Brighton Heroes

Balance Is Better: How Small Companies Can Close Their Gender Pay Gap

Despite an increased discourse around women’s rights, our world is off-kilter. The theme for 2019’s International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’ and it will highlight the benefits of a society that encourages balance and diversity: from its boardrooms to its sports teams, its media and its governments.

The gender pay gap is a totemic indicator of our unbalanced culture. In the UK it is around 20% across sectors, with the World Economic Forum predicting it will take 217 years to close the global gender pay gap. Dr Zara Nanu is the CEO of Gapsquare, a tech company that analyses companies’ gender pay gaps, then offers pragmatic steps to fix them. Since forming Gapsquare in 2015 she’s analysed over 270,000 employees’ salaries and worked with the likes of Vodafone, Condé Nast and Greater London Authority. We called her to discuss how small companies can take an axe to their gender pay gap. (Or, better still, stop one developing in the first place).

Hey Zara. Why are small companies so important in the battle against the gender pay gap?

Smaller companies are in a unique position because they can set the tone. Larger companies take years and years to make a change. Small companies can change things quickly and I think the success in eliminating inequality in work will come from SMEs. They’re smaller, more agile and have real opportunities to make changes. It’s about developing strategies that create inclusivity and diversity, about being more aware and transparent.

What are the benefits of making all your salaries transparent?

News travels fast about salaries, especially for small companies. People looking for jobs are increasingly checking out Glassdoor to see how much companies are paying. It’s very easy to find out how much others are being paid.

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A good move would be to stop specifying ranges in salary. So a company might be advertising for a management role and say that the salary will be “between twenty-five thousand pounds and thirty thousand pounds, depending on experience”. But what normally happens is you get more men at the top end pushing it up, and more women at the bottom end, accepting the lower amount.

Should we stop asking people about their previous salary? Nine American states have now banned this practice.

Yes, this is an easy move. When you ask someone their salary, you’re more likely to offer them something along similar lines, but with a small increase. There’s a higher chance of this negatively affecting women because they historically have lower pay.

The issue of childcare is central to many people’s ideas around pay. What about offering shared parental leave, like Sweden?

This would make a huge difference – in Sweden, the uptake for parental leave is high for both parents. But it’s taken them 30 years to get there because it takes a cultural change. It’s relatively easy to alter company policy – you know, change the document and say everyone is entitled to parental leave. But in practice, what we’ve heard, is that men asking for this leave can have their ambition being questioned. So it’s about changing the way we view parental leave and our attitudes towards it.

What about subsidised childcare?

Absolutely. Subsidised childcare seems like a big ask because we’re thinking like a business owner and it’s an additional cost. But if you look at the increased financial return of that person, it will outweigh the cost. Superficially it looks too costly, but it makes financial business sense.

How can we attract more women at the point of entry?

A lot of jobs – say something in construction – are perceived to be suitable for certain types of characteristics. Perhaps ones we historically associate with males. It’s about rethinking how we hire people and the processes within that. We recommend that hiring happens without knowing names, ethnic background, or even the university they attended. These can all influence decision-making.

What would you suggest for a company that’s getting a high percentage of men applying for a role?

There’s a free app called Gender Decoder. You run your new role through it and it will tell you if it has a male-male-dominated language or a female-dominated language. You can then change to make sure it’s neutral, or if you wanted to make it more orientated towards women, you can do that. It’s free. That’s the easiest thing for small companies.

If you want to ensure you’re tracking your gender pay gap from the start, Gapsquare have free online tools for small companies.

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And how can companies ensure there are more women progressing into the more senior roles?

Research is showing that if you have a shortlist of four for a role, it’s not enough to just interview one woman. You need a 50/50 shortlist.

Although these changes are obviously positive from a societal point of view, some owners might find them hard to comprehend. What are the business benefits?

There’s a lot of research that says people who work flexibly and fewer hours tend to be more productive. People who work in a transparent environment tend to be more productive. And people who work in more diverse groups usually generate more return for the company.

And what can individuals do? A freelancer, for instance?

It’s about being aware of the importance of these issues. If you want to grow your business and eventually support a team and their work, then you need to be aware of diversity and inclusivity from day one. Because it gets to a point where culture becomes entrenched in an organisation. It’s then much harder to change.

