Brighton Lives

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.

How To Be Freelance And Maintain A Happy Relationship With Social Media

In 2019, the notion of not having a social media presence seems as archaic as using a typewriter. For most of the UK’s two million professional freelancers, it’s unthinkable. Whether you prefer Instagram, Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn or Myspace (the latter of which some strange diehards still apparently use) our pages provide a space to oh-so-humbly show off our achievements whilst connecting us with a digital community of like-minded souls. Yet our relationship with social media is at the heart of a mental health crisis.

Studies have suggested social media is highly addictive, likely to fuel feelings of isolation, and adept at causing us to compare ourselves negatively with others. Freelancing creates its own unique set of pressures that have been shown to increase risk of poor mental health, so how can freelancers stay connected whilst staying productive, proactive and happy? We asked some experts (and expert freelancers) to find out.

Stick social media on your to-do list

Using social media can seem like a reflex: in queues; on the commute; yes, in the toilet. This is especially true when you’ve just posted a link to some work on Twitter and you’re desperate to feel the sweet dopamine rush of those fresh likes and RTs. Why not build social media time into your working day instead?

“Add social media time to your to-do list to keep it managed,’ says Kenny Wood, founder of digital agency, Indigo Melody. “Develop healthy habits to eliminate the urge to look at social media in the first place. This can be done in loads of ways. I looked for the cues that cause the craving for social media (like finishing an important task or waiting for a meeting to start) and replacing the act with something more productive, like reading a saved article I’ve been meaning to go back to.”

You are, in fact, not alone.

Working from home and being your own bossperson may seem a dream. But it can be a lonely game, especially on the dark days when a pitch gets turned down or a hard-won client is negative about your work. Social media – harnessed correctly – can alleviate this.

“Social media can be used as a great resource for freelancers as a way to connect with other people who are in a similar situation,” says Nicola Jagielski, Associate Director of Clinical Services at Health Assured. “With over two million freelancers working in the UK and a growing number of social media groups, industry support networks and meet-ups, the community of freelancers is only going to get better.

“Having an online community solely for freelancers to turn to for discussions around work, mistakes or successes, can be a huge benefit to someone’s mental health and can massively reduce the feeling that you’re going it alone.”


Dig a little deeper

Ever find yourself mindlessly jumping between Instagram and Twitter and back again when you’re got a 30-second queue window in Pret? It could be the sign of a deeper anxiety. “When you keep going back to your apps you are trying to achieve a change of state,” says Sally Baker, senior therapist, author and speaker. “You can start to feel anxiety, even under your radar; if you’ve been feeling like it for a long time you might not register it anymore.

"So you try and distract yourself by a number of ways and social media can be another of those. It’s just a coping mechanism. What’s best is to clear the anxiety.” This could mean speaking to a GP or mental health professional. “You can find out what your coping mechanisms are but eventually you’re going to need someone to sit down with you and pick your subconscious brain apart.”

Say goodbye to the Twitter app

According to Hootsuite, 326 million people use Twitter every day. Whilst Twitter is undoubtedly a useful tool for amplifying work and staying up-to-date with news, it can also feel like there’s a world of vitriol and negative energy burning at your fingertips.

“I deleted Twitter from my phone and felt better within hours,” says Will Lyth, a conversion copywriter from Brighton. “It’s just too noisy. And as there’s a character limit, you never get anything to hold your attention – it’s just a battleground for headlines, spam and controversy. “

Focus your evenings on personal relationships

As freelancers, we can fall prey to the habit of using likes and shares as metrics for business and personal success. But online pals shouldn’t take the place of IRL friends. Finding time to maintain your real relationships will be infinitely better for your happiness, so initiate a social media cut-off point in the evening.

“Have a cut-off point toward the end of your day as part of your pre-sleep routine,” says. Hope Bastine, mindfulness and sleep psychologist “You can use Downtime [which will stop notifications from apps] option in your Screen Time settings on the iPhone to support this practice. Once you’ve applied your Downtime, make use of your time to connect to loved ones. Often our digital addiction is a consequence of our loneliness and isolation epidemic.”

Don’t be scared to unfollow

You can’t like everyone you meet, right? The same principle works for online, yet we often still follow people who annoy, upset or cause us anxiety. For freelancers this can be especially hazardous as it’s oh-so-easy to compare yourself negatively with other people in your field.

“Don’t be afraid to take time out or unfollow someone who makes you feel rubbish, insecure, or like a failure,” says Hope Bastine. “Remember that It may not be their fault! But it's all about you.”

But...embrace the success of your peers

It’s certainly easy to compare your achievements negatively with your peers, especially if you’re having a slow month and their work is getting praise from all corners of the social media universe. Why not try – rather than suffering under the weight of jealousy – turning those feelings into something positive by cheering and sharing their great work instead?

“It’s great to see people you know, and respect doing really well,” says Will Lyth. “You might know about some of the tough things they were dealing with behind the scenes.”


Stop using your phone as an alarm clock

“Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock,” says Sally Baker. “Keep it away from the bedroom. When people scroll through social media first thing in the morning, they are procrastinating and putting themselves under pressure. If it’s at the end of the day it’s because they’re bored, slightly tired, off-kilter, maybe looking for a bit of a boost. Make the bedroom a place of sex and sanctuary..”

Sally cites Ariana Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post) and her sleep-espousing book The Sleep Revolution as inspiration if sleeping without your phone under your pillow sounds like a recipe for acute anxiety about missing a vital DM on Instagram. “If she can survive without a phone in her bedroom, we all can.”

