There has been a tremendous level of coverage on treatment of women within certain industries. And it’s not good. So much is coming to light of just how poorly woman are treated in the workplace. At the end of the day there are no easy solutions to all these issues. While I rarely ever do so, I would like to share my point of view, specifically on compensation for women in tech. Why are women engineers paid less than men? And what can we do?
As demonstrated by news coverage there are companies in Tech ranging from large to small that consistently pay women less than their male counterparts. Often to do the exact same job with the same expectations. My opinion of what is the root cause goes to each and all of our upbringing. As a child I can remember the underlying peer pressure to not be beaten by a girl in sports, to be smarter than the girls in the classroom. This is wrong on so many levels. We all have strengths and weaknesses. The strongest teams highlight individual strengths with those around you having complementary skills and strengths. When boys become men that buried mindset of “not being beaten” by a girl creates a bad dynamic for hiring. Thus it is a hidden, unacknowledged drag on fair pay.
I’ve been in recruiting for 17 years. Reflecting on the topic, here is what each and every man needs to ask himself when he is a part of a hiring process with women candidates who would be a peer: If she was my mother, sister, wife, or daughter, would I want to have to tell her “your work is worth only 70% of my effort, just because you are female.” How would that conversation go? No too well, right? If you sponsor this mindset by downgrading a woman’s skills because deep-down you are threatened, you just made that statement. If you okayed hiring a man for your team simply because you didn’t like the idea of a woman engineer being part of your “club,” you just insulted your mother, sister, wife, or daughter. And you held down your own team’s ability to be successful.
There is another part of this issue that should be acknowledged: If you are a recruiter who doesn’t ensure fair hiring and fair compensation, you are just as much a part of the issue. So how can you make your role count? A big factor is how you oversee your hiring teams’ process. Steps that are not locked down and consistent create opportunities for interviewers’ biases to have an impact. To ensure fairness, coding tools that use the same technical question for all candidates can help ensure a fair and level assessment. Make sure to have conversations early and often with hiring managers on the process to make sure in-person interviews are consistent with assigned competencies and structure on questions and process. Doing so will not only yield better hiring results for your company, but you’ll also create a better interview experience for your candidates. That alone can pay benefits for your company brand.
If the interview of your female candidate results in an offer, you are halfway to the goal. But there are still potential issues to keep in mind. Number one, if the offer is given to a woman that is less than average pay for the role, you essentially stacked the deck against her. Even worse yet, if the low pay is justified with BS reasons. She may never get up to average. And you, as the recruiter, enabled this bad decision. Start addressing this at the beginning of the process. If a female candidate has low expectations, be transparent (to a degree) of what she should expect. And then don’t hamper her ability to earn what she’s qualified for by sharing that she’ll take less. Long-term, the benefits to fair comp come to fruition when she is promoted. HR will not be faced with a massive compression issue that they are restricted from addressing. You’ll also help protect your diverse workforce since her fair compensation will help her be happy long-term with her role.
No doubt that this is a complex issue and one that is not easily resolved. Unless a company is willing to take the financial hit that can come with adjusting each women’s comp to what’s average for her job, the fix potentially takes years. But why wait? Instead, please stop and ask yourself, do I want to tell my mother, sister, wife, or daughter, that her effort is worth only 70% of a man’s pay rate, just because? I for one do not. So as recruiters let’s all do our share. Help, don’t hinder. Protect your hiring teams from themselves. And in doing so we can all together play a small part in fixing the problem.