Tips on How to Approach Suspected Pay Inequity
Glassdoor’s recent analysis on the gender pay gap in the engineering sector raises important questions that should be answered by both employers and employees. As Glassdoor pointed out, the data doesn’t give a tremendous amount of insight into elements that may be behind the numbers – like someone’s performance reviews or special skills – but it does provide helpful inputs to gather information and foster more meaningful conversations between talent/employees and employers.
(Since the equal pay act was passed, this is specifically important to women) If you are in the engineering field or suspect you may be paid less than your peers, you have every right to ask the “why” questions and make an inquiry of your supervisor/manager. As someone who has sat on the employer side for many years, I can tell you that many things like performance ratings, practical experience or skill set, seniority and even something like location, will often affect overall compensation packages. And most of these are invisible to anyone other than the manager, HR and the specific employee. The challenge is to wade through what’s performance, skill-related or retention-based inequities versus the things outside of an employee’s control. For example, Lilly Ledbetter was doing the same work at Goodyear as people who were hired later at higher wages yet for some reason her pay was never adjusted to current market. Unfortunately, she only discovered she was grossly underpaid as she neared retirement. The Lilly Ledbetter Act signed by President Obama offers people like Lilly remedy if they do discover the inequity but that is where the Act stops. There’s not much that addresses how to help that discovery – which is hard – especially in today’s market where having a job, regardless of the pay may be more important.
That said, what I love about being involved with Glassdoor is that they are trying to change the “in the dark” feeling that employees may feel on any number of workplace issues and bring more transparency to the workplace to ready people with more information to help them have needed conversations and help make the critical choices about their career. I have long believed more transparency in workplaces is better for everyone; employees – and employers. So, if you think you may have a pay-gap issue, here are some smart steps to approach the topic with your employer:
1. Do your homework to ensure that you have real and credible data first
Use Glassdoor and other sites to gauge your pay relative to other jobs at your company, and in the market, and print out examples for your discussion. Keep in mind, there may be things behind the numbers that are not presented in the raw data, but account for the disparity — that’s the important part about having a conversation.
2. Be sure that you aren’t coming across as advocating without good reason
Evaluate if the disparity in compensation is specific just to you or to a broader group. Identify what occurrences throughout your career may have influenced how and when you received pay raises. For example: Does your company conduct annual pay raises? How have you met, exceeded or fell short of the annual goals that were given to you? Have you taken time off work for an extended period of time? How does your experience compare to other individuals of the same gender who have currently or previously had your position?
If after careful thought, you still think you are still underpaid, remember that this could be something happening companywide and you may have an opportunity to help more people than just yourself. What you don’t want to do is force the win of a battle, to just lose the war. Think about it. You will know what is right to push for now and what to wait on for later.
3. Seek trusted advice
If you are female, seek out the most senior female influential executive (who is not your boss) and ask for her advice on how to broach the subject with your manager and/or HR. Take their advice. The same can be said if you are not a female. Having other senior influencers in the company who can help support the inequity, can only be a help to you.
4. Be patient
Recognize that almost all companies are dealing with numerous issues right now just trying to stay above water while also trying to figure out the implications of the Ledbetter Act. There is also the likelihood that the high volume of layoffs could be creating unintended pay gaps that will need to be remedied over time. I guarantee most employers are trying to keep people employed first and address pay inequity second. So, be patient and understand that this won’t change overnight. It doesn’t mean that you should forget the issue, but the more you can be seen as helping be a part of the solution versus a part of the problem, then the more listening time you will get.
I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who thinks this is an issue and how you’re addressing it.