With every decision that we make, we have an opportunity to be intentional about creating equity for ourselves and for others. What role do you play in co-creating an ecosystem of accountability that promotes fairness and levels the playing field for the people around you? Are you achieving your goals?
These are important questions we all need to ask ourselves—whether you’re leading an entire organization, managing a small team, or simply working side by side with others.
“We’re all accountable to creating and sustaining equity within our organizations. And when you do it together, you’re going to get further,” says Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG.
Wadors recently joined Brian K. Reaves, UKG chief belonging, diversity, and equity officer, and Lauren Lopez, newly hired chief people and culture officer for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), for a live discussion about creating an ‘ecosystem of equity’ [LinkedIn Live replay].
Game Changer: Achieving Equity at Work
“This is a really important topic,” says Wadors. Global efforts to raise awareness about the pay gap and other disparities between men and women at work seem to be getting us nowhere fast. Research from the World Economic Forum shows it will take five generations to close the gap! Meanwhile, a 2023 UKG survey reveals one-third of Americans (32%) don’t think female athletes deserve equitable pay and benefits in relation to their male counterparts competing in the same sport, in the same position, and at the same skill level.
We need a new approach—a game changer, if you will. Lopez, Reaves, and Wadors share three ideas for making real change.
1. Think about the ecosystem of equity, not just pay equity.
Pay equity is not just a compensation problem. Failing to address the entire ecosystem beyond pay, which encompasses equity of opportunity, representation, and wellbeing, overlooks the systemic reasons driving pay inequities in the first place.
"If we always just cut a check at the end of the year to close the pay gap, then we’ve kind of missed the mark,” says Wadors. “You don’t want to be playing catchup.”
All three leaders agree: In order to solve for inequities, we have to operationalize this topic and embed it in every HR motion: recruitment and hiring, onboarding, talent development, mentorship, performance review cycles, recognition and rewards, employee communications, manager feedback, and so much more.
“It’s not a one and done,” says Lopez, who previously served as senior vice president of talent management at The New York Times and head of talent and engagement for the National Basketball Association. “You can’t merely bring someone into a job, give them their pay and their yearly merit increases, and think that’s good enough. We need to think more strategically about pulling at the potential of our employees, and then also commit to paying equitably for that potential. For us, it’s about investing holistically in the people that we expect to carry our league forward into new territory.”
We need to think more strategically about pulling at the potential of our employees, and then also commit to paying equitably for that potential. For us, it’s about investing holistically in the people that we expect to carry our league forward into new territory.
Chief People and Culture Officer, National Women’s Soccer League
2. Guide managers to make more equitable decisions and create safe spaces for employees to talk about pay.
What is equitable pay? What’s ‘equitable’ within my organization? How does this impact how I run my budget? What’s affordable? Managers are charged with making the decisions about hiring and promotions, and these are the questions they’re asking themselves. What are you doing to support them in making equitable decisions that will positively impact your business and your people?
“Managers want to do good things. They’re good human beings. We’ve just got to guide them better, give them better scaffolding,” says Wadors.
But what does that ‘scaffolding’ look like? The trio shared two great examples.
First, Lopez talked about helping managers foster honest conversations with employees. “It really is our responsibility to ensure that employees are feeling recognized and rewarded appropriately for their contributions,” says Lopez. “Are you giving your employees the feedback they need to succeed? Are you listening to their feedback in return? Are you giving them the support to be able to advocate for themselves when that review period comes around and they want to talk about their earnings?”
Employees need to feel empowered by their manager to ask questions, to openly seek development opportunities, and to talk about career and salary progression.
Managers want to do good things. They’re good human beings. We’ve just got to guide them better, give them better scaffolding.
Chief People Officer, UKG
“We’re all working to get paid. It’s not something to be shameful of. Everyone has the right to be paid fairly and equitably in their role, and to aspire to something bigger,” says Wadors.
That leads to the second point: Companies do themselves a disservice when they take advantage of someone underestimating their own value and asking for significantly less than they deserve.
“Your people are your most valuable asset. Why would you take advantage of someone you value just because they don’t have experience negotiating? That’s not a great way to start a relationship,” says Reaves, who points to cultural differences and dynamics that leave some people more experienced or comfortable talking about pay than others.
This is an opportunity to educate, not lowball (After all, how much value can you really get out of an employee relationship if that’s your starting point?). Instead, let that person know exactly what it is you value about them, how your company intends to lean into that value, and how they’ll be compensated as a result. In doing so, you’re laying an equitable foundation for that person to begin their employee experience journey with you—one that will likely be long and fruitful.
Your people are your most valuable asset. Why would you take advantage of someone you value just because they don’t have experience negotiating?
Chief Belonging, Diversity, and Equity Officer, UKG
3. Sustain this initiative as if it’s one of the most important priorities this generation of leaders will undertake.
Expanding equity in the workplace and creating an ecosystem that is ‘for all’ is an enduring feat. It demands transparency, accountability, governance, and rigor—just as anything else of import to a company would.
But Reaves cites bleak research that finds almost half of organizations today do not have a well-established pay equity plan in place. “We all have to accelerate,” he says. “Look at the numbers and figure out what you’re going to do, whether it’s quarter over quarter or year over year. Just do something. That’s the most important thing.”
According to Lopez, doing this right means you first have to create a foundation that is principled; a culture that is designed to embrace all the equitable processes and practices you’re building on top.
She also points out that pay equity is not a point-in-time objective: “Take your time, understand the needs of your people, and have the uncomfortable-but-necessary conversations. It pays back in value when you create an inclusive culture where people want to be working with you. Just stick with it.”
Are you ready to Rally Your Team? When it comes to pay equity, we’re all on the same team. That’s why we’re doing our part to close the wage gap that impacts the dreams of many hard-working, dedicated people doing their part to support their families and our economy. Learn more at UKG.com/CloseTheGap.
Learn about UKG’s landmark partnership and pay equity milestone with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Together, the two purpose-driven brands are rallying national support for pay equity during what is turning out to be a monumental year for women’s sports!
Watch a replay of Creating an Equity Ecosystem for All to learn more about how important your role is in creating an ecosystem of accountability that promotes equity for all people.
Interested in learning about how UKG is publicly committing to make informed, responsible, and socially conscious decisions? Check out our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) program and how we are creating change for good via the UKG Global Impact Report.