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How Uncomfortable Conversations Can Solve the Wage Gap

Kelli Dragovich

On April 4th, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, Hired will host its second annual Women, Work, & the State of Wage Inequality event to discuss the gender wage gap and how to close it. After an overview of our most recent data on this topic, attendees will hear from a panel of experts at the forefront of the pay equality movement.

One of these is Hired’s very own Kelli Dragovich. Kelli is Hired’s Senior Vice President of People Operations and has worked for over 15 years in the talent management and HR sector. She is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, most recently spearheading an internal evaluation of Hired’s wage gap data in order to promote transparency and combat the gender bias in the tech industry. We sat down with her to get her thoughts on issues related to gender pay equality and how to close the wage gap.

Hired prides itself on radical transparency when it comes to salary. What advice would you give companies that are trying eliminate their own internal wage gaps and pay their employees equally?

Countless studies have shown that companies which have a more diverse and inclusive workforce tend to be more innovative, and experience greater market growth than companies that do not embrace such a philosophy. Yet data from Hired has found that well over half of the time, women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company. In order to combat the gender wage gap, companies must be willing to take a critical and honest look at the internal factors that contribute to income inequality.

Assemble a team to review the salary of every employee and look for trends within the data. This means having candid and, at times, uncomfortable conversations with colleagues. It means accepting that the old way of thinking might not work and boldly overturning long-time processes. While your initial findings may be worrisome, an accurate starting point is essential to tracking your company’s progress and growth.

Unequal pay compounds over time and it can be easy to perpetuate inequality leftover from a candidate’s past employer. Instead of making an offer based on a candidate’s previous wages, determine the market value of the role and offer accordingly.

How do you feel about salary secrecy? Is it fair? Should lawmakers be held accountable to end this practice, or is it on us as employees to ensure equal and fair compensation?

Coworkers should be able to talk about the things that matter to them at work – and compensation is undoubtedly one of those things. Employees have a keen ear for authenticity and a lack of transparency around salaries is a giant red flag that an organization is not genuinely committed to equity and inclusion. At Hired, we believe that the most powerful weapon against the wage gap is transparency and data.

To an extent, lawmakers should also help combat pay disparity that is perpetuated by information asymmetry between organizations and their employees. For instance, the French government, with the help of 15 other organizations, recently announced an initiative to promote gender equality. They have a few focuses: 1) Stop cyber bullying, which tends to target women more than men, 2) Promote engineering and computer science studies for women in high school and college and 3) Help women find the best jobs and helping companies find women to fill key tech roles. This is a great example of how governments, companies and organizations can work together to bridge the gap and promote equality, in the workforce and in society.

Many individuals have said recently that compliance-based DE&I solutions that are built around rule enforcement are dated and ineffective. How do you work to create an organically inclusive workplace culture?

Achieving authentic diversity is a long-term process and to achieve authentic and lasting diversity within your organization, you must prioritize equity and inclusion first. While many organizations focus on quantitative results, companies must value qualitative progress that creates genuine and sustainable cultures of inclusion. These results may not be as shareable with the press or immediately impressive to outsiders, but your long-term progress is what really matters.

At Hired, we’ve strived to create a workplace that everyone feels they can fully participate in and contribute to, in order to attract and retain top talent. One way we’ve fostered a supportive environment is by funding a growing number of employee resource groups (ERGs), which are employee-led groups formed around common interests and backgrounds. Groups can be formed around race, gender, age, sexual orientation, working parents, disability, and military-service status.

In the past, you’ve talked a lot about the need for Silicon Valley to build new talent pools in order to build true, long-term diversity. How can companies start to diversify their talent pools in a meaningful way, and start build a diverse and equitable workforce at a foundational level?

The status quo focus on numbers and instant gratification has prevented the Valley from cracking the code on diversity and led to disappointing results across the board. It’s time for tech companies to stop settling for just charts and numbers, and start looking inward and thinking about what diversity, equity and inclusion mean for their organization. While we applaud companies that recognize the issue and are brave enough to experiment with new solutions, diversity reports are just the start, not a long-term fix.

Despite our best intentions, inequality persists as open-minded individuals unwittingly allow unconscious biases to guide their decision-making. The most sincere corporate commitment to inclusion can be derailed by hiring biases that employers don’t even realize they have. Companies should leverage tools for eliminating biases such as blind hiring, data-based compensation, inclusive language tools and product features that hide candidate photos/names during the hiring process. Also, creating ongoing forums or town hall meetings to discuss diversity issues and organizing volunteer opportunities that promote inclusion are all small pieces that will contribute to a more equitable whole.

Stay tuned to Hired’s blog for more interviews on this topic, as well as our second annual Women, Work and the State of Wage Inequality report.