The Law in Black and White: Episode 9 Recap Véronique Goy Veenhuys on EQUAL-SALARY

In episode 9 of The Law in Black and White, as part of Women’s History Month Jon and Bryan talk to Véronique Goy Veenhuys about her work in combating the gender pay gap through her organization, EQUAL-SALARY.

Véronique Goy Veenhuys is a Swiss social entrepreneur and equal pay advocate. She has a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Geneva and completed her EMBA, specializing in Management and Communication in 2005. After receiving her EMBA, she developed the concept of a certification process that could be used by companies to promote their equal compensation of men and women. She has overseen its development from day one and in 2010, became the founder and CEO of EQUAL-SALARY. In 2015, Véronique was awarded the WIN Global Inspiring Women Worldwide Award in recognition for her work with EQUAL-SALARY and in her contributions to equal pay and the advancement of women.

In this episode, Véronique describes her inspiring journey from entrepreneur, to post-graduate student, to equal-pay advocate and gives advice on how her model could apply to the U.S., and specifically to the legal industry.

Here are some highlights:

What Is EQUAL-SALARY and How Did It Begin?

EQUAL-SALARY is a Swiss foundation which issues certifications to companies who can show they pay their male and female employees equally. EQUAL-SALARY’s certification process was developed in collaboration with the University of Geneva, an institution specializing in labor market issues, and partners with auditing bodies to assign certification to companies across all industries.

Véronique came up with the idea while researching topics for her final paper during her post-graduate degree. After completing her research and believing in the value of her service, she says that she felt it was important to make a difference even though she “can still remember the hesitation” in starting a new company. But as a lover of nature and frequent mountain dweller, she is familiar with the concept of just moving forward. “Like I do when I go into the mountains, I just take one step at a time” she recalls.

Corporate Response to Certification

Véronique describes that at the beginning, only smaller companies would agree to EQUAL-SALARY’s certification process, while larger companies were fearful that they could face reputational harm for not meeting the rigorous demands of certification. However, more and more companies now see the value in working towards equal pay and the certification process has been a useful tool in achieving that. In doing so, companies have found that the benefits in reputation and employee retention outweigh their initial fears of falling short.

Equal Pay in the Legal Industry

Jon and Bryan mention the peculiar issues in gender pay in the legal industry. For large law firms, associates are paid on a predetermined pay-scale based off years of experience, leading to a far narrower gap in pay. However, among partners, the gap widens considerably. A 2020 study by Major, Lindsey & Africa found there to be a 44% gap between male and female partners at large U.S. law firms.

Véronique says that in looking at industry-specific pay gaps it is important to address how much of the pay gap can be explained by objective factors like education and experience, and how much is left unexplained. Once this is identified, companies need to put together an objective salary policy which often requires a willingness to revamp old systems in order to make a difference.

To hear more from Véronique Goy Veenhuys, the entire episode is available on Spotify.

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