How an MBA inspired Natalie Flynn to fix the gender pay gap
Experience working in HR planted the seed and studying at Melbourne Business School provided the confidence. Now, Natalie Flynn's start-up is improving women’s pay and equity.
The planets have aligned for Natalie Flynn. With more than 15 years of human resources experience, including executive roles in rapidly growing digital businesses, and new laws to publish gender pay gap figures set to apply from 2024, the time is right for her start-up.
Natalie is the founder and CEO of Equidi, a platform that makes gender pay gaps instantly visible to organisations – and she credits her Senior Executive MBA experience at Melbourne Business School with inspiring her to create it.
"The MBA was the perfect vehicle to learn how to run a business. It gave me a lot of confidence to jump into this venture, but a contributing factor was one of the last MBA modules, which was delivered remotely," she says.
Natalie's Senior Executive MBA studies were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, her class trip to Silicon Valley to meet leading innovators as part of the program took place online instead of in-person.
"If we had gone to America, we would have travelled everywhere but only had time to see so many people," she says.
"Instead, we had a wide range of highly impressive guest speakers from all over the world talk to us, such as tech experts from the UK, venture capitalists and founders, including of DoorDash.
"I remember thinking: 'This is the module for me. I would love to do something like this.' It really struck a chord. Three weeks later, I came up with the idea for Equidi, and that was it."
Tracking gender equity
"Envato is a great Australian success story, and it’s wonderful to have a company of that calibre believe so much in what we're doing," Natalie says.
Equidi makes it easier for organisations to track and address their gender pay gaps – a challenge made more urgent by new legislation that will make public the gender pay gap information that organisations with more than 100 employees already submit to the federal government.
Natalie believes public disclosure will encourage more large companies to make progress in closing their gender pay gap – which Equidi makes easier to do.
"Another one of our clients, who had only been on our platform for about three months, has increased its representation of women by 5 per cent and decreased its pay gap by 7 per cent in that time, which is fantastic to see," she says.
Equidi automates the manual compliance process that the Workplace Gender Equity Agency requires larger Australian organisations to submit once a year. Once automated, organisations can see their gender pay and representation information at any time and in any way, helping them take action and track progress toward achieving workplace equity.
Experiencing gender bias
The idea for Equidi was born from Natalie's personal experience.
"I've experienced gender bias myself and, being a people and culture executive, you get a good understanding of pay parity and can see the drivers behind the scenes. It wasn't until I got into more senior roles that I experienced first-hand the impact of the pay gap issue, and I was always passionate about bridging that gap for others," she says.
The need for a company like Equidi became obvious to Natalie during her MBA studies, when she consulted for an ASX-listed business that was being questioned by shareholders about its gender diversity. While it had no women on its board or in executive roles at that time, its leaders didn’t have readily available data points to see the company’s broader gender equity position.
"As I watched their AGM, I was sitting there thinking, 'Wouldn't it be great if they could see their data in real time?' Because, while their headlines weren’t great, the story wasn't the same across the whole business, but they weren't able to articulate the positive steps on their gender progress," she says.
"Equidi enables businesses to centrally manage their equity strategies and track progress so stakeholders can see exactly where you're at. It brings the qualitative and the quantitative together so organisations can invest their energy where it's needed most."
Australia’s gender performance
Natalie's company has the potential to transform Australia’s sluggish gender pay gap performance, which Australia's Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, says could take another 26 years to close based on current projections.
"Having the data right in front of you creates a sense of accountability. It shifts behaviours. In the past, it was something that you couldn't easily see, but now you can," Natalie says.
"If I hadn't done that module or the MBA, I wouldn't have thought it was possible or known how to go about it. It gave me the knowledge and confidence to take the plunge and help shape a more equal and inclusive future."