We agree! Thanks, Zara.

Check out Gapsquare here

Stay head-happy with these other PLATF9RM blogs

Read about the amazing women that affected PLAT9RM members’ lives

How to be freelance and maintain a happy relationship with social media

How to combat business stress with physical movement

Olympian Leon Taylor: Combating Business Stress With Regular Physical Movement

Leon Taylor knows about dealing with stress. After diving in three Olympic Games for Great Britain, peaking with a silver medal at Athens 2004, he’s reaped the rewards of pushing mind and body to extremes. Sports fans may now recognise his ever-excitable voice from Olympic diving commentary, while he’s developed careers as a coach and mentor, Tedx speaker, yoga teacher, author, and mental wellness advocate.

Leon’s great passion is using physical movement as a tool for beating psychological and physiological stress. As part of this, he’s teamed up with PLATF9RM members Bare Biology for their ‘Better In 5’ program. This is focused on getting into good physical movement habits, and reaping the rewards in all aspects of your life. He’s recently moved to Hove and we called him to chat about a business stress epidemic, and why we can all move our way to greater happiness...

Hey Leon. You work a lot with business figures. What’s the biggest problem you are encountering?

Across generations, there’s a growing concern about mental wellness. There’s many reasons but not dealing with stress effectively is causing lots of people to develop anxiety, depression and other more serious health problems. We need to create resourcefulness. To interact with and define stress in a healthy way.

Why is it important to “define” stress?

There was some research recently about the perception of stress. It was undertaken with 30,000 people over eight years – it found that if you perceive stress as harmful then you will get the harmful effect. Those who believed the stress is harmful to them had an increased 43% chance of premature death.  But the ones who reported the equal amount of stress but believed it wasn’t harmful, were in the lowest chances of premature death! So we really need to work on our beliefs and strategies around stress.

This is especially true for entrepreneurs and freelancers, where overwork and business stress can feel like the norm?

All photos by Mickey F Photography

Entrepreneurs can often be the worst!  They’ll be thinking, ‘If i don’t start this business, no-one will’ and run themselves into a hole. Here’s an interesting fact: if you have less than five hours sleep for a week, your performance would drop to the level as if you’ve had 48 hours of no sleep!  But you won’t know because you’ve just been ploughing on. Obviously we have occasional periods of intense business or things happening outside of our control – a new child, for instance – but choosing to live like this on a regular basis is crazy and actually negates your business effectiveness. Without a foundation of wellness, high performance can’t exist.

You’re absolutely passionate about using movement to beat stress and anxiety...

Yes, the short term effects of moving are more obvious – it gets you out of that fug, gets you moving and gives you those feel-good endorphins. But long-term it changes the shape of the hippocampus in your brain, where thought and function occur. By exercising, you’re actually improving the structure of your brain. It’s hugely powerful.

What would you say to the working mum or dad who says that they can’t find time to exercise?

Exercise and movement are different. People think it’s got to be going to the gym, or a run, and it’s got to be 45 minutes. But five minutes of burpees is actually much harder than 45 minutes of running. If you can’t do burpees, do squats. If you can’t do five minutes, do two. It’s about starting small and making the habits sticky.

And everyone has different things that work for them?

Absolutely. Some people might need quiet time: two minutes of mediation in the morning, perhaps. It’s often discovering what you can do. They might not be able to go to the gym so try walking into work rather than getting the bus. It could be cycling to see your mum. It could be dancing, or raving! There’s an epidemic of business people saying they’re too busy to look after their wellness. It’s about making positive habits so easy they can’t fail.

How did you deal with the stress and anxiety of an Olympic dive?

That’s an extreme example of anxiety and pressure and we did visualization hundreds of times. You visualize yourself smiling and relaxing on the stage, plus the sights, smells, crowds and everything else, so when the event happens it’s not unfamiliar. You still have to deliver but other factors aren’t going to affect you at the time.

It’s about trying to stay calm, and ensuring your body doesn’t fall into a negative anxietal state. When this happens, your body hijacks your nervous system and you go into fight-or-flight mode. If that happens you’re in serious trouble, so you need to work beforehand to  ensure your body doesn’t enter that state.

