15 Mar Assessing Gender Wage Gaps
Big news! Google is paying its female employees more than its male employees – or at least, that’s what all the headlines read. To some extent, this claim seems to be true; women were paid more than men for the same position, and so Google paid out extra cash to the men who were underpaid. These payment inventories are particularly complex, because there’s so much to consider: should everyone in the same position be paid the same? What about bonuses? Incentives for good work? Should two people in the same position, one of whom is widely considered a better employee, be paid the same amount?
The answers to these questions are unclear, and might vary from organization to organization. How we incentivize work is instrumental to the culture of our businesses; you can read more on this idea in one of the previous blog posts, but the short version is that intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic, so it might be best to pay everyone in a given position the same amount, though end of year bonuses can be a nice way of recognizing work.
When you do offer such bonuses, though, it’s worth considering whether or not the appearance and mannerisms of a person are factoring into the bonus more than their work. When you analyze who is getting paid more, do you factor in the implicit bias that plays into how much of a bonus gets paid? Is it even possible to do such a thing? And what about when you’re hiring people for a given position; how much do inborn gender and racial biases affect how able your potential employee seems to you?
All of us would like to answer that these implicit biases don’t affect us; that we judge a person entirely based on the content of their character, and not by any gendered or racialized metrics. In an ideal world, that might be possible, but in a world where systemic prejudice is a daily reality, the whole thing can seem absolutely daunting. We might not ever be able to be certain we are acting without prejudice, without bias.
Here’s where hiring a woman in business speaker can come in handy; human being operate, largely, on narrative, even subconscious narrative. This means that every new experience we have is registered, somewhere in the subconscious, and we judge later experiences based on this collection of memories, without even realizing it. When someone speaks to your organization about the power of women, about their own personal successes, about the trials and tribulations they had to overcome, this becomes a part of your learned experience. That reduces your overall bias, even without you realizing it, which can lead to more fairness in the workplace. More fairness means more success for more types of people, which in turn leads to less bias; it’s a positive feedback loop. Expose yourself to new and unusual experiences so that you might better understand them.