Friday 17 November 2017

'Brendan split salary difference with me' - Sonya

From left, Dublin City councillor Claire Byrne, designer and founder of ‘Dress for Success’ Sonya Lennon, and Dublin senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, at the launch of Dress for Success
From left, Dublin City councillor Claire Byrne, designer and founder of ‘Dress for Success’ Sonya Lennon, and Dublin senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, at the launch of Dress for Success

Sean O'Grady

Sonya Lennon has told how she was put on a lower salary than fellow TV star Brendan Courtney when they co-hosted RTÉ's 'Off The Rails' - but they ended up splitting the difference.

The presenting duo, who also own clothing label Lennon Courtney, presented the fashion show in 2008 on the national broadcaster, and discovered during their tenure that they were not being paid equally.

Lennon said she "flagged it" with her bosses at the station, and she and Courtney lobbied to be paid the same for their work.

"I did flag it, we brought it up. I was very lucky that I was working with a man who really valued equality in all ways and set the record straight, and levelled the playing field for us," she said. "(Brendan) said, 'I will split the difference' and that's what happened."

It emerged in recent months that RTÉ presenters Sharon Ní Bheoláin and Bryan Dobson were not paid the same for their work on 'Six One News'.

When contacted, an RTÉ spokesperson responded by saying it does not comment on individual salaries.

Speaking at the launch of the month-long Equal Pay campaign by Dress for Success Dublin, Lennon said it can be hard for women to raise the subject of pay in the workplace.

"The issues begin at the first negotiations for a job. If you go in at a lower rate than your male counterpart, the chasm widens throughout your career and hits you very hard at the other end with the pension," she said.

"It gets sort of worse as you get older. The first thing to do is to start training your negotiating muscles so you get the best deal on your first job.

"That's not always easy and some sectors are very rigid.

"I think it's about being comfortable talking about money. Even if you're in the corporate world, it's important to know what the benchmarks are and what people are on around you," she added.

Lennon hopes men will help in making sure their female co-workers are paid fairly. "The world is made up of men who understand that this is wrong, and men who don't understand that it's wrong. I think it's about lobbying with the men who do understand it, and working together," she told the Irish Independent.

The RTÉ presenter added that if women enter the workforce on a lower pay than their male co-workers, it can harm their confidence later on.

"Our job is to support women in the workplace so they can support themselves in the workplace and be economically independent," she said. "If they're entering the workplace not equal, it can be very hard for them to have the confidence to succeed, so we are levelling that playing pitch now."

November 10 has been designated as Ireland's Equal Pay Day. Dress for Success will hold a public panel discussion at the Project Arts Centre, in Dublin's Temple Bar.

More information can be found at www.dressforsuccessdublin.org.

Irish Independent

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