This US tech investor says now is the perfect time for Australian women to demand more money from their boss

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An investor in one of America’s longest running technology incubators says it’s time women spoke for themselves, whether it be for equal pay or in opposition to sexual harassment.

Renee LaBran, founder of the Women Founders Network (WFN) and senior advisor at Idealab, says high-profile cases circulating in the media and at the forefront of people’s minds give the cause enough momentum that women should feel comfortable speaking up for themselves.

LaBran spoke to Business Insider during a visit to Sydney this month, where she attended a number of events to discuss women in business and equal pay.

The latter has been a hot topic since the shocking resignation of morning breakfast show host Lisa Wilkinson from Nine after the network failed to meet her demand of parity pay with her co-host Karl Stefanovic.

According to LaBran, Australia has the perfect opportunity to implement meaningful policy that helps women achieve equal representation in business on all fronts.

“[Australia is] doing some things here that are interesting,” she said.

“Being a little bit of a smaller country gives you an opportunity to pull policy in, in a way that is much harder in the US.”

“[In America] this has not become a very high priority… But what I think has actually started to work is not so much policy-related, it’s more women taking this on themselves.

Renee LaBran. Photo: Bradford Rogne Photography

“I do think that is an area where policy is important, and where there can be legal protection… because not every woman can do what Lisa Wilkinson did. You know, go across the street and get paid more.

“In California, where I’m from, the governor just signed a bill that will go into effect January 1, that you can no longer ask women, you can’t ask anybody, how much they were paid at their prior job. They can volunteer the information, but you can’t ask.

“If the job is worth X, you should pay X, whether it’s a male or a female… and it doesn’t matter how much they were paid before.”

“That same law is going into effect in several other states.”

La Bran suggests that women, seeking to start conversations with their employer to gain equal pay, start by collecting wage data from websites like Glassdoor, which provides salary information across different industries.

“Again, I recognise that not every woman is in a position to do this, but I think women have to walk in to their bosses, to their management, and say, ‘Hey, you know, it’s been brought to my attention that I am being paid X, and the people around me are being paid Y, and I’m doing the same job, and I would like the same pay.’

“And unless those bosses can explain to them why they have a different job, they really don’t have a leg to stand on, legally.

“If you don’t ask, you know, you won’t get the money. I understand it’s hard to ask, but I’ve been in that situation, and I confronted my boss. And it was hard for him, but I did get the money. Because I think when you confront someone with it, they realise it’s not right.”

In fact, La Bran thinks the tide is turning for women in general, in terms of being able to speak up against other inequalities, and even harassment.

“This has been a pretty interesting couple of months, in terms of these kinds of issues. We’ve certainly seen a number of men now losing their jobs over – not this particular issue, but sexual harassment issues,” she says.

“I am certain that had there not been all this other press about all these other people, and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, and Uber, etc., that it probably would have just gone on and been left alone.

“Getting some new stories out in the forefront, I think is starting to force people to look around. And I just hope that it’s not temporary, and that when the media cycle shifts in a couple weeks, as it does, that people forget about it and kind of say, you know, ‘We’re safe now.’

“I think it’s a positive that people are starting to say, ‘This is not acceptable.’ Because one of the shocking things about the Harvey Weinstein story was not what apparently many people knew for a long time he was doing, it was the people who were complicit.

“You know, you’re always gonna have a bad apple, but if people are complicit, and enable that bad behaviour, that’s just as bad.

“I’m hopeful that enough people were shamed here of not doing something that more people will speak up and not say, ‘That’s okay,’ or turn a blind eye.

“We have enough high-profile cases now to be able to say that these women are not making this stuff up.”

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