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Five Ways Organizations Can Address the Gender Pay Gap


Pay equity “is not a fad,” asserted Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio Solutions Inc., at the start of WorldatWork’s pay equity webinar, “How to Address the Gender Pay Gap: Five Tips for Business Leaders,” on Wednesday.

“If anything, this movement is gaining momentum,” she said.

Because of this momentum, organizations are under increasing pressure — from both outside and within — to do and/or say something on the topic.

“But to say something, you need to know what you’re doing,” Colacurcio said.

Colacurcio noted that while there are “huge benefits” to publicly committing to address the issue of pay equity in a transparent way, there are many ways to get it wrong. As such, Colacurcio and Zev Eigen, founder and chief data scientist of Syndio, laid out five actions business leaders should take.

  1. Define and Commit to Ongoing Pay Equity Practices and Culture

Organizations, Colacurcio said, “have a responsibility to ensure fair pay.” As such, buy-in from leadership is of tantamount importance, as any program will not go far without it. Setting an ongoing cadence to analyze the results is also a good idea.

“Pay transparency is a key driver of retention,” Colacurcio said. This could be a way to frame the argument for creating pay equity practices to begin with. And those designing the best practices should also keep in mind that committing to being transparent on pay equity does not necessarily mean releasing exact salaries, but it could mean being upfront about which pay equity methodologies are in place and what the results are.

  1. Put in the Work to Get Groupings Right

“There is no way to circumnavigate getting the groupings right,” Eigen said. At least not if you hope to make “meaningful comparisons.”

And while Eigen conceded that “there is no one correct way of looking at groupings,” he did suggest taking a look at them through “an outsider’s lens.”

  1. Adopt and Follow Unbiased Methodology

“Don’t just treat the symptom,” Eigen noted. “Treat the cause.”

A pay equity program must analyze “all elements of compensation,” Eigen said, including total annual discretionary pay. He also advised using multiple forms of testing in order to determine if any gaps that do arise — both Eigen and Colacurcio said such a thing was not uncommon — are random or if a trend appears. Eigen said this process could also help determine which policies and/or behaviors need to change to create an equitable field.

For instance, Eigen recommends that starting pay is equitable from day one, as pay inequity can be “amplified” over time.

  1. Leverage Technology with Proven Methods

“Let’s be clear,” Colacurcio said. “Companies don’t do ‘one-and-done’ because it’s the best way to go.”

In fact, it’s based more on the belief that reviewing and analyzing pay equity can be too cumbersome, or even too expensive, to do with any consistency — at least, if the process is being done manually. But using technology based on well-vetted methodologies can make the process go smoother, whether it’s the first time your organization has ever broached the subject, or if your organization is undergoing a “life event,” such as a merger.

Of course, part of leveraging technology is ensuring that you have chosen the right tech to accomplish your goal.

“It’s about asking the right questions,” Eigen said. “And you’ve got to get the math right.”

  1. Hold Yourself Accountable and Ensure Transparency

Setting a goal of 100% pay equity may seem overly ambitious, but this is exactly what Colacurcio insists should be done. “Then measure yourself against that goal,” she said.

This can be done, in part, by creating a communications strategy that reaches all levels of your organization. And don’t hold back if you find something has gone terribly awry.

“You will, in all honesty, find problems,” Colacurcio said. “And that’s OK.” But those problems should be based only on “neutral” differences, such as tenure and education.

What is of the utmost importance at that time is that you are clearly communicating the problem with your employees — and perhaps even the public — and being transparent on how you are working to solve the problem.

“It takes a lot of courage and discipline from the leadership team” to admit that their organization has pay equity issues, said Lisa Nelson, CHRO of MatchGroup. MatchGroup worked with Syndio on evaluating their own pay practices and, at the outset, MatchGroup was “committed to sharing the results, good or bad.”

Once all the reviewing and analyzing is done, it’s time to design and implement pay equity standards for your business.

“You’ve got to impose those pay equity standards at the time of hire or transfer,” Eigen said.

Ultimately, you could end up with a program that accurately reflects the real causes of the pay equity problem within your organization and also provides workable solutions.

“When you pay fairly, you send a powerful message to your current team, your potential employees and your customers,” Nelson was quoted as saying in the presentation. “You care about something bigger and you’re willing to make changes to reflect those values.”

About the Author

Stephanie N. Rotondo is a writer/editor at WorldatWork.

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