Viral post shows who's to blame for pay inequity

The next time someone tells me women just need to be better negotiators if they want equal pay, I’m going to immediately send them this screenshot of a LinkedIn post that went viral over the weekend:

“I just offered a candidate $85,000 for a job that had a budget of $130K. I offered her that because that’s what she asked for and I personally don’t have the bandwidth to give lessons on salary negotiation.”

As a career coach who has made it my life’s work to help women build wealth, the post by a recruiter for Honeywell — a Fortune 500 company — sent my blood boiling. (She later removed the post and apologized via Twitter.)

From recruiters to hiring managers and all the way up the ladder to the C-suite, the people in power have to care about salary equality or else we’ll never see the end of the gender and racial wage gap. We have got to stop putting the onus on job candidates to “know their worth” and “ask for more” at the bargaining table.

A screenshot of the LinkedIn post made by Mercedes Johnson before she deleted it.
A screenshot of the LinkedIn post made by the Honeywell recruiter before she deleted it.

Recruiters like this one and the companies that hire them are the ones with all the information and all of the power, so why do we still expect workers to read their minds just to get paid a reasonable salary?

As a senior director at a financial services firm for nearly five years, I hired dozens of employees and went through many salary negotiations.

I saw a senior leader once shrug when I pointed out a glaring pay gap between two workers in the same role. One worker, a white woman, was earning $15,000 more than her peer, a Black woman who had been hired several months later.

“Well, she had a chance to negotiate and she didn’t,” he said.

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative)

I pointed out the fact that the first woman who was paid more didn’t negotiate, either. She received a higher salary because, at the time, our budget for the role was higher. Since that time, we’d been acquired by a new company and a new finance team had designated a lower salary range for the role.

I felt that it was our fault she was underpaid and, as a result, our responsibility to fix it.

As a Black woman myself, I felt even more pressure to close the gap. I went over that senior leader’s head and submitted a request for a compensation adjustment myself. Fortunately, it was granted, but the fact that a Black woman on my team was paid less than a white woman for so long still haunts me. Had I shared this Honeywell recruiter's attitude about compensation, she might still be underpaid years later.

Rather than close out this article with a list of tips for job candidates on how to make sure they’re compensated fairly, let me instead address the people who actually have the power to make sure workers are paid fairly. Business leaders, take notes.

Woman in an interview
"From recruiters to hiring managers and all the way up the ladder to the C-suite, the people in power have to care about salary equality or else we’ll never see the end of the gender and racial wage gap," writes Woodruff-Santos. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Create a compensation review board/committee

Task this group with reviewing compensation across the entire company and identifying unusual disparities. Give them the power to address issues and close gaps.

Publish salary ranges for open roles

Instead of requiring job candidates to guess what a role is worth, publish a range on the job listing itself so they know when they apply. Fortunately, this is now the law in several states, including California, Colorado, and New York.

Regularly review compensation across roles to keep up with market rates

And make compensation adjustments to workers’ salaries when their market value rises.

Empower managers to recommend pay adjustments when they spot inequities

I give a lot of credit to my company for having a process through which I was able to submit my request for a salary adjustment for my underpaid staffer. Still, I know that it can be incredibly intimidating for many managers to speak up and voice concerns, even if there is such a process. Companies should train management on how to advocate for their workers and what to do if they spot any issues that need to be addressed.

Make sure annual reviews are peer-reviewed

I loved the process at one of my former employers where managers had to meet with a group of 2-3 senior leaders and a member of human resources to explain why they were requesting promotions, bonuses, and pay increases for their team. It forced managers to justify those requests and gave other colleagues a chance to compare notes and share their thoughts.

Mandi Woodruff is an inclusive wealth-building and career expert, cohost of the Brown Ambition Podcast and founder of the MandiMoney Makers community.

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