Transform Your Company With Equal Pay For Equal Work

“To succeed, we need to unleash the insight, creativity, open-mindedness and disruption that comes from diverse teams of people, supported by an inclusive culture.”

Oct 20, 2020
By Bethany Carter

Businesses that do what they have always done are destined to plateau. Successful companies are constantly evolving and transforming their business models.

Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental step for the modern business and an essential enabler for transformation. How can employees be engaged, committed, and innovative knowing (or believing) they are not paid the same for the same work?

Companies that address the gender pay gap build trust with employees, increase diversity of skills, improve attractiveness to prospective talent, help shape an inclusive and diverse culture, and ultimately improve their bottom line results.

We spoke with Melissa Whiting, Vice President Inclusion & Diversity at Philip Morris International (PMI), to learn more about how the business is being transformed and how the company’s EQUAL-SALARY certification is impacting that process.

We heard that PMI is undergoing a huge business transformation internally. Can you tell us more about that – what it involves and why?

PMI announced its vision to create a smoke-free future in 2016, setting the company on a new course with a clear mission: To replace cigarettes as quickly as possible with better alternatives for the world’s adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. In practice, this means that we are completely transforming from the inside out, moving from a traditional manufacturing and distribution business with a single product line to a science and technology-driven company with a pipeline of innovative, smoke-free products.  To succeed, we need to unleash the insight, creativity, open-mindedness and disruption that comes from diverse teams of people, supported by an inclusive culture.


What impact would you say that the global EQUAL-SALARY certification has had on your organization?

Unfortunately, gender pay discrimination persists for many women across the world, and equal pay isn’t something we can take for granted. At PMI we wanted a credible, independent certification to verify that our pay practices match our commitment to equality and good intentions everywhere we operate worldwide. The certification gives our employees confidence that men and women are paid equally for equal work everywhere we operate in more than 90 countries. And it is a clear proof point of PMI’s ongoing commitment to progressing gender balance and equity, and the solid foundation from which we’ll continue to build.

How did you find the certification process?

The certification process is rigorous and time consuming and that’s where the value is. It’s not a tick the box exercise. The qualitative step of the process was the most valuable for us and from which we got most of our learnings. During this step PwC, as the official auditors appointed by the Equal-Salary Foundation, visited PMI country affiliates with a focus on three things:

(1) conducting interviews with managing directors and local management teams to confirm their commitment to gender pay equity,

(2) holding focus group interviews with female employees about their perception of that commitment  and

(3) a review of HR-related policies and practices to identify potential gender blind spots, recommending corrective action as needed.

The PwC team really took time to work collaboratively with us, assisting in finding opportunities for continuous improvement.


Did you uncover anything you weren’t expecting during certification?

There were some clear lessons generated through the certification process – not necessarily surprising – but extremely valuable to focus on and emphasize. For example, the importance of digging deep into data, regularly. Before the certification process, we were reporting quarterly progress against targets for representation of women in management. To meet the EQUAL-SALARY certification requirements, we had to go deeper into male/female ratios in recruitment, performance ratings, promotions, engagement scores and more. This kind of in-depth examination can help identify inequalities or barriers to advancement and the actions needed to address them.

Another lesson is to do with perception. It’s not just the company’s commitment to gender equality, but also employee perceptions of it. If female employees perceive there is a glass ceiling (whether factual or not), the perception can nonetheless dampen aspirations and confidence and this in itself may become a barrier to progress. In one affiliate, the focus groups held with female employees the perception that the all-male management team was not committed to advancing women. That was a shock to management. To their credit, this result spurred them to take action, talking about what gender balance is important to them and the business, creating opportunities for networking events with female leaders from other companies, providing more clarity over the talent management process and the criteria for promotions and advancement.

What are the benefits you’ve seen in your organization that make EQUAL-SALARY certification a worthwhile investment of time and resources?

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the positive platform from which to launch a company-wide dialogue and commitment to further advance a whole range of interconnected actions to gender balance the workplace. Sometimes I fear the gender conversation becomes too focused on the negative, on slow progress, on correcting inequalities and righting wrongs. But starting from the negative is sometimes not as effective in driving action – as giving leaders something to be proud of, and then challenging them to do more.

Our leaders and employees are proud of this recognition – a first for any company – and want to do more. And this is important because as proud as we are of the global EQUAL-SALARY certification, it is obviously not the end goal.  It is simply a stepping-stone toward making PMI a gender balanced and inclusive workplace for all that maximizes our collective performance and potential.

Have you had any feedback from employees about the EQUAL-SALARY certification? Did it make them more likely to apply for a job with you and/or does it make them want to stay?

Our global EQUAL-SALARY certification is a point of pride for employees across the world and is something our Talent Acquisition Teams tell us candidates ask about in the recruitment process. On several occasions, young women have actually thanked me for the EQUAL-SALARY certification saying it gives them confidence.

The EQUAL-SALARY certification is a process that allows companies to verify and communicate that they pay their female and male employees equally for the same job or for a job of the same value.

It’s a chance for organisations to put their values into action. To prove their commitment to equal pay for all.

If you want to get EQUAL-SALARY certified, join the cause, become an ambassador or would just like to learn more, please get in touch.

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