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So Your HR Chief Doesn’t Believe in the Pay Gap — What Do You Do?

Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Corbis

Today in This Again, we’ve got a doozy of an advice column on the New York Post. Greg Giangrande, the HR chief for Time Inc. (a company that employees over 6,000 people), responded to a reader who wrote in after her company moved to an open-pay plan, one where all colleagues know each other’s salaries. This kind of plan is often seen as one step in the direction of closing the gender pay gap—  and lo, this reader had discovered that a colleague who is at the same level as her makes 10 percent more; he is a man, and she is a woman. She asks Giangrande to explain her rights.

“Oy!” Giangrande begins. “This topic is larger than the little space they give me to reply, but here goes . . . We live in a capitalist society — not socialist. You can have the government fix pay rates for everyone or you can have a free-market system where you create and demand value that you think you are worth and based on your performance.”

While research shows that women are still making 77–78 cents to a man’s dollar, many men still (and even some women!) believe the gender pay gap requires many a caveat before being taken seriously. And so Giangrande continues, “There are many legitimate reasons why people can and should be paid differently — even for the same job — such as experience, tenure, performance, how hard they negotiated, pay history, what it takes to attract them, etc. What’s not legitimate — and is illegal — is paying people differently based on protected reasons like gender or race. If this is the case, it should be punished and remedied. The truth is, despite many who politicize this topic, illegal pay practices are the exception, not the norm.”

So what do you do if the person responsible for hiring at your company doesn’t believe in the gender pay gap, or thinks it’s about “experience, tenure, performance, etc.”? A future of transparent salaries among all companies is probably pretty far off, as is a moratorium on negotiating (which former interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao instituted in her tenure there). The American Association of University Women encourages women who find out they are paid less than men to “know your market worth in the metropolitan area or zip code of the job you seek,” which will help you when you negotiate for a higher or equal salary. See what your company is doing about training for unconscious bias and diversity sensitivity. And keep pushing back.

Just try to not let it get to you: According to new research by scientists at Columbia University, women who earned the lowest compared to men had a greater likelihood of suffering from anxiety and depression.

So Your HR Chief Doesn’t Believe in the Pay Gap