In building programming for Women’s History Month and doing the research that went into it, the gender wage gap kept coming up time and time again. In the startup world we are always “trying to do a lot with a little,” so while running a pay equity analysis has always been in the works, we decided that Women’s History Month was as good of a time as ever to put a more active focus on pay equity.
Here’s what we know:
- Pay equity is an issue in corporate America - it has been for a long time, yet there has been little done to meaningfully “close the gap.”
- As of 2018, to every 1 dollar a white male earns a white woman earns .79, an asian woman earns .90, a black woman earns .62, a hispanic or latino woman earns .54, and an American Indian or Alaska Native earns .57.
- The same report shows reasons why women may ultimately earn less than men. A larger proportion of women work part-time instead of full-time to care for their children. Differences in occupation and years of experience may also be a factor. However, companies have the ability to combat the most important reason - gender discrimination.
What we’re doing to combat gender discrimination and provide equal pay for equal work at Holler:
1. Taking (and creating) a stance on pay equity at Holler
Before we jump into any project at Holler we always try to take a step back and answer the question - what outcome are we hoping to achieve and what are we going to do about it? As we dove into this project we created the following statement, “At Holler we believe in equal pay for equal work. We are committed to annual audits of our pay practices and establishing compensation bands for each level and role at Holler.” Having a stance on pay equity allows us to ensure “what we’re going to do about it” remains aligned with our belief.
2. Setting the stage with levels and salary bands.
Last year we created levels within Holler’s organization, 10 distinct levels in each functional group with titles and expectations for each of those roles. This year we created salary bands for the levels and functions. When kicking off this project, we first took a position on how we pay our employees. We pay comparable salaries for similar roles in similar companies. Where we strive to go above and beyond is with our other benefits (401k match with no vesting period, lunch expense program, generous paid time off, stock option grants, true work life balance/flexibility, etc.). Knowing this, we started doing research where we could find market data - Glassdoor, Salary.com, BuiltIn, Payscale. We were able to use this data to establish clear salary bands for each role that we could map each of our employees against.
3. Conducting pay equity audits annually.
Conducting a pay equity audit at a company of 60 is a pretty simple task. We pulled together a list of all employees, their titles, levels and salaries and were easily able to sort, in Excel, to compare the same, or similar, roles. For any discrepancies we mapped them to the salary band and evaluated why differences may exist. In a couple of cases we had people in a similar position with slightly different salaries but with varying years of experience or tenure at the company. As long as they were in the salary band and there was a true reason for the variance, we decided that wasn’t an issue of pay equity.
While we got the results we were hoping for quickly, establishing a clear process today will be critical for us to be able to maintain our annual pay equity audit as we scale. Having the levels and bands in place will provide us a framework to challenge any situations against and hold ourselves accountable for pay equity at Holler.
4. Ensuring that we have an equitable process for hiring and promotions.
Having levels and salary bands in place will help to ensure we are hiring equitably. As we build hiring plans we know the salary range we plan to pay as well as the level the new hire will be joining at. Sure, we’ve found ourselves adjusting from time to time, like when we find a stellar candidate that has higher compensation requirements. But when we do, we follow our own guidelines and don’t increase a salary without increasing the level and vice versa. This ensures that we are hiring the right talent into the right salaries and level.
We’re believers that an inequitable promotion process is another source of pain for equity in the workplace. So, we created a promotion process and called out what we evaluate when considering someone for a promotion - because it should be consistent. We shared a document with the company that outlines the evaluation process for promotions. This allows for transparency and holds our leadership team accountable about who we promote and why.
The manager will complete the below form
And our Head of People is responsible for collecting the following information:
5. Making sure women have equal opportunities for advancement.
While we expect our new promotion process will ensure everyone is provided equal opportunities for higher level positions, we also invest in developing our women in management and those that are up and coming leaders through our Women in Leadership program run by our CMO, Sarah Aitken. Sarah has led teams big and small and has mentored countless women in her function, marketing, and beyond during her career. She meets with the groups twice per quarter to talk through various leadership topics.
6. Making it the norm for women to negotiate.
I’ve spent 9 years recruiting and in that time I’ve extended, and negotiated, 200+ offers to candidates across various experience levels, areas of expertise, and geographical locations. I’ve seen first hand how much more infrequently women negotiate their offers than men. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve worked in companies where I was told to offer a certain amount below the budget for the position expecting for negotiations to happen. When men ask for more and women do not, it creates a pay gap. While it’s critical that companies offer what they are willing to pay and the value they assign to each role, they also need to support women when they negotiate. There are many resources out there but my favorite is Ladies Get Paid. Their whole mission is to get women resources on earning money, asking for what they deserve and feeling confident in those conversations. They have a book available to purchase but they also hold many free webinars and events.
We won’t ever pretend that we have it all figured out. For example, I can’t confidently say that our stock option program looks like our compensation program. We will be tackling this as soon as the dust settles on closing our Series B. Once that’s done, I’m sure there will be more to cover and solve for, but I look forward to seeing how these new practices impact equal pay at Holler in the years to come.