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Backing ourselves: How a confidence injection from HR can boost female empowerment and inclusion

By Simone Wilson | |5 minute read

Helping women realise their true worth in the workplace is an essential and very rewarding task.

Have you heard the one about the woman who walked into a meeting about a new role, knowing exactly what she was worth and how much she wanted to be paid?

After spending 14 years in HR, the past eight of them at Ricoh, I can say with confidence that, outside of the executive ranks, she’s an extremely rare find.


Instead of selling themselves and their achievements – and the value they can deliver to the organisation – early and mid-career women are very often awkward and apologetic about pushing themselves forward.

Some even harbour the perception they could be “punished”, by being overlooked for promotions and development opportunities, if they’re too assertive about asking for what they want, on the salary or career development fronts.

Interview a male candidate, and it’s a very different story.

Generally, if a man is promoted or given an opportunity, he’ll advocate capably for himself, showcasing his skills and experience and whatever it is he’s going to bring to the table.

And he’ll have no issue sharing his salary expectations or asking for the number he feels he’s worth.

Selling ourselves short

One of our female candidates – let’s call her Jenny – who applied for a role at Ricoh is a textbook example of this gender-based difference.

When sharing the news that she’d been successful in securing the role, I took the time to help her understand her key strengths, exactly what it was the hiring manager had seen in her during her interview and the value we knew she would bring to the organisation.

My aim in doing so? It was to give her the courage to demand a fair remuneration package for herself.

Alas, I failed. “Simone, whatever you think is fair – I’ve been looking for an opportunity like this for a long time, and I’m so grateful,” was Jenny’s response when asked what sum she thought her experience warranted.

Empowering women to ask for what they’re worth

This unnecessary diffidence when it comes to negotiating salaries isn’t the only reason Australia’s national gender pay gap is sitting at 12 per cent, but it’s certainly a contributing factor.

I’ve made it my mission to help drive change, one conversation at a time, by coaching female candidates to feel confident and comfortable talking about money. As an HR professional, I’m uniquely well placed to do so.

Striving for inclusion

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good business, too: having your people distracted by politics and preoccupied with their pay is a productivity sapper that forward-focused enterprises simply can’t afford.

It also empowers me to work with our female employees – who, unfortunately, remain a significant minority in our technical and operations-focused organisation – to boost their confidence and ability to ask for what they need and deserve, whether that be additional training, professional development opportunities or a higher salary.

In so doing, I’m providing them with a transferable “skill”, one that will help them achieve optimum outcomes for themselves and their careers while they’re working at Ricoh and in future roles with other employers.

Simone Wilson is the people and purpose manager at Ricoh Australia.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.