FIFI PETERS: We’re told it will take 100 years for the wage gap between men and women to close. That’s 100 years for men and women to get paid the same for doing the same job. But eight years ago Clicks went on a journey of trying to narrow the gender pay gap within its organisation to ensure it practised the principle of fair pay.
I’m joined by the CEO of Clicks, Bertina Engelbrecht, for more. Bertina, thanks so much for your time. It’s good to speak with you again, because I spoke to you about a week ago and I thought that what you guys had done was pretty fascinating and that more people needed to hear about it.
So can you explain exactly what process Clicks went through to try and solve the gender pay gap within your stores?
BERTINA ENGELBRECHT: Good evening Fifi, and also to the listeners. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
In fact, in preparation for this call, I went into our payroll system to have a look at the male-to-female pay ratio. And in fact within our organisation, when you’re looking at a one-on-one ratio, females actually earn slightly higher – 2% higher – than males.
So how did we go about doing this?
I’ll talk just first of all about pay parity, but I think the other point Fifi, if you’ve got time, maybe just talk about the holistic approach that we followed.
The first thing, I think – and it comes out of the work that we understood around how you go about breaking the bias – was saying, well, what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to recognise that there is a value to every job at every level within the organisation. And then, what is the pay range for that job?
The second [thing] that we would do would be to say, well, we’ve got to ensure that every single person that we are appointing into our organisation is appointed within the pay range for the job level.
The third [thing] was then to say let’s understand whether or not there’s any performance appraisal bias. So what we do at the end of our performance-review process, we do both a calibration and a diversity lens in terms of reviewing what happened through the performance-appraisal process, to check whether or not there has been any bias. What we actually found was that we didn’t find [any]. In fact, within our organisation women scored marginally better in the performance-review processes than males. Then the second [thing] around that was saying, well, what we will do is we’ll ensure that we have a pay increase for every single one of the performance ratings, and there’s a range.
So for example, if you scored a C, your increase range would be, let’s say, between 5.%% and 6.5% – always harking back to CPI as well. And what we would then do was to ensure that when we then looked, once again, at the performance-based increase, we checked for gender bias in terms of that.
And generally once again what we found – because females outperformed males on the performance review process – they then also outperformed them in terms of the increase process.
What we do as well, Fifi – and we do this as our group executives – is we then go through a thorough process of looking at every job level and every functional skill pool level, to check for performance and pay bias.
These are some of the things that we have done.
Over an eight-year period – when we originally started the work, there was roughly around a 10% pay gap between males and females.
Of course, if you looked at rates, if you then overlaid rates, you would find that that was actually more pronounced. I’m very, very proud to say that today, when you look at that kind of work that we’ve done in terms of gender and race in terms of pay parity, that there is no such gap within our organisation.
FIFI PETERS: How much more has your wage bill grown by implementing parity when it comes to pay? Often one of the excuses given is, ‘Oh, the inflated costs’ and whether this cost will be matched by increased productivity. So can you talk practically about what you saw at Clicks? What did it do to your wage bill, and did you see a measured increase in productivity as a result of practising a fairer pay principle?
BERTINA ENGELBRECHT: Well, when we first implemented our pay framework, there was overall an upward adjustment in our pay cost, employment cost, across the group. But then I would say to you, Fifi, if you reflect on what happened with certain of our operational metrics, you’ll find as an example the shrink result is world-class within our organisation.
Secondly, when you look at our performance over the last eight to 10 years, you’ll see that we’ve actually been one of the top performers in South Africa. And in fact, it’s a stock that is very eagerly invested in by the global investing community.
What that says is [something] I’ve always been a firm believer in – if you treat people fairly when there is no pressure on you to do so; so you’re not doing it in response to somebody saying you’ve got to do something, you do it because it simply is the right thing to do – you are always going to be surprised on the upside because people will do the right thing.
I was also going to say, Fifi, one of the issues that we all have to face is the ‘motherhood penalty’.
How do organisations go about accommodating women who either are in the last stages of pregnancy, or have given birth – and of course everything that comes with that, particularly when you’re thinking about professional women? We’ve thought very, very carefully about it. We had a debate the other day and a senior executive said, ‘Well, you know what, I was thinking about this individual going on maternity leave. Why should she get an increase?’ One of the things we did last year was to say that an individual in our organisation that goes on maternity leave, over and above the payment that they receive through the UIF, we would also make an additional contribution because we understood how tough it is to go through that.
My HR manager gave me such pushback. We had two meetings over this – and ultimately I relented.
So that’s the other point, I think, just to say it does require courageous conversations within your organisation, and I think that if you can point to all of the success that came as a consequence of doing the right things, it becomes a much easier sell.
FIFI PETERS: Bertina, you sit with a lot of C-suites, executives in South Africa’s corporate sector, even across sectors probably outside pharmaceutical retailing which you’re in, health and beauty. So why is this not happening? What are they saying?
BERTINA ENGELBRECHT: Well, I think it’s a couple of things. The first is the reason I’m so passionate about education and passionate about development, Fifi, one of the reasons why we started, for example, our bursary foundation.
We actually allocate up to 100 pure meritorious bursaries to university students, and we do it in accordance with the published EAP – economically active population. That goes to pharmacy students. And in fact over the last year, just because of changes within the skills required, with data scientists and the like, we’ve now allocated an additional 10 bursaries just for individuals studying that.
So, first of all, it’s saying, let’s understand, let’s provide bursaries. [What is gratifying is that with] every single one of our [bursary recipients], the average pass mark for the year is over 70%. That just goes to show that these are individuals that say, ‘Just give me a hand-up’. They’ve worked very hard to be eligible for the bursary. Then, secondly, they continue to perform while they’re at the university itself.
Second, for example, [is that] just in the last year we’ve invested over R90 million in skills development programmes favouring 1 593 females within our organisation.
This is the point that I’m trying to say: we are trying to ensure the people have portable qualifications that are accredited qualifications, so that they can progress within our organisation. But importantly, should they decide that this is no longer the organisation for them, they are also able to take that qualification with them to another employer, because ultimately what we are looking to do, Fifi, is to improve the total capability fit within the broader South African environment.
FIFI PETERS: Bertina, I have to let you go. But thanks so much. You’ve shared quite a lot, and I think it was important just to have this conversation to show that it doesn’t have to take that hundred years. Looking at the global figure, it doesn’t have to take a hundred years. It can be done, but it can be done in our lifetime. You’ve shown that.
BERTINA ENGELBRECHT: It can be done in our lifetime. I also wanted to say we’ve got great legislative frameworks in our country such as, for example the legislation around equal pay for work of equal value. And we’ve got a [indaudible] so I also just want to say that there are many tools available but it starts with an organisation that believes that parity is important and parity will lead to superior business performance.
FIFI PETERS: I agree. Bertina, ma’am, have a great evening. We’ll leave it there. Bertina Engelbrecht is CEO at the Clicks Group.