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 Y-Vonne Hutchinson, a former international human rights lawyer and the founder of Ready Set, a diversity solutions firm that works with startups to help attract, retain, and grow diverse talent. Y-Vonne is also a founding member of Project Include, a non-profit organization working toward providing meaningful diversity and inclusion solutions for tech companies. We recently caught up with Y-Vonne to hear her thoughts on the wage gap, and her candid advice on how to combat gender bias both during the job search and after you’ve landed your new role.
As someone who works with job seekers, what advice would you give female candidates who are looking for equal pay? How do you suggest approaching salary negotiation?
Salary negotiation has always been a hard one for me, since it took me so long to understand my own worth. I guess my first piece of advice is to do your research. Figure out your worth early on. Ask around and see what your friends are making. Ask your mentors. I think this goes double for women of color, who earn even less than white women. We have to know our worth because our talent so often goes undervalued. The second piece of advice is that once you have that information, don’t be afraid to negotiate confidently. I think that as women we are afraid that by negotiating we’ll be seen as combative, so we approach discussions about pay almost apologetically. I actually find that can work against you, and I think that a matter-of-fact approach works a bit better. Negotiation is just part of the process — if you approach it in that way; it’s more likely that your counterpart will, too.
Similarly, what advice would you give companies like your clients that are trying eliminate internal gendered wage gaps and pay their employees equally?
I would say that one of the biggest drivers of the pay gap is lack of transparency and standardization. I advise companies to be transparent about their salary bands and the factors they use to determine wages with job seekers and employees. If they don’t have a standardized way of calculating compensation, they should develop one. Otherwise, there is a real risk that bias could creep in at the individual and institutional level.
How do you feel about salary secrecy, the workplace policy that forbids employees from discussing how much money they make? Is it fair?
Forbidding your employees from discussing salary isn’t just counterproductive, it might also be illegal. In many circumstances, The National Labor Relations board considers such discussions as protected activities. Moreover, prohibiting such discussions isn’t likely to have much of a long-term positive impact. Instead, it could foster an environment of suspicion, jealousy, or indignation. If companies want satisfied, engaged employees, it is far better for them to pay employees fairly and clearly explain salary ranges and growth potential.
Many tech companies have been releasing their diversity numbers over the past few years and even more have pledged to improve theirs. As the founder of a diversity solutions firm, what is your take on these efforts? Do you think they are working?
I think public diversity reports are incredibly important. They increase transparency, establish accountability, and communicate that a company takes its diversity efforts seriously. However, they are also a first step. Releasing reports alone will not solve diversity and inclusion challenges. I think when companies first started putting out these reports that was the tacit assumption, however, they must be augmented by intentional D&I (diversity and inclusion) programming implemented by experienced folks. Diversity reports, if done correctly, can help a company identify its trouble spots, establish a baseline by which success can be measured, and assess how employees from different backgrounds engage with their work.
Studies have shown that women leave tech at twice the rate men do. What do you look for, and in turn, what would you tell other women to look for, in the companies that you work with to ensure an inclusive working environment?