Talent Leaders Attack Wage Inequality at ‘Equal Pay and the Shape of Change’ Event

Talent Leaders Attack Wage Inequality at ‘Equal Pay and the Shape of Change’ Event

If Val Britton’s breathtaking art installation initially leaves you scratching your head, she’ll consider her mission accomplished.

Inspired by Hired’s proprietary report on wage inequality, Britton brought to life a challenging and uncomfortable data set into a jagged maelstrom, enveloping the viewer in vivid and explosive but subtle real world information.  “I’m not going to be able to make a chart that’s easily read” Britton said of the piece, entitled The Shape of Change. “I’m going to whip it into a tornado of shapes and information.”


The Shape of Change – Full Installation Timelapse

In partnership with Hired and in full-voiced support of Equal Pay Day, Britton’s aptly described work hung proud and immense, the centerpiece of an evening where top hiring brass from across Silicon Valley gathered to discuss strategies they’ve enacted to close the maddening, persistent, and well-documented pay gap.

As a carefully selected panel of talent leaders explained the crux of this challenge, the conceit of Britton’s work became clear. Exactly like The Shape of Change, gender pay inequality is subtle. Presentations of the data, and the issue at large, are sporadic and slippery. And no matter what, it’s all around us, a global and ubiquitous problem, slowly and gradually revealing itself.

And so we make our seamless segue into the main event. Hired assembled a panel of top HR & People leaders to discuss how they’re attacking the rift in fair compensation and offer solutions that other talent folks can take back to their organizations. We’ve pulled out some memorable quotes below, but first, let’s get to know the speakers.

Yuki Horiguchi, Global Head of Total Rewards, Dropbox
Michelle Wagner, Senior Vice President of People, Evernote
Lynnette Bruno, Vice President of Employee Communications, Zillow Group
David Hanraham, Vice President of People, Niantic
Derek Sidebottom, Chief People Officer, LendingHome

Shape of Change

How do we put equal pay philosophy into a day-to-day practice?

Yuki: When it comes to hiring, there’s so many competitive pressures to make that hire, and there are all these reasons why someone might get the specific comp offer they do. We have to be able to explain those reasons and be comfortable with the answers. So at Dropbox we are working with the legal team and a subset of the executive team to define very clear reasons why we may differentiate for pay in comparable levels across the org, and then communicating that down to our recruiting team so they can vet for those reasons in their candidate discovery process.

If there’s no equal pay structure in place at your company, where do you begin?

Michelle: We started by just asking our employees, “Who are you? How do you identify?”, to get a baseline, and then to set ourselves up for the future, added the survey to our onboarding process. We had no levels, or comp structure, we just had market data that told us “here’s the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile compensation levels”. Now we do salary reviews every 6 months–the market changes too fast to wait a year–and it took a few cycles before we felt comfortable saying we’d collected enough data on our employees and now could compare level to level, comp ratio to comp ratio, how does this look across the company.

When you’re doing job matching across the organization, as you think beyond mere “levels”, what other factors are you accounting for to assess for fairness and equity?

Michelle: A boring company would call it “competencies”, we call it “super powers”. We factor in things like how independent are you? How much influence over other people’s work do you have? This helps you normalize across the company so you can assess  if your senior marketing person has the same scope as a senior engineer. People look across the org and want to see similarity amongst people with similar looking titles.

Kelli:  We built universal super powers and adapted them based on our organizational values. So we took in to account communication, problem solving, decision making, things that tie to how we hire and put it alongside the market data that comes in. That’s the art & science, so you take the market data, and you have to apply what your company is about on top of it.

What responsibility do employers have to make sure people who are being paid unfairly based on previous negotiations come in and ask for a fair market rate?

Michelle: Some people don’t even know they’re being paid unfairly! It’s up to thoughtful talent professionals to say we don’t care what you’re currently making, here’s the range for this role, here’s where you belong based on your experience, and then I’m going to check it every 6 months to make sure it’s fair.

Derek: I recently saw an example where a female candidate was actually negotiating far too low for the role, to the point where the CEO and I stepped in to push it back up. From a VC mindset, maybe her negotiating low was a good thing because it keeps costs down, but we decided that our higher purpose was to build trust in the organization. So yes, we have to play a role in helping people ask for what they deserve.

David: If you do internal equity analysis perfectly, you eliminate the need for negotiation. You come up with a formula and you can say “this is the offer.” There’s research showing that the more you allow for negotiation, it tends to result in more pay inequality.

What role does retention play in maintaining equitable pay structures?

Lynnette:  We want to make sure employees feel connected and heard by the organization, so we enacted an equity and belonging team to  help uncover the feedback and challenges that might not be obvious to you if you’re not a member of a certain group. When it comes to retaining people who you worked hard to find and worked hard to get in at an equitable level, this makes a huge difference.

Stay tuned for a full video recap of the event. In the meantime, what are some strategies your company has enacted to ensure equal pay? Hit us up in the comments!