#IWD2019: Why It Will Take 202 Years For Women To Earn What Men Do

The pay gap between men and women will take more than two centuries to close, according to global female executive Marian Salzman.

Salzman is the senior vice president of global communications for leading tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI). She's been in the corporate world for several decades and is often referred to as a "feminist icon" -- not that she entirely embraces the label.

"I am just a woman who made choices -- good and bad ones -- and finds herself in a leadership role in a large company," she told 10 daily.

Throughout her career, Salzman has become used to being one of few -- if not the only -- woman in meeting rooms full of men. She often feels like an "interloper" rather than the senior management team member that she is.

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Aussie women working full-time earn on average just under $26,000 less than men. Image: Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

But just because she's used to this underrepresentation of women doesn't make it right.

She recently addressed the World Economic Forum regarding a new report that claims it will take an incredible 202 years to close the global pay gap between men and women.

It seems like a staggeringly long time -- but considering the fact that just six out of 149 countries in the world have established equal legal rights for women, it's clear there's a long way to go.

In Australia, the gender pay gap has remained steady over the past 20 years, with women working full-time earning on average just under $26,000 less than men, according to the 2017-18 Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

"I am disappointed in the broad sweep known as the corporate world, a world that has welcomed me but that is fundamentally still a man’s domain," Salzman said. 

She doesn't blame anyone for the situation -- or rather she blames everyone. "It's all our fault, and things have to change -- and fast -- but also fairly," she said.

Marian Salzman speaking to women entrepreneurs in 2016. Image: Getty.
Female unfriendly corporate culture

Salzman recalls graduating top of her class from an American Ivy League university over three decades ago. She admits she was "surrounded by women a lot more accomplished and ambitious than I was" -- but today she stands alone in the corporate sphere.

Some of her classmates found leadership roles in the advertising business, in law firms and, particularly, in nonprofit and foundation work, but in the corporate sphere?

"Nope -- they did it and then left," she said.


The working world didn’t -- and still doesn't -- make it easy for women to 'have it all' and, over the years, savvy women have found alternative ways to do so. And they found it outside of big business.

"The corporate world has failed women, but we are trying, and I have some confidence things will change, but not quickly enough," Salzman said.

Equal salary -- which PMI offers -- is a start, in Salzman's opinion, but it's also about creating enough of what she calls "female energy" in big companies so women are able to see others like themselves leading.

"We are what we see," she told 10 daily. "Right now, we don't see enough confident, informed, powerful women in the corporate world."

Protesters at a rally on Equal Pay Day in Canada. Image: Getty
Calling all (wo)men

Turning that dream into a reality requires a group effort -- both men and women need to get involved according to Salzman.

She cites actor Emma Watson's efforts with the United Nations General Assembly to recruit men with her 'HeForShe' initiative -- the UN Women group has since gone on to encourage large companies and important men (and women) to create much more inclusive, balanced workplaces.

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In Salzman's opinion, this is an important start. "Men committing to an inclusive and diverse mix, embracing the (sometimes) dreaded word 'feminist' and behaving as good feminists do -- promoting equality between the sexes," she said.

Her plan of attack is straightforward and involves developing young women as we do young men, that is, listening to what they want from careers and moulding opportunities that suit their hopes, dreams and especially talents.

We are much better off when we run our business lives virtually gender-blind, but with both genders and lots of diverse backgrounds incorporated into teams, into leadership clusters and into the great succession races for top jobs.
UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and actor Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the HeForShe campaign launch in 2014 in New York. Image: Getty.
The anti-mentor

Salzman doesn't believe in mentoring -- "Asking for this kind of support feels artificial and contrived -- but she is more than happy to offer advice to both genders.

"Be open, be friendly, be generous ... don’t date in or around the office and know your stuff," she said.

And ladies -- don't be afraid to be tough. "We expect men to be tough but often tough women get criticised for not behaving in a more stereotypical 'female' way," she explained.

But stepping outside our emotional comfort zones and making tough decisions is part of what it takes to succeed in business -- and probably everywhere in life, too.

Feature image: Getty.