This is especially relevant to business people doing presentations or pitches. What can they do to stay in a positive mental state?

Absolutely. So it’s about making sure you’re breathing deeply before stepping up to make the presentation. You’re smiling and nodding. You’re telling yourself that it’s okay; that these people are just humans. Whatever you need to do, so when you go into the performance setting you can get out of your way and let it happen.


And being fit through regular physical movement will help you achieve this?


Finally, what’s happening with your Bare Biology collaboration?

The founder of Bare Biology, Melanie Lawson, reached out to me last year. She’d had some personal issues and could feel her physical and mental wellness slipping the wrong way. She saw my Ted x talk on finding your movement and asked me to help, so we documented the process. It’s all about habit changes and making these changes sticky. Mel got into running and she’s now running the Brighton half marathon! She’s a mother-of-three, business owner, never done a long-distance run, so I think it’s a powerful story. We’ll be reflecting on all of this at our event, and I’ll tell some stories from my own career. I can’t wait!

Movement For Mental Focus’ will be taking place on 27th February, at PLATF9RM Tower Point RSVP here. Check out Leon’s website here.

Good Rebels and PLATF9RM’s Most Influential Of 2018

How do you measure influence?

Many rely on metrics like followers or engagement when quantifying the effectiveness of an online Influencer. But Good Rebels, the PLATF9RM-based digital and creative agency, take a simpler view.

“True influence is trust. The way you trust a friend telling you something at the kitchen table. That trust can then be used to drive action,” says Mark Ralphs, Partner at Good Rebels. “Think of each online person as a node; the bigger the node, the bigger their ability to connect people and make things happen.”

Take a popular music blogger. They can be the bridge between a community that includes fan, artist, record store, record label and venue, all of which leads to the music.

Brighton is blessed with an abundance of talented and trustworthy Influencers, so Good Rebels and PLATF9RM wanted to hail the city’s best. Here’s Brighton’s Most Influential for 2018. Follow them!

Food and drink

Foodie Eshé

Eshé is a food blogger, graphic designer and photographer, who’s been featured by Hairy Bikers. Her food blog is an insider's guide on where to eat across Brighton & Hove, with a focus on independent restaurants. If there’s a new joint opening in town, Eshé’s on the list.


The Graphic Foodie

The Graphic Foodie was launched in 2008 by Fran, a branding designer and freelance writer. Fran’s blog lists frequently updated Brighton restaurant reviews and news, along with family recipes from her Abruzzo region of Italy. Check out her ‘Best Of Brighton’ page for everything that’s good in town.




Rachel Finch

Rachel Finch is a director – along with PLATF9RM members Lana Burgess and Allegra Chapman – of Brighton Digital Women. They connect Brighton’s female digital workers and provide a nurturing, collaborative community. Rachel works at local agency Site Visibility and is an all-round champion of local ladies in those digital businesses that are still – for the moment – guy-dominated.


Tom Bourlet

Tom is a Brighton-based blogger and author of the e-book, The Spaghetti Traveller Guide On How To Blog: From Blogger To Brand. He started his Spaghetti Traveller blog five years ago and has been featured everywhere from Forbes to The Daily Mail. When Tom’s not chatting about his many travels he’s also the co-owner of DrinksPal: an app that lets users find the perfect bar, restaurant, coffee shop, or events venue.


Local politics

Caroline Lucas

No introduction necessary. Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, is the UK’s only Green Party MP and the perfect manifestation of our city’s progressive, caring attitude. A mum to two sons and general advocate of human and environmental rights, she’s a true local hero.


Peter Kyle

Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove and Portslade and beloved by his constituents. With a past that includes a doctorate in community development to a spell working as an aid worker in the Balkans, he brings an unbiased social conscience to everything he does.


Artists and Makers

Lois O’Hara

Lois O’Hara is an artist and designer well-known for her fluorescent, wave-inspired artwork. You can see her designs and murals all over the city, from the seafront, to the venue Patterns, to an entire basketball court in Saunders Park.


Natalie Edge

Liverpool-born Natalie Edge is a Brighton-based blogger, artist and event designer. Her blog Nat’s Life gives a peek into the nuts and bolts of her life, whilst she’s also a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and mental health issues.

