Addressing The Gender Pay Gap Head On

We (RedSofaBerlin) kicked off 2021 with our salary survey. A comprehensive overview of pay for employers & employees in the Berlin tech & creative scenes. Both find this benchmarking useful. It helps employers understand how fair/competitive their salaries are, & informs employees how their pay weighs up against the market.

Off the back of our salary survey I was lucky enough to be invited to the panel for Open Space UX’s first event — tackling pay gaps & equality in the Berlin tech scene. I’ve spoken with 1000’s people in the Berlin design scene over the years, thankfully the gender pay gap is something I’ve never had first hand experience dealing with. However it sadly remains a prominent factor in tech.

The discussion around salaries and equal pay has always been viewed as a touchy one, especially when held with your colleagues. During Open Space UX’s event we discussed many things, including how we can challenge the gender pay gap head on, & foster a culture of transparency around a traditionally awkward subject.

One of my key takeaways was this — yes it’s awkward, but the longer we ignore the elephant in the room, the bigger it grows. So let’s get awkward and address this and a few other things head on.

Publish salaries on job adverts. I include the salaries on every job advert I post. Most applicants thank me for this, and wish they’d see more organisations do the same. The phrase ‘competitive salaries’ raises suspicion.

I understand this may cause issues for some organisations, however transparency is key to tackling the gender pay gap head on. If this is going to create friction within an organisation, then it’s likely they have issues around this subject to address…so let’s tackle them!

I understand that due to varying levels of experience it’s feasible to have teammates share a title, but have different salaries. Accounting for this, when advertising salaries organisations could provide a gradient — ie €65,000 +/-10% based on experience. Seems feasible right?

If a company is uneasy about publishing salaries its highly likely there’s pay equality issues which need to be addressed.

Provide clear pay scales & employee growth plans. Most of the active candidates I speak with are seeking change because they’ve hit a glass ceiling and feel a lack of growth in both salary & responsibility.

I understand it’s hard for early stage startups & small companies to offer total clarity on these subjects. The solution, offer employees speculative growth plans & acknowledge these are frameworks that your organisation is committed to developing over time. This is infinitely better than just leaving people in the dark. Trust me on this one — employees will hang around when they have a vision of what their team, salary, and role is likely to look like in years to come.

Be transparent about your organisations diversity. Companies take pride in publishing their DNA ie — we are proud to be an organisation of 65 individuals from 48 different countries. However many companies are still a long way from achieving a genuinely diverse work force. Whilst this is not ideal, its okay — provided they are aware of the issues, have addressed them and made a pledge to change this.

Does anyone remember when KFC had to close most its UK restaurants because they ran out of chicken? Their response was hailed as a masterclass in crisis comms. We all make mistakes, just own them. I used to work with a chef, so efficient we nicknamed him ‘The Blade’. He once told me “Show me a chef who claims they don’t make mistakes, and I’ll show you a liar!” No person or organisation is perfect, but we’re all capable of change.

If there’s glaring issues within your organisations diversity, take ownership, admit it, set a plan to address it, then publish it and take action!

Be the change you want to see. I’m a white male, a neurologically diverse one, but a white male none the less. I understand me writing about diversity and inclusion may seem steeped in irony to some, but it’s something I’m passionate about. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can positively impact the diversity of the organisations I work with, so I do!

This is as much about convincing companies to invest in people who maybe ever so slightly under-qualified, but have undeniable passion and drive, as it is about communicating the real EVP of clients to candidates beyond salaries and breakfast bars. However as an external consultant there’s only so much I can do. You can take a horse to water…

I recently built the design team for a fin-tech product which utilises tech to democratise a very stuffy & traditionally elitist space. They are a well funded diverse company, with a progressive culture, and a great mission, plus they offer their employees generous salaries & stock options. Pretty neat right? Hardest. Sell. Ever. The reason — trying to convince potential candidates to actually scroll down the companies ‘who we are’ page on their website. Yes, the top row is 5 suited up white males…which I understand isn’t a great look…but sugar my tea and call me Brian, didn’t anybody ever tell you not to judge a book by its cover?

Be the change you want to see, if a company looks old fashioned, and non diverse then challenge this and make it a better place, because If we’re not willing to openly discuss and challenge things, they’re never going to change.

I will never understand what it’s like to be the only POC, female, LGBTQ person in a company or team. I understand writing about these things is way easier than actually challenging them in real life. The whole point of Open Space UX’s panel and subsequently this article is to encourage open discussion. Hopefully we’ve made a small step in the right direction to achieving that!

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Rory Colgan

I recruit Product Design for start-ups in Berlin and make tasty food.