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CIO Unplugged 6/22/16

June 22, 2016 Ed Marx 7 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Pay Equality

As the election slugfest begins, we are going to hear more about gender issues, some related to compensation. Gender-based pay inequity is a fact in our culture. It is no different in the health IT world.

Findings from the HIMSS 2015 Compensation Survey and the 27th Annual Leadership Survey suggest that pay inequity exists. In analyzing the data several ways, we can see that women earn less than their male counterparts. Findings also conclude that women are harmed by many retention and recruitment practices and in fact are under-represented in healthcare IT executive and senior management roles.

I am not advocating that everyone be paid the same. Nor am I advocating that we take this on as a social justice issue. I am a believer in pay-for-performance and fair retention and recruitment practices. I don’t care about sexual orientation, race, or religion. What I do care about are values-based, data-driven results. That is what we must reward.

While I do not believe in reparations to cover for the sins of our fathers, it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure pay equality. Here are three things we must do to close the gap and eliminate the problem.

  1. Human resource collaboration. Start with your HR leadership and conduct research on your own staff. Ascertain the data to determine if inequity exists. If so, measure the gap and execute strategies to close it and ensure it stays shut. HR will also ensure compliance with all legal aspects.
  2. Evidence-based hiring and promotion. Ensure all hires and promotions are compensated commensurate with the position, not the gender. HR can help you monitor and look for any trends that can identify problem areas. Leveraging data provides an unbiased monitoring tool and makes it hard to hide the facts.
  3. Evidence-based adjustments. HR can run reports that can indicate if gender inequity exists with your current team. Again, I am not advocating paying everyone the same. There will be legitimate deviations based on tenure and performance and you can allow for this. An evidence-based data rich approach will remove a significant amount of bias and pushback. If you find a gap, you need to adjust salary to close the gap. Simple.

None of these steps will completely eliminate inequality in a hostile environment. If such an environment exists, you need to use the data to make leadership changes in your own ranks. I understand the gap is not always perfectly clear even with data, but you have to start somewhere. Data is a very good place to begin.

I will never understand why anyone would purposefully pay one gender more than the other when all things are equal. Real leaders will want to surround themselves with the strongest people possible and reward them according to performance, not genetics.

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Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. “There will be legitimate deviations based on tenure and performance and you can allow for this.”

    I think this is the key point that so many of the gender pay equality people miss. I’d like to see a study that took this into account so I could know the real gender pay gap that exists. The problem is that I’m not sure a study could get the information they need to make this type of assessment. However, as an organization you have that data and can make that assessment.

  2. As a young woman working in this industry, it’s saddening but unsurprising to hear that Ed Marx is shocked to hear that a study “suggests” women are paid less when data supporting that fact has been nationally studied and recognized for decades. As well-intended as it may be, this piece shows a clear lack of understanding about the underlying reasons for this inequity; pay bias isn’t typically caused by mean, sexist bosses trying to keep women down but rather by structural factors that privilege men’s work, communication styles, and negotiation techniques.

    Additionally, his suggestions that we simply ask HR to run reports and request changes in leadership mean nothing if you systematically lack positions of leadership in the first place. When it sounds as if Mr. Marx has never spoken to a woman about her experiences competing in this industry, it continues to invalidate our experience and doesn’t guide us towards progress. Data can help, but it’s going to take a far more nuanced view than is offered here.

    Some recommended reading for Mr. Marx to flesh out his views on the data:

  3. Thank you mansplaining for putting into words what is boiling over in my brain over Ed Marx’s comments. If he couldn’t figure out any solution besides running a report, then he’s clearly perpetuating the problem. I’ve been a FT working mother in this field for 25 years. I have never pursued leadership roles because I could never toe the line to be a middle manager and never wanted my job to be prime focus of my life. So I’m the highest level “contributor” I can be and happy with my pay now. Work culture in HC IT is not conducive to my lifestyle. Nor most other working mothers. Sure there are examples of women that make it work, but they are a scarce breed. I make it work by being a continual worker bee and not going beyond 40 hrs unless absolutely necessary. But I also have the experience to cut through the BS work (I found Epic projects are loaded with useless overhead) and manage priorities so I don’t need to. Always look for efficiencies – that ultimately help all, not just myself. But when I’m forced to document one change in 3 places – leadership must realize that I will not give them more time for their silliness – but instead that takes time from “real” work – as I will not take time from my family for their poor management of employees time. But instead “I’m too busy with my family life to give extra”. THAT is the real problem – not overt sexism.

  4. Thank you Feministic and Mansplaining. I would like to add that the gender pay gap is usually NOT perpetuated by misogynists who are trying to keep women down. It’s much more complex than that. People who don’t know that or refuse to acknowledge it are part of the reason it’s so hard to change.

    The business world was created by men for men and it rewards manly behavior. A very simple example: starting wages. if a man and a woman with equal qualifications get hired for the same thing at the same company, the chances are that the man is making more. not because of a woman-hater in HR, but because the man is far more likely both to try to negotiate his starting salary and to succeed in negotiating a higher salary even if the woman does negotiate. Women are not encouraged to be pushy; it’s unattractive and sometimes counter-productive. “Pushy” in men is called “assertive” which is attractive, which is rewarded in the business world. Of course there are outliers, but overall, men are rewarded for being what they are trained to be: themselves.

    Women contribute value too, but often in different ways that are traditionally uncompensated. Things like fostering team unity providing feedback and other non-compensated things are often done by women (childcare and household work are other examples outside the workplace). I suggest googling “emotional labor” for more on this topic.

    Ed is right: everyone should not be paid the same. The problem is that everyone’s pay is determined by a man-scale – that does and always will favor men. We need a new scale.

  5. I think it is slightly more than anecdotal when my wife who works in biotec HR got passed over at two different companies for higher leveling and pay increase despite having stellar performance reviews. She negotiated a 4 day work week upon hiring so she could spend more time with our kids but has the same responsibilities as her co-workers. She often answers the phone when something important comes up despite it being her off hours. She often does projects on weekends too. But because she isn’t at somebody’s immediate beckon call on a Monday afternoon or a Friday morning for something not due for days or weeks ….. The only way she gets to highers level is when she switches companies and the hiring company gives her the higher level to snatch her away from the company that just screwed her over. The common thread is all of her superiors and peers are women. Most who don’t have children. The grumbling over her “special mommy schedule” is always out in the open and the comments come almost daily.

  6. Great comments. Like many other women in Health IT, I haven’t experienced overt sexism, but there does seem to be a glass ceiling above a certain middle-manager level. It’s most evident when our male CIO and VP make perplexing decisions in hiring men who don’t seem to do anything besides sit in meetings and frown at their laptop screens. It’s no secret who the bright, hard-working, and productive employees and managers are (many, if not most, are women, some of whom are quite ambitious); it just doesn’t seem to matter much in the end when it comes to promotions, and there’s hardly any turnover at the director level.

    Moving to a “results only” workforce instead of rewarding the employees who spend the most hours in their office or in meetings seems like a win-win for everyone, especially mothers and fathers who want to make meaningful contributions at work but also spend time with their families.

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