Like many new grads starting out in their career, I was hungry and eager. I wanted to perform well in my new role, with the hope of reward and recognition for my hard work—the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if you will. But rather than that pot of gold—be it a spot bonus, a salary increase, or equity—I was left with an empty cauldron of a “thank you” for my hard work in the form of an employee recognition award. I also received many dry promotions—all the responsibility of a new title but without the pay and benefits that come with it. Years later, after I pivoted my career into the HR industry, I realized I deserved so much more than simple gratitude. I deserved the compensation to match my accomplishments.
As a black woman, I now know I wasn’t alone. Black women are typically paid 64 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Couple that with the recent news that the gender pay gap is now beginning as early as college graduation, and one thing is clear: We need a commitment from our leaders, managers, and HR professionals to ensure pay equity practices. Pay equity is an imperative, basic right for all employees. In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, here are some things to keep in mind to ensure equitable pay practices.
I never want anyone to have the experience I did with being unvalued for his or her skills, abilities, and work performance. One of the main ways to combat this is to ensure employees are educated in both what their market compensation is and what is being offered at their company. Employees should feel empowered to speak with their managers on questions regarding their pay and to know what level their job function falls into in relation to their team. It’s their right to know.
Likewise, managers should also be educated and have the necessary training on compensation and the conversations surrounding it to be able to provide answers for their direct reports, should the question arise. Managers are responsible for providing their direct reports with clarity into their compensation, and organizations are also equally responsible for ensuring managers are well equipped to provide answers.
Organizations must also stay on top of the latest news related to employment and compensation laws and get ahead of upcoming trends to ensure they’re well prepared for what’s to come. One example of this is state-driven compensation transparency laws, most recently seen in California, which opens the doors for these conversations.
Keep in mind that compensation is not limited to just salary. Total compensation should take into account the benefits the company offers to employees. For candidates looking to join a company, these benefits are part of the total rewards package they are offered and should be considered in light of their monetary value. The recent #showusyourleave viral campaign was a cry for employers to be transparent about all the benefits they offer for employees—how companies fare with their competitors. Rest assured, we will get to a place where there will be widespread requirements for full pay transparency. The time for companies to prepare for that is now.
Companies that are still in the process of figuring out communicating their pay transparency should consider implementing a strategy of slowly turning the lights on, which means you create a communication plan to slowly share total rewards information and be transparent over a period of time. Companies can start this journey by simply sharing their total compensation package and philosophy as part of pay transparency and highlighting the benefits they offer, much like the #showusyourleave campaign.
Data-Driven Approaches for Equitable Practices
To ensure equity in your employee compensation packages, a data-driven approach should be driving everything your team is doing. Data is the new currency of the corporate world—without looking at data as proof points, your total rewards program could be missing components that may be in your blind spot. Simply put, you can’t design a comprehensive total rewards program without the data to back it up.
Data doesn’t lie, and it will help you and your team transparently make the necessary decisions and pivots based on what you’re seeing—whether it be in employee surveys conducted anonymously with an employee-focused survey vendor or a tool like Syndio that helps employers better implement pay equity. Consulting data ensures fairness for all groups and embeds that fairness into all decisions and policies the company makes.
As we strive for a more pay-equitable world, HR professionals have a big responsibility as gatekeepers for prospective and current employees. For candidates, recruiters are often their first impression of a company and its compensation and benefits for their applied position. Recruiters, along with other HR staff, managers, and leaders, should be well versed in the company’s pay philosophy, pay practices, and equal pay commitment. Recruiters have a unique opportunity to educate candidates on pay and should keep in mind that new hire equity awards and other benefits are often game-changers for candidates. Recognizing that the onus for pay equity is on HR leaders and HR professionals, as well as leaders and managers, it is up to all of us to ensure we are responsibly practicing equal and fair pay for all.
A 20-year tech industry veteran, Sharawn Tipton is Chief People Officer at LiveRamp, a data enablement platform, where she spearheads the global people and culture strategy in support of the company’s continued growth. She is responsible for global talent acquisition; diversity, inclusion, and belonging; workplace experience; business partners; talent enablement; total rewards; benefits; HR technology; real estate; and people operations.
When Tipton moved into HR earlier in her career, she discovered she didn’t understand all the levers of pay and quickly learned she was leaving money on the table. Like many black women, who are typically paid 64 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, she discovered she was being severely undervalued. This personal, lived experience informs and fuels her passion for ensuring all are paid their worth—both for the greater good of society and as a wealth driver. This passion has driven her work to achieve global pay equity for underrepresented groups in Micron Technology and her advocacy for pay equity with VC audiences. Tipton is also board chair for Fair Pay Workplace, a purpose-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to pay equity, where she works diligently alongside like-minded industry leaders from brands such as workplace equity platform Syndio, in which NBA star Steph Curry is a major investor.