CEO of Future Super: Gender equity is everyone’s business, and it isn’t a pipe dream

Kirstin Hunter Headshot
Kirstin Hunter, CEO of Future Super

There’s a lot of talk about gender inequality in Australia. The glass ceiling. Women earning 79 cents for every dollar. Men holding 67% exec roles and 71% board roles. Old ladies retiring with 47% less super than old men. 

Gender inequality means all of these things.

Despite all the column inches given to gender inequality, and the “inclusive workplace policies” purporting to address it, when we look beyond words to actions the reality is that change is moving at a glacial pace. At the rate we’re going, it will be another 202 years before gender pay equity is achieved in the Australian workforce. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait that long, and neither can the members of the superannuation fund at Future Super. 

Transforming business for equality

Business leaders can and should be leading the charge for gender equality. This leadership must start with an honest and data-driven conversation within your own organization. 

The great news for business leaders is that you can do this regardless of how big or small your business is, and once you start, change can happen very quickly.

At Future Super, we began by analyzing our own gender pay data (both overall and by seniority), setting board-level targets, and sharing our progress against these targets with our team. This approach has allowed us to transform our business: in four years we’ve improved our gender representation across the team (from 30% to parity) and in the leadership team (from 20% to parity), while also reducing our gender pay gap from ~25% to within our target of +/- 5%.

But we didn’t stop there.

We also reflected on the trends in our own industry, where women retire with 47% less super than men. The reasons for this retirement gap are known: women are less likely to make the senior ranks, are more likely to take time off for caring duties, and more likely to return part-time. As a small business we may not be able to fix the system, but what can we do to make sure that our own staff don’t suffer that same fate? We introduced three policies to address these drivers of inequality. Today at Future Super, all staff earning less than $80k are paid a higher rate of superannuation, all staff taking time out of work for parental leave are paid super contributions for up to 12 months, and all staff who are working part-time due to caring responsibilities are paid super at the full time rate. 

But it’s not enough for us to think only of our own team. As a superannuation fund we must also act with our members’ retirement outcomes in mind.

Investing for gender equity

When Future Super makes investment decisions on behalf of our members we need to consider a company’s long-term economic prospects. When it comes to gender, the data has shown time and time again that diverse teams perform better. 

If diverse teams perform better, it stands to reason that teams lacking diversity will perform worse. 

What that says to me is that a business that fails to build a diverse team is a bad investment: these businesses are willing to ignore the data and leave money on the table to protect the status quo. That’s why we stopped investing in companies that have all-male boards.

Advocating for gender equality for our members

When systemic factors make it more likely that our female members will retire with less than our male members, it becomes our responsibility to challenge that system.

In the 2020 Equality is Everyone’s Business report into gender inequality, we found that one of the most effective actions that businesses can take to improve gender pay equity within their organization is to improve transparency on actions and performance on gender pay equity. Despite this also being one of the most simple actions businesses can take, our research found that more than 50% of companies in the ASX100 are still refusing to do this.

Gender equality is not just good ethics, it’s good economics. Gender equality is everyone’s business: it’s up to all business leaders to be part of the change, to promote and improve workplace gender equality. Your employees and your investors will thank you.

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EXCLUSIVE: Mailchimp CEO says ‘we have work to do’ on pay equity after company denies bias allegations

GettyImages 1178857927 SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 03: Mailchimp Co-founder & CEO Ben Chestnut speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut.

Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut responded on Friday to allegations of gender discrimination and harassment at the company, telling employees in an email that “we have work to do” on pay equity and inclusion.

Chestnut’s email, which was seen by Insider, appeared to contradict internal messaging the company had sent just a day earlier.

Mailchimp chief people and culture officer Robin White told employees in an email Thursday the company has made its hiring, promotion, and pay processes more equitable over the years.

He also said an independent pay equity study “found that gender and race/ethnicity are not statistically significant indicators of differences in pay, and that differences in pay can be attributed to those factors we’ve established within our compensation system that are fair and reasonable.”

But Chestnut’s email on Friday appeared to show the issues are more extensive than White’s initial email acknowledged.

Both messages came in response to the resignation of principal software engineer Kelly Ellis, who accused the company of “sexism and bullying” and gender pay discrimination when she quit on Wednesday.

“The fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don’t want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them,” Chestnut said.

“I’m also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you’re experiencing, and we haven’t made enough progress in response,” he added.

