in the income structures- therefore may not be the best sponsors.
Soria Hay, shared her career journey where she started out in a law firm in Pretoria and quickly realised that the law firm structure was not for her. Soria started Bravura when she was 29 years old, and divorced with 2 small children. She asked the women to consider whether they would be happy if they were at the top position of the companies they currently work for and if not, they need to find the right place for themselves.
Her view from legal practice to corporate was important for us to learn what happens on the other side.
Her comments on the topic were as follows:
“A reasonable fee is whatever is you can get away with”
- Clients buy merit, quality service and dedication- which includes clear, swift communication and she insists on feedback within a 24 hour turnaround.
- When accepting a new job, women often do not negotiate the starting salaries which means they will receive a low bonus and low salary increase because they start off in a bad position. Do your homework relentlessly to know what is a market related salary and do not accept what the company tells you is a market related salary.
- Know your unique selling proposition and price yourself accordingly, when people try to push back respond like L’Oreal and tell them “because I am worth it.”
- Be careful of a “Sisterhood” because if we don’t like the Boys Club, then don’t form a sisterhood in the work place. Be a professional that carried herself with authority, rather than a giggly gossip girl because it hurts you in the long run when people cant take you seriously.
- With regards to finding a sponsor, it is important to speak in the language of your sponsor- not dialect, but to talk about what they talk about and whats important to them professionally so assimilation will be easier. Not talking about wedding dresses and girly chit chat.
- “Work like you aren’t a mother and be a mother like you don’t work.”Figure out what matters and matters less eg cooking responsibilities, buying groceries can be done by another person, so don’t waste time on activities that do not add quality to your life.
- Call out your colleagues when they are sexist, racist and make inappropriate jokes. Bravura uses english as the mode of communication in the company so if someone if caught speaking vernacular, on the 3rd time they have to buy lunch for the whole department.
- Learn to use your voice to bring down tensions in negotiations and find phrases that diffuse the situations.
- Soria walks the talk and we applaud that Bravura does not have a gender pay gap!
One of our guests shared how she went from earning R400 000 per annum to R 1.8 million per annum from working for an employer that was mistreating her to finding a company that valued her contribution form the experience she gained in the previous role.
We wanted our guests to not only learn about how to make money, but also how to keep the money they make so it can work for them, hence we partnered with PPS – the Professional Provident Society which is a financial services company that is exclusively focused on graduate professionals. If you would like to find out more about PPS and the products they offer, drop us an email.
Thank you to our sponsors at Hogan Lovells for the amazing venue and for seeing the vision we have through this platform.
Thank you to all the women who attended, we value each of you and look forward to hearing how you have become great NegotiatHers in 2020’s event.