Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Twitter Bot That Helped Highlight The Hypocrisy of International Women’s Day… By Shaming Companies For Their Gender Pay Gap

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Finally, a good use for Twitter as we look at the little bot that could: by highlighting the gender pay gap in high-profile companies.

On a Tuesday morning work Zoom, Team Capsule all admitted that something about this particular International Women’s Day had really stuck in our teeth. Maybe it’s because we’re so tired, maybe it’s the state of the world, maybe it’s because of the utter flurry of press releases we got in the 24 hours before IWD that basically read like a panicked admission that a) Women exist?! And b) They have a day?!

That morning, we were watching as every brand/person/account/business felt the need to echo this, with an inspirational quote, beautiful image or absolutely stark statistic about how utterly screwed ‘women’ still are, in 2022 (What did Capsule do? Well, we did all three. Something for everyone).

And then a shrewd little Twitter bot came and punctured through the pink hot air that surrounds this date, by simply presenting the facts which are the sword in the side of most companies: the gender pay gap.

Now, I still couldn’t really tell you what a bot is – automated reply system? I think? The reason I have to ‘click all images that have a plane in them?’ when trying to buy something pink and overpriced? – but I mostly associate them with damage TO women: the #lockherup bots of the Trump/Clinton election, the very many ones that target our own female prime minister.

But this bot? I would buy this bot all the sparkling rosé and jazzy pink razors (more expensive than non-pink razors) and fun Mom wine signs in the world, because it did a very simple but effective thing. For every UK company that posted a ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ message, talking very compassionately about how they valued women, the bot retweeted the original message but added the facts about what the gender pay gap was in that particular company.

And the results were chaos.

So many of the original tweets have now been deleted because you simply can’t have a woman in purple looking tough but happy as the face of your brand, when the heading above her reads: “In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is 32.4% lower than men’s.”

I mean, it’s not like they weren’t warned: The Twitter bio for this bot simply reads:
“Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I’ll retweet your gender pay gap.”

The gender pay gap is insidious, complicated, infuriating and a global problem. It’s also, as we wrote in our International Women’s Day story, a sliding gap: A Pākehā woman’s pay gap to her white male counterpart is 9%, a Pasifika’s woman’s pay gap to her white male counterpart is 20%. The compound effects of the gender pay gap contribute to the fact that women reach retirement age with almost 25% less in their KiwiSaver and are more likely to live in poverty in their older years. The consequences are very, very real.

The gender pay gap is one of the many ways the odds are financially stacked against women and it’s also the easiest to prove. The reason this tiny bot (are bots tiny?) was about to highlight the hypocrisy of brands with a single tweet is because all of their salaries were public record. If your company still has a gender pay gap problem in this environment, where women are the most aware, furious and exhausted we’ve ever been, then you absolutely deserve to have the shit ripped out of you on Twitter when you line up your sole five female employees, plonk a ‘We love women’ t-shirt on them and then make them keep working alongside their more financially secure male counterparts.

A very smart friend of mine summed it up perfectly when we were text griping about why we hated this day so much. “They should rebrand it as ‘Pay Us’ day.”

Happy reading.

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