“Because a sensitive situation was shared on social media, we felt it was important to talk directly with employees to make sure they know Mailchimp does not tolerate any type of mistreatment, including discrimination, bullying, or harassment,” a Mailchimp spokesperson told Insider in a statement. “We want to combine what is an important conversation with action steps.”

However, while Chestnut’s email encouraged employees to offer feedback through various channels, it offered no concrete steps beyond promising “regular updates.”

Are you a current or former Mailchimp employee with insight to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences there. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 503-319-3213), email (, or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the full email Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut sent to employees:

Subject: Hearing your concerns

Hi everyone, I’m following up on Robin’s email from yesterday because I know this has been hard for many of you, and I want you to know that I’m listening. I won’t share the confidential details or get into a back and forth about the specific situation that came up this week, but the fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don’t want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them.

It has always been so important to Dan and me that Mailchimp is a company where all employees feel included, respected, and safe-a place where people can do their best, most creative work. Employees experiencing anything less is unacceptable to me and all of our leaders.

I’m hearing loud and clear that we have work to do, including needing greater transparency around pay equity and an intentional focus on inclusion. I want to address these issues head-on, and I know we’ll be stronger for it. I’m asking our leadership team to prioritize these issues and work with me to fix them. What we do needs to match what we say.

I would really appreciate your candid feedback to help us get there. I’m also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you’re experiencing, and we haven’t made enough progress in response. I want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their experiences and trust that we’ll make the right adjustments. Just as bullying, harassment, and discrimination won’t be tolerated-neither will retaliation or intimidation for speaking up.

I’m having office hours every day next week, and I’ve asked the entire executive team to hold office hours too. You can sign up here [LINK]. You’re also welcome to email me directly or message me on Slack. We’ve also heard that some of you would rather submit your feedback anonymously. That’s completely understandable, and we’re working on a new way to do that that guarantees confidentiality-will follow up with details next week.

We’re going to listen hard and change fast, responding to your feedback and taking action to invest in our culture and rebuild trust. You can expect regular updates on this. We know this will require work and focus beyond the next few weeks. We’re in it for the long haul. I hope you are too.

One final note: for many of us, the last few years have been a crash course in understanding how insidious forces like racism and sexism can show up in the workplace. I know I’ve learned a great deal, and with Cris Gaskin’s help, we’ve been intentional about better educating ELT to recognize these forces so we can address them. We’re still learning, but I feel better equipped to make the changes we need going forward.

Thank you all for your commitment to making Mailchimp a great place to work. I’m grateful for you.


Ben Chestnut
Mailchimp CEO & Co-founder

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Google will pay $2.6 million to workers over claims its hiring and pay practices were biased against women and Asians

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Google is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2020.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Logo of Google is seen at an office building in Zurich

Google has reached a deal with the US Department of Labor, requiring it to pay nearly $2.6 million in back wages to thousands of workers over claims that the company’s pay and hiring practices illegally disadvantaged women and Asians.

Google must also review its pay and hiring practices, conduct a gender pay equity study, and provide updates about its progress toward closing the gender pay gap as part of the deal, which was signed on January 15 and made public by the DOL on Monday. 

The department said that as part of an audit of several Google locations in Washington state, California, and New York, it had identified “preliminary indicators” that Google had failed to comply with a 1965 executive order that bars discrimination in the pay and hiring of federal contractors.

That audit revealed early evidence suggesting that, between 2014 and 2017, Google had paid female engineers at its Mountain View, California, as well as Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, locations “less than comparable male employees,” according to the DOL.

The agency also found evidence suggesting Google had discriminated against female and Asian applicants for engineering jobs at its San Francisco and Sunnyvale, California, locations as well as at the Kirkland facility.

“We believe everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are, and invest heavily to make our hiring and compensation processes fair and unbiased,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Rodstrom told Insider in a statement.

“For the past eight years, we have run annual internal pay equity analysis to identify and address any discrepancies. We’re pleased to have resolved this matter related to allegations from the 2014-2017 audits and remain committed to diversity and equity and to supporting our people in a way that allows them to do their best work,” Rodstrom added.

In total, around 2,565 women who worked at Google are eligible for back pay over wage discrimination allegations, while around 2,976 women and Asian applicants for Google jobs are eligible for back pay as a result of the alleged hiring discrimination.

In return for agreeing to the DOL’s “early resolution,” Google won’t have 39 of its facilities audited by the agency for five years, though the agency can still bring legal action if Google violates the agreement.

Google has faced allegations of racial and gender bias previously, including an ongoing class-action lawsuit over gender bias claims, and more recently, an employee rebellion over the company’s dismissal of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru.

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