Jesse Bridges, Elizabeth Bille, and Pamela DeLoatch

Let’s be honest.  Achieving pay equity has been a persistent challenge, whether gaps in compensation are based on gender, race/ethnicity, age, disability status, or any other demographic or is compounded by an intersection of identities.  As organizations started keeping track of pay gaps, disparities–and the difficulty correcting them–have truly come to light.  

Unequal pay in the workplace disparities are difficult to truly address because of the myriad of contributing factors that ultimately impact an employee’s paycheck. As we have previously written, an approach that only focuses on pay won’t solve the underlying issues and almost guarantees that the reconciliation process won’t be sustained.  To address some of the root causes of pay disparities, you need to review and evaluate critical talent acquisition and management policies and processes that influence pay.  

Are you interested in diving deeper into pay equity?  Check out the other blogs in the series:

  1. Why the Pay Equity Issue, Isn’t Really About Pay
  2. Pay Equity and Equal Opportunity
  3. Pay Audits

How to make sure your talent acquisition process supports pay equity

Even before a company makes an offer to a candidate, the recruiting and interviewing process can impact pay.  Below are key proactive tactics to ensure your recruiting and hiring processes support equitable pay:

Prevent Unequal Pay When Recruiting 

1. Prior to posting a position, review job description requirements to ensure you aren’t creating unnecessary barriers or dissuading qualified candidates.  Consider the skills and experiences that are necessary to meet the core competencies of the position. What has to be present upon hiring? What can be learned on the job or with training? Think carefully about whether a position truly needs a person with a four-year degree. An unnecessary requirement can keep qualified applicants, such as those with associate’s degrees, or those who have switched careers or are returning to the workforce, out of your candidate pool. Instead, consider providing an option in the job descriptions, as in a degree OR an equivalent number of years of experience/skills.

2. Also, audit the language in job descriptions to make sure it isn’t biased and unintentionally dissuading applicants from underrepresented or excluded populations. Asking for a “digital native” implies the desired age range, versus asking for digital proficiency, which is the actual need. Male-biased keywords, such as “competitive” and “assertive” may attract fewer women. More neutral phrases like “motivated by high goals” and “go-getters” attract more prospects.

3. Develop an outbound recruiting plan for all levels, including senior roles, that sources widely from diverse pools and is signed off by executive leadership (CHRO, CEO, etc.). This creates a greater level of transparency and accountability in the process and ensures leadership engagement inequitable recruiting practices. Have the hiring manager work collaboratively with the recruiter to agree to seek a diverse candidate slate (with diversity determined by business line needs) before making a hiring decision.

How Can You Support Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Today’s Workplace?

This guidebook provides discussion resources and exercises to help you promote a culture of respect and inclusion in the modern workplace.

Avoid Promoting Unequal Pay When Interviewing: 

1. Create a standardized interview experience for all candidates. A standardized interview experience makes it easier to compare candidates in an “apples to apples” way. When a candidate is an employee referral, that rigor can become overlooked, and the organization can get filled with “like” people.

2. Avoid salary history questions to mitigate the effect that previous pay disparities could have on future pay decisions.  This is one reason some state and local laws now prohibit these inquiries. Salary history questions may prompt employers to disqualify candidates prematurely based on a high rate of previous pay, when there may be many reasons why someone might want a lower-paying job (better work-life fit, new career area, etc.). Employers may also use previous salary history as a basis for the new compensation offer, rather than using the value of the job. This underpays the person for the work they’re doing and leads to inequities down the road with others in the same role that will need to be fixed. Additionally, research shows that some underrepresented groups are less likely to negotiate salaries during the hiring process, which will lead to the continuation of depressed wages.

3. Create a diverse panel of interviewers. Without active unconscious bias mitigation, we are inclined to hire for likeness. Having a diversity of perspectives, viewpoints, experiences, and positions within the organization as a part of the interviewer panel can help mitigate biases in the process. The double line benefit of having a diversity of interviewers is that today’s candidates, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, are evaluating companies on their DEI commitments which is, in part, assessed by their interview experience.

4. Consider using a blind hiring process. Although there has been some debate over this strategy, it can help eliminate bias that may occur unconsciously by taking out characteristics on a resume (such as the person’s name or name of school) that are not relevant to the job or necessary experiences.

5. Provide education and training on how biases influence critical talent acquisition and management decisions that lead to disparities in pay. Be aware of unconscious bias when reviewing resumes, interviewing, and conducting salary negotiations. Make sure gaps in work history for caregiving do not impact a hiring decision.

Connections to Your Diversity & Inclusion Efforts 

If the tactics listed here for encouraging pay equity sound like the same tactics used to increase diversity and inclusivity–they are. Without a large pool of diverse candidates coming through the recruiting system, companies can’t sustain and promote diverse groups of employees throughout all levels of their organizations (including into higher-paying leadership roles). Also, without combatting the biases and barriers that impact the initial compensation offer, pay inequities perpetuate. 

If you have a pay equity problem, work at the root of the issue and start by assessing your talent and acquisition process.  

Diversity & Inclusion Training

Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the modern workplace can be challenging. EVERFI presents unique experiences of real people to explore key concepts such as identity, power, privilege, and communication.