Pay Equity: The Buck Starts Here

Pay equity is top of mind for many companies. For those of us concerned with diversity and inclusion, it is a key metric used to measure inclusion.

There was a point in my career where I enabled pay inequity on my team.

Here’s how it happened.

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One company I worked for did not permit me to know my team’s salaries. Seriously. To this day I do not know if that was widespread, say all people managers at a certain level and below were not granted that information, or if I was an outlier. Either way, for a few years, as an inexperienced manager, I operated in the dark with regard to what my team were earning. My boss knew, HR knew, but I did not.

The process went something like this: I would create a new role, set the salary range for the successful candidate, interview and would indicate that it was time to make an offer. After that, HR took over. I would not be told what salary my new team member had agreed to in order to join our company.

HR professionals and people managers, if there are red flags dropping and sirens going off in your head right now, I don’t blame you. I know how crazy this was.

It was uncomfortable for me, I had never had that experience before as a manager. Yet, I was still junior enough in my experience leading people that I had not yet found my confidence to challenge questionable policies.

It was only after I was promoted to a new position, that a more seasoned people manager took my old role and rightfully refused to accept the secrecy around salaries. What they found was appalling. Two people, doing the exact same role, with the exact same prior experience and same track record of performance within their role were being paid vastly different sums of money.

When I found out, I felt sick.

I was not part of the conversation when the inequity was corrected, and can only imagine that the joy of a higher pay cheque was short-lived. It feels awful to know you’ve been undervalued, and I still feel guilt for contributing to that situation.

As my network of HR professionals has grown, I have thankfully found that my experience is rare. That is not at all standard policy. Since that time I have partnered with some absolutely supportive HR teams who are keen to promote transparency and work actively with newer managers to guide them.

My advice?

  1. Be involved in the offer/counteroffer process.

    Before and after that one instance, I have always been part of the complete hiring process, without even having to ask. That should be the norm, and I hope it is for you. From a people perspective, I want to ensure fair treatment. From a purely administrative perspective - how could I possibly work through department budgets and projections if I do not understand one of the single largest expenses incurred? You need to be part of the process.

  2. Call out inequity.

    Although I was an unwitting enabler early on, the battle to fight inequity is still very real. I have fought unsuccessfully against archaic rules (like the 10% rule) and I have had to get creative to sell and implement salary increases, even in the face of blatant imbalance. Know what you stand for as a leader, seek out support and recognize it may be a tough road.

Equitable pay is a no-brainer for me.

Achieving it is not always easy.

The scenarios that result in this imbalance are not always nefarious - yet they are very real challenges managers are faced with. And make no mistake, we are the ones faced with them. People managers are the first point of contact for our teams. They look to us for answers. I feel we ought to be looking out for their best interest as well.

Glendalynn Dixon guides business transformations focused on data strategy, leadership & change management. She is a bestselling author, speaker and mentor who champions women in technology and uses stories from her wild ride of a life to challenge preconceived notions. Glendalynn shares the story of finding her voice to create change in Carpe Diem

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