Taking a ‘Lean In’ View of Compensation for Women

In her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg makes a strong case for how women miss opportunities for advancement when they “lean out” — when they fail to take advantage of opportunities early on in their careers.

It’s a perspective that bears serious consideration by anyone responsible for compensation

The argument is especially intriguing for those involved in compensation management in light of recent studies that do in fact conclude that most of the male-female pay gap results from the career decisions women make rather than compensation policies.

Common wisdom and current federal reports put the pay gap between the sexes at 18 to 23 cents per dollar (women, on average, earn between 77 and 82 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job). However, as reported in an extensive and well-researched article in the March issue of Time magazine, an estimated two-thirds of the supposed pay gap can be attributed “not to institutional discrimination, but to choices that women make.” This report and others like it bolster Sandberg’s argument.

So, what can compensation management do if the choices women make are more important in closing the pay gap than company policies are? Here are six points to consider:

1. Understand the huge role that compensation management and performance-development strategies can play in creating and promoting career choices throughout your organization.

2. Be sure your pay grades are accurately tied to straightforward, up-to-date job descriptions or salary ranges, and that they’re completely gender-neutral.

3. Actively differentiate your high performers from your high-potential employees and provide the right development strategies for each group throughout your enterprise.

4. Employ 360 degree feedback that truly captures a full and accurate view of each employee’s performance and reviewers, and that gives insight into possibilities for career development.

5. Be sure you link compensation with performance across the board to motivate and reward the most successful behaviors.

6. Integrate your learning programs into your development plans — and tie them to compensation incentives and rewards — to be gender-inclusive as you reduce the chance of skills gaps and knowledge drain.

If you want to continue to develop and retain all of your best employees, it’s crucial that you combine the hard-core data and statistics of compensation management with the attitudes and beliefs that drive the choices women make about their careers.