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Systemic Pay Inequity is MUCH More Than “Just” a Compensation Problem

Thomas J. Carnahan, PhD

Is a cultural shift coming?

After living in Southeast Asia for the past two years, I have come to a major conclusion – the whole world suffers from two plagues that should have been eradicated centuries ago. The United States is not unique in the social issues it faces.. It’s easy to claim that there are “American” problems given our history of slowly pushing forward with social justice paradigms.

First and foremost, no one in this world is better than anyone else. There is no inherent difference that makes anyone better because of their gender, race, national origin, sexual preference, gender identification, socioeconomic status, etc... It’s not the fear of the unknown or lack of understanding that causes adverse decisions to be made against groups of people, it’s a belief that people like me are superior. And once again, we find ourselves in the battle between facts (there are NO DIFFERENCES between people) and feelings/beliefs.

“The good thing about science, is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” my hero, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, often says. Facts have no emotional argument. They are correct or they are not correct. Let’s talk about issues and stop talking about how we feel about them.

Secondly, organizations get blamed and fined for things that are WAY beyond their control. Biases in education systems and the way parents raise boys and girls differently through stereotypes and gender norms, greatly impact how a person thinks and treats people as an adult. Over time, the behavior ingrained by being told what’s expected of whites or blacks or hispanics or male/female makes its way into creating company policies and procedures. All of these documents that will greatly impact everyone who has contact with this organization are being written and set up by people who think and do things a certain way. Therefore, their policies, procedures and processes are set up for them and people like them to be successful. But maybe not others.

Before an employee gets to you, do they have self-worth? Do they have critical thinking skills and the ability to do research? Were they raised to trust people in power have their best interests in mind or that people in power must be feared, followed without question, and shown respect to avoid getting shot? Were they taught how to properly negotiate? There are major racial and gender differences in what is taught on how to look for, land, and maintain employment.

Other than your compensation plan and policy, how much does pay equity enter your mind when designing, implementing and performing activities such as recruitment, hiring, performance appraisals, training, learning/development programs, promotions, selecting benefits, creating reward/recognition programs, etc...My guess is that it only does as a “how will this change affect our pay gap?” instead of as a driver for positive change.

The USA isn’t alone it its struggle to finally see all people as humans instead of judging their worth based upon characteristics that make us feel better about ourselves. Join us in pushing forward the belief that to truly do the right thing in our society, we need to work towards progress instead of just hoping it happens. Don’t wait until you HAVE to do something, contact us to get your compensation and HR programs on the right track because it’s the RIGHT thing to do.

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