PAY UP! and Beware of Easy Fixes to Pay Gaps

Pickit-809918b8-816e-4180-b2c8-3244753ddc89I’ve been quiet for awhile.  While I’ve been quiet, I’ve been working on a book, Pay Up!:  Fifteen Questions to End Systemic Biases in Compensation.  It’s designed to give managers the ability to take care of their direct reports by eliminating or countering the biased best practices in the hiring, promotion, and compensation processes that, similar to salary history questions, make it impossible for certain groups of people to be paid on par with the unbiased standard, the white man.

But Bloomberg Equality: One Easy Way to Close the Gender Pay Gap was forwarded to me yesterday, and lit a fire under me but not in a good way.  I am all for fixes.  The easier the better.  I’m even all for trying something and adjusting as you discover potential problems.  The article and research highlight the “success” of one online recruitment platform’s,, attempt to fix the gender pay gap.  According to’s website 10,000 employers use it. Professionally, I find the solution creates a new variation of the systemic bias in questions of desired pay but does not close the gap. solution is to prefill the answer with the median pay of everyone for candidates to adjust or leave as is.  Problems with that solution include:

  • Are you really asking a question when you already provide the answer?
  • Median pay is a meaningless number although we have come to use the number as a gold standard. Closing the gap means women earn what men earn. The median pay of everyone is lower than the median pay of men so that won’t help women earn what men earn.
  • Some men are responding with lower desired pay than before the desired salary was prefilled. Maybe that’s the whole point of this exercise.  Don’t bring women up but bring men down.  Feminists, advocates and professionals are not trying to accomplish that.  Though this specific action might not be illegal, it’s walking a fine line. In my beloved home state of Massachusetts, lowering anyone’s compensation to achieve equity is illegal.
  • If the employer is willing to provide median pay, why not be willing to provide the job’s salary range in the job posting? Posting the job’s pay would accomplish the same goal of empowering the applicants with knowledge but would give them a full picture.

Ending systemic bias is not easy.  While I applaud the intention of and the willingness to try things, I will do everything in my power to ensure the practice ends. To that end, I’ve got fifteen questions with solutions to help you do it. These questions should avoid such missteps as the one has engaged in.  Get on the Pay Up! waitlist to hear the latest news on Pay Up! progress, publication, programming and media coverage on systemic bias and pay gaps