In Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency released its annual scorecard on the gender pay gap last week. It found on average male full-time workers took home 20.8 per cent – or $25,000 – more than women in 2018-19.
WGEA director Libby Lyons branded the result disappointing and warned of “a bit of diversity and inclusion fatigue”.
Palmer says her own experience meant she realised the gender pay gap must be a problem for a lot of other women and asked friends and colleagues who, “sure enough”, had similar experiences.
“I became interested to understand how could you use technology to scaleably solve that problem,” she says.
Launching the start-up
The Australian entrepreneur, who is based in New York, launched Pep Talk Her three years ago with $50,000 in savings.
The platform includes an app that prompts users two or three times a week to record their career achievements using data, text or photos.
“We can help you keep track of all of your successes and so in six to 12 months, when you have a performance review or promotion conversation, you then have quantitative and qualitative data to back up your argument as to why you should receive a promotion or raise or be considered for a different role in the organisation,” Palmer says. “So it essentially uses the nudge theory of psychology to shift your mindset through small behavioural change over a long period of time.”
The app is free to use with the startup making money through in-house workshops and brand partnerships.
“Right now what we’re doing is building an enterprise version of the app that companies will pay to offer as a white-label product,” Palmer says. “That will be the next step for us into 2020.”
I’d love to do ourselves out of a job.
What started out as a “side hustle” is now a full-time business for Palmer, who employs five staff part-time and turned over around $250,000 last year.
Pep Talk Her uses Salesforce’s Essentials platform for small businesses and Palmer spoke at the tech giant’s Dreamforce conference outlining her use of technology to address the gender pay gap.
Pip Marlow, chief executive of Salesforce for Australia and New Zealand, says she is very aware of the gender pay gap in both small and large businesses and has struggled in the past to ask for pay rises.
“You can measure the pay gap, we have been measuring it for years, that’s a great start but not if you don’t take action about it,” Marlow says. “Am I going to wait to 2050 for equity? I don’t want to wait. We shouldn’t be waiting. We shouldn’t be accepting that.”
Marlow says Salesforce audits salaries regularly to attempt to bridge the pay gap, and has spent $10 million on the issue.
“We audit every year and we continue to audit it, because you can clean it up but you have got to get clean and stay clean,” she said. “It’s a continued focus.”
1 million women
With a client list including JP Morgan, HSBC and Revlon, Pep Talk Her is tapping into increasing awareness among big corporates of the gender pay gap.
Palmer wants to turn the 10,000 women who have downloaded the app so far into 1 million women – but she says her ultimate goal is for the startup to become obsolete.
“I’d love to do ourselves out of a job,” she says. “I’d love it to be that we didn’t need to exist; that I could wind the business up because the problem is solved [and] the gender pay gap has disappeared; that no women ever had an issue at the workplace; that no woman ever struggled to have a conversation with their manager about pay reviews.”
The reporter attended Dreamforce in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.
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Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne