Glassdoor’s Gender Pay Gap Revolution – and the Woman Behind It
Glassdoor’s Chief Pay Equality Advocate Dawn Lyon

Glassdoor's Gender Pay Gap Revolution – and the Woman Behind It

Dawn Lyon is a woman on a mission.

As Glassdoor’s Chief Pay Equality Advocate, there isn’t a conversation about the wage gap or pay equity that she isn’t a part of. Why? The complex relationship between the gender pay gap, salary negotiation, and advocacy are very close to her heart, and her mind. For Lyon, it’s not just about the frustrating feeling that women are paid 76 cents to the dollar a white male earns. It’s about the data — the hard facts and figure that make the wage gap a stubborn reality for women in the American workforce. So while her primary role at Glassdoor is as VP of Corporate Affairs, Lyon is always strategizing ways for both employers to pay equitably and for employees or job seekers to advocate for themselves when it comes to compensation.

Here is the data. According to Glassdoor research, men earn 24.1 percent higher base pay than women on average. In other words, women earn about 76 cents per dollar men earn. However, comparing workers with the same job title, employer and location, the gender pay gap in the U.S. falls to 5.4 percent (94.6 cents per dollar). 5.4 percent is still a significant gap.

Amidst a busy day at Glassdoor, I caught up with Lyon for a candid conversation about her passion for pay equality, her own experiences of being underpaid, and what advice she has for women and men to get paid fairly.

Amy Elisa Jackson: At Glassdoor, not only do you head up the Corporate Affairs team and the Women’s Group, but you are also one of the biggest champions for equal pay. How and when did pay equality become a cause for you?

Dawn Lyon: My passion for equal pay started long before Glassdoor was ever conceived. I learned very early in my career that there is an empowerment that comes from advocating for yourself. I never knew you could negotiate your salary. When I first began my career, I thought you got an offer and you had to decide if you accepted it. However, a man early in my career, who I consider a mentor, was pretty direct with me by saying “Negotiate. You never take the first offer because no one is expecting you to. You should always ask for more.”

It took time to internalize what he was saying and understand it, but I learned in very specific circumstances along my journey that you have to be your own advocate. You can have a great boss, but if you’re not advocating for yourself, then what you may get is the status quo. Whether you are applying for a job, and ultimately negotiating for that job, or pushing for a raise, you have power. In many ways, we still have to teach people, particularly women, that they need to unleash that power within because it’s not taught in school.

Amy Elisa Jackson: In some ways, that’s what you do at Glassdoor — teach people to unleash that power.

Dawn Lyon: I feel fortunate to be able to align my personal beliefs with work.  It’s my team that analyzes our data and releases it to the world. This affords us incredible opportunity to provide data and resources to both the job seeker and the employer. We’ve been collecting salary data for almost nine years now and have the ability to analyze across industries and occupations.  And with data and insights, we can provide tips and resources to both employees and employers on ways to help address pay disparities. We believe people should be paid equitably for equal work and experience.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Many states like Massachusetts and New York have made it illegal for companies to ask candidates for their compensation history — is that the solution?

Dawn Lyon: Whether legislated or not there is a trend to move away from asking applicants about prior pay history because it creates gender bias even if unintended. We advocate paying market rates of a role, regardless what the candidate may have made previously. Many companies have bands or ranges they will pay, based on experience. That means companies should set compensation based on the role, the skill set, and the level of expectation that you have versus prior pay history. And job seekers need to know that according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) you are not legally compelled to answer questions like “what are currently making?” or “What were you paid in your previous role?” If the employer is progressive and enlightened, the conversation should really be about the expectations and market-based compensation for that role. If companies are still preparing offers based on the previous compensation of the person coming in, they are perpetuating the problem. If you’re asked, you don’t have to answer. Simply say, “That is not something that I’d like to focus on. I would really like to focus more on this particular role and what you believe the value is.”

Amy Elisa Jackson: In the 18 months since Glassdoor released the study “Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap,” what has the company done to address these issues internally?

Dawn Lyon: We have made a commitment that on an annual basis we will release our gender pay analysis. We look at base pay and bonuses semi-annually to assure that there is no bias creeping in some ways.

We are certainly conscious of how we write job descriptions, assemble interview panels, and compensate employees fairly instead of just rewarding those who are bold enough to negotiate. We’re going through a complete review of our compensation practices overall and looking at positions across the company, in our six different locations. It’s an ongoing commitment. You need to analyze over time.

Amy Elisa Jackson: The steady drumbeat of encouragement, mentorship, and examples is key to impacting women’s confidence in the workplace.

Dawn Lyon: One of the things that has also been so inspiring and encouraging for me at Glassdoor is that this work — helping employers with their compensation practices, developing product tools to help job seekers, and starting the women’s group here at Glassdoor — has been embraced by the men in our company. I can’t tell you how many notes I’ve received from my male coworkers saying how proud they are that Glassdoor was in front of the wage gap issue. They a proud to be championing equality alongside us. It completely negates the idea that men are somehow out to get women in the workplace, and that they don’t believe in equal pay. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They are sons, fathers, brothers, husbands – they get it.

Amy Elisa Jackson: And, finally, is there a way companies can demonstrate to employees that they are committed to equal pay? How do employees know if their employers are committed to equal pay for equal work?

Dawn Lyon: Employees should ask their employers about where they stand. Over the last couple of years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the attention paid to and the chatter around equal pay by employers. Salesforce is a perfect example of a company who found a gap in their wages, and they have now closed it.

We’ve had over 3,100 employers take the pay equality pledge on Glassdoor. While we do not audit the list, we give employers a platform to show what it is that they stand for and so they can showcase that to their employees and candidates. If your employer won’t answer, I’d ask why not? Our survey data shows men and women do not want to work for a company with a pay gap.

This article originally appeared on the Glassdoor Blog.