Quoting the Time’s Up movement, “Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.”
Beginning with the first job where I was in responsible charge of others in the company, I wanted to come up with a method to assure the people I was managing were being paid fairly. I did this by listing everyone in the group and placed them in an order based on knowledge and experience from senior engineers right down to trainee draftspersons. Now, I did this based on my “best guess” at where each person fit on this list. It wasn’t done with lots of research and background checks for the skill levels, but it was “good enough” for what I was trying to do.
I don’t recall how I came up with the idea of categorizing employees in this manner, but it proved to be very helpful to me as I began to organize these individuals into groups, e.g., project managers, senior engineers. With my employees grouped in experience/skill orders, I went back and inserted the salary of each employee next to his or her name. The results varied from “right on” to “disappointing.” Out of a list of 30+ workers, I’d say 60% were in the correct position with the correct pay. There were several whom I considered to be significantly overpaid. Several more I estimated to be slightly overpaid, with others slightly underpaid.
Since there was no scientific reasoning to my assessment, I considered those slightly overpaid and slightly underpaid to all be within reason. The timing of my study fortunately was completed about three months in advance of a major downturn in the economy, so in time I resolved my problem with individuals being significantly overpaid. There was only one employee who was substantially underpaid, and she was the only woman in the HVAC department.
In fairness to the company, this young lady had joined the firm after graduating from an engineering college, but she applied for the only position available in this company at that time. That position was as a draftsperson, and she was paid accordingly. That said, it didn’t take long for the company to be using her as a design engineer and she welcomed the opportunity to advance, but her salary didn’t parallel her advancement. Based on my employee-position-salary chart, she was 50% underpaid for the work she performed. When I brought this to the company president, he agreed to make the salary adjustment but wanted to do it in two pay increases within a year. I understood his reasoning and the woman engineer and I agreed that was acceptable.
In the years to come and with each career move I made, I would take on management responsibility, and by the end of the first quarter I would pull out my best-guess employee-position-salary format. With each new assignment, I never found a male employee significantly underpaid, but I would always find the women underpaid to significantly underpaid.
When I would bring my results to the company owner(s), it was tough to dispute my findings. This business tool was also helpful when an employee would request to join my department and I would find the same results — e.g., a woman who was a graduate engineer, LEED certified, and a registered professional engineer had a salary a third less than her male employees with the same credentials. Agreeing on accepting an employee into my group, I would make sure the company knew I was only agreeing with the young lady making the change if the company agreed with my salary adjustment request for this new group member.
A side benefit of my employee-position-salary findings was that I’d share the individual’s information with the specific employee, and it opened up a conversation with him or her relative to job security if their salary was not in line with other workers. But more importantly, it opened a conversation on setting goals. It is important to note that I never found a male employee significantly underpaid, nor did I ever find a woman overpaid for the job. Maybe I should have titled my simple approach as the “Time’s Up” document because it identified a common problem.