“5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap”, with Katie Finley and Candice Georgiadis

One piece of the puzzle that I’m super passionate about — that admittedly feels like a short-term band-aid solution for an entrenched and many-faceted issue, but focuses on the piece that’s more in control — is talking about how to tackle the compounding effect of salary negotiation over the course of your first decade in the workforce. As part […]

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One piece of the puzzle that I’m super passionate about — that admittedly feels like a short-term band-aid solution for an entrenched and many-faceted issue, but focuses on the piece that’s more in control — is talking about how to tackle the compounding effect of salary negotiation over the course of your first decade in the workforce.

As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Finley. Katie has spent her career working at the intersection of marketing and data for consumer brands. She is passionate about taking distributed data sets — from inventory and planning, to on-site behavior, to in-channel performance, to lifecycle patterns — to illustrate the customer journey from discovery to evangelist. She received her B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University, and is the Founder & CEO of Ori, a contemporary apparel brand for sizes 12+ based in Los Angeles, CA.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

After college, I wasn’t totally set on a career path. My first job was in marketing at a startup studio, and because I was more analytically minded, that snowballed into this ‘customer acquisition’ function for a number of different consumer brands, both full-time and in a freelance capacity, for most of my twenties.

The one thing that stood out to me across these jobs was that I have one of those equally right/left-brained minds, and my superpower is taking large datasets from disparate sources and distilling them into meaningful insights about products, customers, or brands. I love patterns, trends, and numbers of all kinds. I *also* love investigating the color commentary around those datasets — really finding the story. That combined quant and qual skillset made me a great marketing analyst, and my fascination with people, behavior, and brands kept me on the consumer track along the way.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I made about a million mistakes as a result of operating under one, wrong!, hypothesis: I had to know everything, and be the best at it, before I was truly qualified to do it. In reality, most great managers I’ve had — or leaders I’ve worked for — generally just do their best to take action with the information available. They trust their experience and instincts and learn new skills along the way.

Early on, I think I could have saved myself a lot of stress and general wheel-spinning by just jumping into new projects and roles with the confidence that if something went wrong, I’d likely be able to figure it out.

That’s something I’m probably overly intense about sharing with other women early in their careers: instead of focusing on checking before you apply for something, make sure you can check off some of them and then just go for it — you will figure out how to check the rest of the boxes along the way.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

1 . Women defaulting to the caretaker role — whether this is for children, or for aging parents — women often have two full-time jobs, one at home and one at work.

2 . Significantly more men in leadership roles: when men are largely in control of hiring and promoting, unconscious bias & pattern matching results in a long-term, systemic effect of men bringing more men into leadership.

3. Bias around negotiation: research indicates that women risk more downside and negative perception from choosing to negotiate than male counterparts.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

On a personal level, I always make time for conversations with younger women who reach out about navigating the first couple of years of their careers. I had a number of people kindly respond to my own cold emails when I was just getting started, and I try to pay that back as much as I can by being generous with my own time, and finding opportunities to be a sounding board or share my perspective.

One piece of the puzzle that I’m super passionate about — that admittedly feels like a short-term band-aid solution for an entrenched and many-faceted issue, but focuses on the piece that’s more in control — is talking about how to tackle the compounding effect of salary negotiation over the course of your first decade in the workforce.

E.g., let’s say a man and a woman go for the same job at the same company after they graduate from college. Both receive offers for 80,000; the man negotiates for 85,000, while the woman is agreeably ‘super grateful for the opportunity,’ and accepts the offer as-is. Compound that year over year: assume the woman negotiates for a salary increase that amounts to 6% YoY, while the man negotiates for raises that amount to 12% YoY. What started out as a 5,000 difference between the two salaries becomes a 24K difference 3 years out, and 42K difference 5 years out. (Take this 9 years down the road and the man is effectively making 100K more than the woman.)

This equation is def oversimplifying a nuanced issue when it comes to unconscious bias, pattern matching, entrenched societal gender roles, parental expectations, and how all of those things impact career paths differently across men and women — but to me, it feels like it’s something totally addressable and actionable on the individual level. If I can personally encourage more women to advocate for themselves and negotiate for themselves earlier on in their careers — on an individual level, it will cumulatively go a long way.

Finally, more broadly, with Ori: our mission is to create beautiful clothing that inspires comfort and confidence for women in all shapes and sizes. The fashion industry has been encouraging women to be smaller for decades — and to spend a significant amount of time & energy attempting to exist in agreeable smaller bodies — which has ripple effects in the workplace & more broadly, in our everyday lives. We think that your favorite garments — the ones that look as good as they feel — can help us stand up a little straighter, take up more space, and be seen as the powerful people that we are. Our size range, 12 and up, has long been an afterthought for the fashion industry, and we have so much passion for designing these garments that are another small part of encouraging women to go make a dent in the universe — in any and every size they are.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap? Please share a story or example for each.

To zoom in a bit, the one thing that seems overwhelmingly important to me — with both up- and downstream effects — is the prevailing societal role of each partner, male and female, in the family unit.

Still thinking broadly from the ‘societal level’, but focusing on this one issue — here are a couple of things we can think about with respect to companies …

1 — How can we push companies to accommodate for both parents in terms of equal leave policies?

2 — How can we think about more affordable and accessible childcare options?

3 — How can we make working environments, cultures, and expectations more conducive toward having families — for both parents?

And then — in terms of societal expectations at the individual level …

4 — Re-thinking current approach to gender norms in parenting, in which the woman is expected to take on the active, primary role as caregiver by default

5 — Male partners taking on more responsibilities at home

^ Shifts at either of these levels would have a cumulative effect in the workplace, most notably — more women in senior leadership roles, resulting in more women hiring more women into senior leadership roles.

Again, this is of course an extremely complex and many-variable issue that can be tackled from different angles; but the one that stands out to me is this current male/female discrepancy in caregiving obligations outside of the workplace. The more we can alleviate the pressure of multiple caregiving jobs that are so often prescribed to the female partner at every level, and work *with* men to become equal partners, the more we’ll see women leading companies.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Not sure if this is movement-worthy, but I’m really into personal accountability, which is an approach that has been incredibly helpful for me in managing my own company. One of my vendors late on a delivery? I could have managed the relationship better. Supply chain failure? I could have set up a check-system to catch it earlier, and I’ll have contingency plans for the next run. One of my employees didn’t work out? I could have done a better job vetting them in the hiring process, or better articulated expectations, or maintained an environment more conducive to sparking their best work.

Of course, not everything is up to you, but by viewing the world through that general lens … I think every single person becomes more empowered, which is good for everyone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Until we make the unconscious conscious, we will be dictated to by it, and call it fate.”

It sounds woo-woo, but I actually find it quite practical. It just reminds me that we all have these stories we tell ourselves — about who we are, our circumstances, and what we’re capable of — and if we don’t investigate these handy self-imposed scripts, then our life stories become … ‘this is what happened to me.’

It takes courage to assert control over and assume accountability for your own career and life — but I think it pays off many times over.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jamie Kern (IT Cosmetics)! Talk about an empire builder. She’s unstoppable.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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