Download these apps and read these books

There’s a world of apps aimed at keeping you on-task and away from the temptation of a mindless timeline scroll. [RescueTime][0] will give you detailed stats of your computer usage, whilst Chrome extension [StayFocusd][1] limits the amount of time you can spend on productivity-wasting websites. If you want to go a little deeper check out the [The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How To Change][2] by Charles Duhigg. It gives loads of insight into the nature of habit loops and how to break them. Also, [Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life][3] by Karen Ormerod is the ultimate millennial social media tome and should arm you with some positive habits.

Read these other freelance guides on PLATF9RM Press

How To Be A Freelance Writer And Stay Zen

9 Crucial Tips For Going Freelance

So You’re Thinking Of Becoming Freelance? Here’s 9 Crucial Tips For Going It Alone

Going freelance sounds idyllic, right? Working 24/7 on your passion. Clocking-in wearing your PJs. No 9.30pm emails from your boss. Long holidays and living the digital nomad life from a beachside cafe in Thailand. But that’s not the reality (for most freelancers) is it?

Going out on your own can be incredibly rewarding but being successful takes dedication, desire, bloody-mindedness, and a hefty sprinkling of talent. According to The Association of Independent Workers and the Self-Employed (IPSE) there’s over 2 million freelancers in the UK, and they contribute £119 billion to the UK economy. If you’re thinking about becoming joining the gang this year, here’s some advice.

Find someone to (ap)praise you

Everyone loves being praised for good work but appraisals are something most employees dread. Once you’re fending for yourself in the big bad world of freelance, the idea of someone taking the time (a whole hour!) to sit down and tell you relatively objectively how you’ve performed that year will feel like luxury.

One idea could be to find some similar-minded pals and set up an appraisal day where you take it in turns to discuss your successes, failures and roadblocks from the past year. Check out You’re Doing Great! for guidance on this.

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Network makes the dream work

As a freelancer, you’re going to live and work by the relationships you build. “You're going to need to get your name out there,” says Matthew Beck, Managing Director of Lightspeed Digital and member of Brighton digital networking group, The Farm.

“Meeting as many people as possible and making sure they know what you’ve got to offer will do wonders for your workload. Brighton is saturated with networking events, there's often multiple happening on any given day. Be open to meeting everyone, you never know who might hire you or refer you on!”

You’ll have to become a jack-of-literally-all-the-trades

One of the most most-cited reasons for going freelance is focusing on what you love. But it’s not as simple as that! “It’s certainly true that you’ll be able to steer your business in any way you choose,” says Martine Warburton, co-founder of Huskii Studio in a blog for Brighton Digital Women. “But keep in mind that along with doing the bit you love you’ll need to provide you own IT support, accounts department, office cleaner, legal, business strategy and marketing. So, you may spend more time each day doing things which are not your forte.

Once you are established you can (and should) pay other experts to do some of this stuff, freeing you up to focus (again) on what you love!”


Get to know your apps

Without the various (and often maddening) systems that companies put in place, you’re going to have to learn to manage your diary, juggle your clients and generally maintain a professional demeanour. There’s a whole world of apps and tools that will help you. Use Toggl to track – to the second – how much time you’re spending on each client. Trello is perfect for step-by-step project management. Shake will help speed up your professional contract-making skills and Wunderlist will help you create the ultimate, anxiety-beating cross-device to-do list.

Don’t overthink it!

Much of the guidance out there suggests freelancers should save a financial wedge – maybe six months of outgoings – before making the leap. This is wrong, according to Toby Moore, Co-Founder and Director of Content Club.

“If you want a successful start at freelancing, get some clients. Side hustle for three months, six months, a year… whatever it takes. Find your time; whether it’s on the train, after dinner, or on the weekends. Go to people that know you and know that your good and tell them you have a dream, you want them to be your first client and you are going to prove you can do a great job before you make the commitment to go full-time.

People that like you and want your skills, will support you and say yes. And that’s all you need. For now.”


Know your limits!

The temptation when starting out is to take every job going. There be danger, according to Noor from Freelance UK:

“When it comes to freelancing, you must make sure that you know your limits. This will be a trial and error game and you will earn with time. However, it's essential you only take on work that you have the skills and the time to do. If you produce work of low quality due to time, then this may cause more damage than if you were to reject the project. Therefore, knowing your ability and limits is key.”


Get. Out. Of. The. House

We say that humans are social animals and, though the internet perpetuates the notion that we can nurture real relationships from behind our laptop screens, nothing makes up for being in the room with people. Even if you’re still working out of your bedroom, make time to be with like-minded folk: meet clients in coffee shops; go on a walkshop (a cross between a meeting and a workshop); go to dinner with your freelance pals and moan about the travails of invoice chasing. Better still! Join a coworking space and live amongst your bredren.

Don’t be afraid of going pro-bono….for the right project

Should you ever work for free? It is a question that raises the temperature of freelancers like no other. There are some that say you should never offer your finely honed skills for nothing, and that by doing so you validate bad business habits and create a working environment that increasingly excludes those from lower income backgrounds.

However, there are plenty of deserving people and organisations for whom your pro-bono work could lift them into another dimension. Emma Betty Lewis-Griffiths from The Social Club says, “I’ve also started working on a few pro bono projects with charities and it’s great to be able to channel my skills into a greater cause than just my own. As a freelancer, you can be very inward-facing and sometimes you have to be. But there’s also more to life than making your next buck. Honest.”