Are we there yet? Dinner Party's Christina Hsu on equal pay and female entrepreneurs

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Christina Hsu
Director, Strategy & Planning
Dinner Party

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

Recently, a girlfriend and I were reminiscing about our first jobs. She had just graduated with a master’s degree and landed a dream role, but felt the salary was low. She ended up negotiating a small increase with her soon-to-be male boss, but she was forever branded as uppity and aggressive and given lower priority projects.

I remembered in a previous job when HR briskly informed me that they were going to raise my annual pay because they audited salaries and found mine to be low. I was excited, but then thought: "Wait a minute...this means I’ve been underpaid for years!"

The truth is, the oft-cited stat that women make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns, is even greater in our industry.  The non-profit American Association of University Women noted the gap in marketing and sales is 71 cents to every dollar a man earns - that’s $11B dollars we are leaving on the table.

How about something that proves we are making progress?

Despite my previous point, the gender pay gap is closing.  In 1963 when the Equal Pay Act was passed, women made 59 cents to every dollar a man earned. But, progress has been, and still is slow, and has only increased by less than 1 cent per year.  

What else needs to be done to get there?

There are many things both small and large that can push this along, such as having companies be transparent about compensation, increasing funding access to encourage more female entrepreneurship in the industry, and helping change the stigma surrounding "pushy" women.

One thing I heard recently that I loved was an idea by Economist Dr. Abigal Wozniak. She suggested that everyone (but especially women) should have an agent, like athletes do, who helps them negotiate their salary. These intermediaries would allow women to ask for more, without fear of blow-back. 

Now someone just needs to start this kind of agency - perhaps a female entrepreneur? 

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