Gender Equality and Pay
As an HR guy, I hear a lot about gender equality/inequality and pay. Fair warning: This post isn’t going to be politically correct. If you are not able to handle season 4 of the TV series Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, better move along cuz’ it may get ugly.
I do understand diversity issues. There are demographics of employees out there that are not getting paid their worth. I completely agree with this. There are demographics of employees who are overpaid and it isn’t always fair. There are mainstream employees who are underpaid and believe it or not, there are individuals belonging to culturally diverse groups that are overpaid.
When I hear someone talk about a specific demographic being treated differently on topics of pay, opportunity, promotions, or a specific demographic in leadership, I tend to get a little bitchy. Today is one of dem’ days people.
It’s not always the company’s fault. I think the employees can do better. I belong to two specific demographics and depending on my mood and sense of fashion on any given day, am placed in a third and am flattered for it. I am a minority and over 40 years of age. I work for a company that requires a minority be interviewed for any position of leadership and I work in HR. I don’t think I would have made it to where I am if I didn’t have some awareness on this topic.
I didn’t sleep my way to the top
Let me be the first to say, I do not want a job, raise or an opportunity because I belong to a specific demographic / minority group. I do not want my salary to be increased because I am a minority. I want to land a salary adjustment, title, opportunity or promotion because of my skills and thought leadership, not because of favoritism. The last thing I want is to have the mainstream whispering amongst themselves and thinking that I slept my way to the top off my model good looks.
HR is conditioned to be sensitive to this topic. I think the sensitivity can hurt careers and I want to make sure that the diverse groups and genders are not making the same mistake. If HR folks are reinforcing the notion that different groups are being underpaid or missing opportunities, I believe we are pushing the wrong message.
It is easy for HR to say
- We don’t have enough minorities in leadership positions.
- Women are not receiving similar pay for similar work as compared to their male colleagues.
- We don’t hire enough veterans.
Yes, if the company wants to retain specific groups of employees, it won’t hurt to make adjustments to the process. If there are not enough minorities in leadership positions, recruiting at minority career fairs is a good start.
That being said, as a minority I CANNOT rely on or blame the company for not giving me the opportunity. I need to figure out a way to get that opportunity and in a lot of instances, it is our approach or lack thereof. I need to break the “approach” code.
Have you asked? Your manager is not a mind reader
If ANYONE wants access to training, salary, opportunities or promotions, first and foremost, they need to let the manager know what they want. There are employees from all backgrounds that do not ask for what they want and are waiting for a tap on the shoulder that will probably never come.
I can not assume that my hard work and good results will be enough to get me noticed.
I can not complain when someone who isn’t performing at my level, asks for (aka: shows interest) and receives the opportunity.
I come from an ethnic group that has a reputation for being the “Quiet American”. Stereotypically, this group is reserved, stoic, will not ask for anything, and avoids conflict. I blogged about the best advice I ever received in my entire career here: Best Career Advice. The advice I was given was to take the initiative to speak up and went against every cultural value with which I was raised. I was underpaid and not receiving the opportunity, but I wasn’t asking for it either. It wasn’t all the company’s fault. I wasn’t fluent in the corporate speak and in their eyes, I wasn’t showing any interest. Now I speak the corporate language and my career is moving.
I don’t think HR should go to our CEO and say
- “The company is not paying our women enough, we need to revisit their pay.”
- “The company doesn’t have enough minorities in leadership, we need to start promoting minorities.”
I appreciate the intent of the above statements but I don’t think we are doing anyone in these groups any favors. The above actions may address the gender equality problem but we are not fixing the root cause.
I would prefer HR provide insight and coaching directly to all employees as to what it will take to be tapped for additional opportunities. Instead of reinforcing the notion that “This company doesn’t pay group X equally”, I believe we should coach employees and provide them the tools so they can stand up on their own. If the company changes behavior and adapts to the employee, then the employee won’t learn or become better.
I believe HR could:
- Train employees on when and how to show initiative and speak up for new opportunities.
- Do great work and ask for more on the heels of the completed project. Don’t ask, don’t get.
- Coach the fact that it is not only OK to share great results, it helps the company. There is a difference between being a braggart and sharing results for the benefit of the company. Market your brand. Don’t share, don’t get.
- Work with employees to be specific about what they say when it comes to pay, opportunities, etc. You would be shocked how many times an employee THINKS they are asking for something and the manager did not get the message, for example:
- Manager: How much are you looking for?
- Employee: I am looking for something between $50K and $60K.
- The employee thinks he said $60K, the manager heard $50K. DOH!
- Gotta ask more than once. Managers need reminders too.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
Let’s say I recruited 14 employees last quarter, and this was an all-time high for our recruiting team. Some culturally diverse groups may be uncomfortable sharing this information because they think it will come across as being a braggadocio. I know that 20 years ago, I would have been happy with my accomplishment and probably would not even be shared this celebratory moment with Mrs. Nasty. If someone were to ask me about my best month hiring 20 years ago, I would have replied, “I got lucky and hired a few folks” and left it at that. This statement is NOT going to move my career anywhere and for the record, there are a lot of 6 foot 2 males weighing 170 pounds wearing a size 42R jacket that remain quiet and unnoticed. Not saying you need to be an ass about it, I’m just sayin’.
If I were to enter a room and yell, “Hey bitches, I just put 14 butts in seats last quarter, WTF did you do?” Add a dope slap to one recruiter on the back of the head and flick another with my forefinger and thumb like they were a discarded booger, and we just checked the Asshole box. But when the project comes up that needs a recruiting animal, guess who will get tapped on the shoulder. That’s right bitches, me the booger flicker.
Below is a marketing message with annotations on how I could talk about 14 hires and setting a personal best. The tone and cadence would sound like me sharing my accomplishment with a good friend over a beer and not a chest-thumping douche. If we were to say:
(1) I am proud of my results from last quarter. I hit a personal best with 14 hires and we were able to accelerate the timeline put in place by the Program Managers by 1 month with the additional resources. (2) I tried a couple of different passive recruiting tactics and (3) happy to share them with the recruiters in the Western Region. I can give them a contact at LinkedIn so they can have access to the same algorithms we are using. (4) It really was a team effort and the Dev team totally stepped-up to the plate. We ran a lot more candidates through interview loops and I know they had packed delivery schedules so I really appreciate their effort. (5) We wouldn’t have gotten the hires without them.
- Explains our accomplishment with pride and without arrogance. We are also tying a business need to our accomplishment.
- Markets ourselves as someone who is willing to try something different.
- Markets ourselves as a team player.
- Markets ourselves as a team player.
- Demonstrates we know how to spread the wealth, cuz’ that’s how we roll.
I could have said the above with only 5 hires notched on my belt and would have made a great impression. I would have marketed myself more effectively and at the same time sounded like a team player.
If you belong to the demographic that you feel is not being treated fairly, don’t just look to the company to do the right thing. It is our career and ultimately our own responsibility. We need to figure out how to work within the system. The system may or may not be a fair one, but remember this:
Managers are not mind readers
Life isn’t fair, even the odds
Look for these opportunities by making a conscious effort to market your brand, your skills and speaking up for what you want in a corporate-friendly way. I coach folks from all backgrounds and demographics. I can honestly say that when employees put in the work and speak up, “they get”. Life isn’t always fair and when it isn’t we can’t just give up and blame the system.
See you at the after party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
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