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» A Say On Pay…

October 15, 2018

A Say On Pay…

I read somewhere that once you have worked for five years, you should start expecting to turn down a job offer at some point. My “big break” came earlier this year when I got good offers from two very strong and well established institutions (“nice life problems”, they said). This was round about the same time, a friend of mine (let’s call her Oprah*) found herself in a similar situation, as did her best friend. One Sunday the three of us were out for lunch along with two other friends and the five of us were discussing our dilemmas and the conversation went on to that taboo topic amongst women; compensation. Seriously, men are much more open when it comes to this topic (well at least in the banking industry they are). What I have observed is my male counterparts call each other and declare their salary bonus figures openly with one another; and some may even sugar coat the real salary bonus figures to soothe their egos. I myself, still find it uncomfortable to openly discuss my salary bonus with anyone, at the same time I believe it does sort of help you gauge and understand where you rank and whether you are being fairly compensated.

And so… part of the conversation with the girls went something as follows:

Oprah*: I went back to the potential new employer and I told them that I was not happy with the  package they were offering me, especially since I would be  forfeiting my bonus in my current role. They reverted and asked me what number I wanted and I was caught so off guard, I told them I would get back to them on the Monday and dramatically hung up before they asked me more complicated questions. Now I have this blank canvas and I have no idea how much to ask for.

Friend number two: Ask for all of it!


The following week, while I was minding my own business (read as; plotting to take over the world), I got a text from Oprah’s* best friend, the one I mentioned earlier? Argh, let’s just call her Gayle for consistency. Gayle wanted to find out how I handled my package negotiations with my soon-to-be-new employer as she was now at that stage of the offer process and had heard that you should not leave for less than a 30% increase. I gave her my two cents worth of advice and also recommended she request a dummy payslip because deductions are another reality we forget to consider when negotiating salaries! Deductions are so real guys! You may think you’re getting a decent increase but find that the new employer wants to make obligatory deductions of things you’ve never even heard of!

My female friends and I have these conversation amongst ourselves but when it comes to addressing them accordingly with the powers that be (our employers), we water them down. We are too shy to honestly and bravely put our feelings and opinions on the table and say “Listen, based on my skills and experience, I’m looking for something around the RXXX remuneration mark”. We do not want to come off as being greedy and we do not want to rub people up the wrong way so instead we undervalue ourselves and suffer in silence. Interestingly, I have had similar conversations with my male friends and they are so bold with their approach. They do not beat about the bush when it comes to issues of compensation. They just seem to know exactly what they want and they express it! And lest we forget, men do earn more. The gender pay gap is not a myth!

According to research, women are still paid less than men in SA companies with the gender pay gap estimated between 15% and 17%. This means that in South Africa, a woman would need to work an additional two months versus a man on the same level in order to earn the same salary that he would earn in a year. I mean?!

I once had this conversation with one of my male colleagues and his response was that because our salaries are the net present value (NPV) of future income and women are likely to do less time due to multiple reasons, such as motherhood, the female NPV is calculated at a much lower value. I then went on quickly to check the validity of his statement. Well he wasn’t completely wrong!


Ok, hold up! So essentially I should be paid less because sometime in the future I may be dedicating less time to work than my male counterparts because they have wives taking care of home? What about the women who do not intend to have kids? Or rather, what about equality period?


Of  the JSE Top 40’s highest earning CEOs in the 2015/16 financial year, Maria Ramos of Barclays Africa was the only female on the list, earning a basic salary of R14.5m and a total package with benefits of R28.2m in 2015. Looking at her male counterparts, Mike Brown (Nedbank CEO) earned a basic salary of R7.4m while his total remuneration package amounted to R36.4m. Still in the banking industry, Standard Bank’s joint-CEOs Barend Kruger and Simpiwe Tshabalala, earned R30.7 and R30.9m respectively.

To give some context (though I do appreciate that the compensation determinants are not based on these values), Bloomberg shows the following market caps for the Big 4 banks:

  1. FirstRand: ZAR277bn
  2. Standard Bank: ZAR231bn
  3. Barclays Africa: ZAR133bn
  4. Nedbank: ZAR118bn

The government report on the Status of Women in the South African Economy which was first published in August 2015, owes the gender pay gap to various factors including discrimination and lack of investment (from women), that is, women’s primary focus being on family responsibilities.


Unfortunately this is not a South Africa problem but a global issue. An accepted one at that. But what will it take to change this? The pessimist in me says I will not see this struggle eradicated in my life time. Perhaps years from now my great grandkids will read about it in history books; how their great grandma used to earn less than great grandpa even though they had the same job. Imagine the horror on their faces!

That aside, there has been an increased focus on this topic over the past couple of years which is quite comforting. Ms Susan Shabangu who heads up the Ministry in the South African Presidency responsible for Women (established in May 2014) has emphasised the importance of gender parity whilst the topic is also addressed in the Employment Equity Act.  Progress is being made. Slow and steady wins the race.

But perhaps the dialogue needs to change from why women are paid less than their male counterparts to why they should be paid the same.

Here are three reasons why (via the Wall Street Journal – September 2016 ):

  1. “Organisations with a greater share of women on their boards tend to have higher operating margins, return on equity, and total return to shareholders.”
  2. “Women bring a different dimension to organisations.”
  3. “Having more women in the decision making process can help organisations relate to customers better.”

 World! Are you hearing this? Women are needed in the workplace. They are capable and should be compensated accordingly. Do not get me wrong, I do acknowledge that there has been progress on the matter. It is however slow progress but it’s fine, Beyoncé was not built in a day…Mama Tina Knowles carried her for 9 months and then some!



Ziyanda is a Johannesburg based, Zulu girl, who is the reigning lip syncing champion in her neighbourhood and is an Investment Banker on the side. After spending three years as a Marketing professional, she decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in the financial industry. She can survive on minimal sleep provided she is fed ice cream at regular intervals. She is passionate about education and enjoys reading, working out and writing about stuff that is on her mind.

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