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: The Clare Project

The Clare Project was originally formed in 2000, and since then has provided a safe space for the Brighton trans community. Their core service is a weekly drop-in session at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church where trans people can seek advice and support, as well as low-cost psychotherapy.

In a caustic world where leaders like Donald Trump are seeking to abolish the basic fundamental rights of transgender people, organisations like The Clare Project are crucial for maintaining compassion and harmony.

Dr Sam Hall is a trans man with five children working as a GP in Brighton. Since attending a session in 2012, he’s helped The Clare Group become recognised as a charity and has big hopes for the role they can play for trans rights and health in Brighton and beyond.

In advance of the Trans Day Of Remembrance (20th November) we spoke to Sam about the work Clare Project do, the complexity of trans healthcare, and how the workplace can embrace the rights of transgender people.

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Hey Sam! How did The Clare Project start

The Clare Project originated in a beauty salon [Shadi Danin] where the beautician was doing electrolysis for a number of transgender women. She introduced them to one another and it became a meeting space. The early organisers were intent on having mental health support because the impact of being trans in today’s society on one’s mental health can be huge. So they got a grant early to provide mental health support and it ran from there. It moved to Dorset Gardens church and has been running since then as a weekly drop-in.

What does your drop-in service entail?

It’s very loose and a facilitated drop in service on Tuesday afternoons. They tend to be visited by the most vulnerable: trans women, that get abused in the street and can’t work because no-one will employ them.

We get first-timers attendees arriving, saying that they can’t live their life as a male anymore. Sometimes they’ll actually go and change clothes and become their real selves. That’s very powerful There’s also very low cost psychotherapy for those that want it.

What are the primary issues attendees report?

The Clare Project has traditionally supported trans women more than anyone else because they tend to be most vulnerable. They’re generally more noticeable, often with facial hair, bigger hands, deeper voices. It’s so difficult to be seen as who they are. So many people make the transgender issue around genitals but the average transgender experience is so little about genitals: it’s about how other people see you.

How can you help these people increase their confidence?

We try and encourage them to get involved with volunteering with us, so they’re a bit more visible but in a safe way. It’s about capacity building in the community.

You mentioned about trans women’s problems with employment. This must surely be affected by this?

Absolutely. One thing that really frustrates me is there’s so many trans people with skills that don’t get utilized because people don’t employ them. They can live very small lives and that’s such a shame.

What more can businesses do to help?

We’ve found a real willingness to engage from the business sector. The main problem is a lack of information and/or education. Stuff like why access to the right bathrooms are important. Why it’s important to use the right pronoun when addressing people. People are scared to make a mistake, so often it’s simply a case of educating them. Brighton is, without doubt, the best UK city for advocating trans rights, where private and small business sectors are jumping onboard with us.

And the council has been supportive?

What we have in Brighton and Hove is relatively unique. We have a history of public and statutory bodies engaging with and championing the cause of trans people. The council did some exemplary work in 2015, producing a needs assessment for trans people; that was the first of its kind in this country, engaging the trans community in the way they do other minorities. We’re also feeling increasingly supported by Sussex Police.

As a GP, you must have a passion for trans health?

Yes. Health care provisions for trans people are third world in comparison to people that aren’t. Many GPs will refuse to treat trans people, citing a lack of knowledge or the fact they don’t think it’s right. There’s inherent transphobia in the system that makes access difficult. The few specialist clinics that are available have extremely long waiting lists. It’s hugely complex.

Take one issue i experienced: I was born with a female body but identified as male and was walking about as a man, but then needed to go and have a smear test! Imagine how that must feel? That’s just one example.

How has your transition shaped your view of gender roles?

We’re addicted to gender roles and we’re addicted to misogyny. It was fine for me: I got handed white male privilege on a plate! It’s frightening to experience both sides so I’m obliged to fight against it as I can see very clearly it’s not healthy to the human race.

What do you seen in the future for The Clare Project?

I see us as a sizable charity with a political voice, as well as delivering much-needed health and social care for trans people. I hope in future we will be committed by the NHS to provide services.

You guys are great, thanks Sam!

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Check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series