Sophie Harvey-Rich – a member of our Young Women’s Advisory Board – met with Dr Zara Nanu of GapSquare – a Bristol-based company leading the way in scrapping the gender pay gap for good.
They talk about sexism in the workplace, her own work around it, and the tech industry’s need for a healthy dose of social good.
Name: Dr Zara Nanu
Job title: CEO of GapSquare
Qualifications: MA International Management, PhD Politics
Tell us a bit about what you do at GapSquare.
GapSquare aims to help companies combat their gender pay gaps using the power of statistics. This obviously means I see lots of data! But another prominent side of the business is education and raising awareness – in particular the difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap.
So you see a lot of schoolchildren then?
No, we’re educating grown-ups! I wish we were educating children, but in reality it’s the 40 yr old HR managers needing teaching about the importance of diversity in the workforce. The World Economic Forum is currently quoting 217 years before full equal pay, so we are harnessing technology to identify specific problems, enabling faster progress to a fairer society.
What was the first job you had around gender diversity?
I spent 10 years in the charity sector, particularly the women’s rights sphere. Most recently I managed a women’s centre in South Bristol supporting those disadvantaged by the justice and welfare system. It was a lot of work around empowering these women with knowledge of their rights and an understanding of the system, aiming to open up opportunities previously inaccessible.
What was it that gave you the idea behind GapSquare?
Whilst working in the charity sector, I experienced first-hand a huge discrepancy between the charity sector’s values and those of corporations. The work I did with many women started to feel meaningless: they were being sent into unjust work environments which often led to their return within a year. Through this, I saw the need to bring values from the charity sector into the business sector to increase the impact, which is how, combined with my passion for gender politics, GapSquare was born. My co-founder and I wanted to prove to people that business and social good are actually intertwined.
Any big hurdles?
I’d never run a business before so had to learn very quickly! However, this turned out for the best as it gave me an alternative perspective: for example, we decided to break all business rules and pitch straight to company giants rather than first building a database. This was a great success – we count London Met Police and Vodafone amongst our clients – and so ever since we ‘go big or go home’!
Are there any big challenges you think society has yet to face about gender?
Parental leave is a big one as companies have little incentive to encourage fathers to take shared leave, meaning the majority of the career sacrifice still falls on the mother. Interestingly in Moldova, where I’m originally from, all childcare is free, which makes working more viable for mothers- leading to a more mixed workforce. Age is another pay problem, with women 50+ seeing the largest gap of all categories and many complaining of ‘invisibility’ within organisations. Occupational segregation’s a big contributor to the gap too, as male-dominated roles are paid higher than female ones. Of course male and female brains work differently – that’s the beauty of it – but we need to incorporate those different abilities within workplaces to create a much stronger team.
Would you say being a woman has affected your own career path?
The company was all self-funded, but not through lack of trying. At one of numerous unsuccessful investment pitches, I was assumed to be a waitress and asked “if the wine was ready?”. I even had such an instance at Engine Shed: while walking past a cafe table, one man asked me to take his empty cups away. It’s upsetting that, even here, such strong stereotypes of working women as cleaners or cafe workers persist.
The Green Dream for 2050..?!
Everyone happy, holding hands, you know! Definitely fairer than right now. Dreaming big, I want to increase disadvantaged groups’ access to economic rights, and help change the workplace atmosphere, bringing some of those charitable values into business. Society’s view of senior roles (i.e cut-throat, 20-hour days, total availability) is extremely flawed. Why can’t we have more flexible roles- maybe even shared? This would allow everyone personal life space, and be much more accommodating to potential parents who currently have to choose between career and family.
On a smaller but equally important scale, end toy shop segregation! When I first had my kids, the toy store trip used to infuriate me- the blue/pink colour split, the types of toys promoted for girls rather than boys… it all entrenches gender roles into children’s heads from a very young age.
What gets you up on a Monday morning?
I’m doing what I love, and there’s possibility for real change within my work: why wouldn’t I get up? There’s more awareness around gender now than ever before, meaning potential for big progress. Everyday, I’m watching numbers decrease one by one, and that’s really exciting!
Finally, a bit of advice…
It’s cliché but stop being the “good” girl. Boisterous behaviour in boys is overlooked as “boys will be boys”, whereas girls are told they must be “nice”. Stand up to people; challenge behaviour like the guy at the cafe. Otherwise nothing will change and those 217 years will have come and gone.
For more information about Gap Square https://www.gapsquare.com/about-us/