Making Pay Parity Non-Negotiable at Education Elements
We all experience the world in different ways. I know that, as a white person, my experiences are different than those of a person of color – in ways both big and small – such as a feeling of belonging and safety, or the knowledge that I am implicitly trusted by others. As a woman, my experiences are different than those of a man; yes, sometimes physical doors are opened for me, but I also know my male friends have metaphorical ones often opened for them. So then when, a few months ago, a teammate shared an article about the pay inequities that often exist for both women and people of color, it gave me an opportunity to reflect, think, and discuss with others how we, at Education Elements, might need to change.
Let me take a few steps back. From its start, Education Elements has been a mission-oriented and values-focused company. We hire people who are passionate about education and making a difference in the lives of children. We hire people who have made a commitment to having a positive impact on the world. We work tirelessly to provide support to school systems and leaders so that every student can reach his or her highest potential.
But it is often easier to avoid taking a critical look at ourselves and it has only been in the last few years that we have been willing, able, and brave enough to use an equity lens to look more closely at ourselves, our practices, and seek ways to improve. Over time, we’ve increasingly had more discussions about race and gender. This translated into looking at our approach to recruiting and turned into a journey to increase the number of people of color on our team. We made our commitment more public when we committed to being part of the Founders for Change movement. It became more sustainable when a group of people from across the organization formed a team to think about the issues around diversity, equity and inclusion that existed within our own organization and to actively engage in solving for them.
This has recently affected how we hire consultants – a role that we hire for every 3-6 months. Like many companies, we allowed ourselves to negotiate salary with new hires. We felt like it allowed us to hire the best. But we came to realize that doing so makes us unintentional contributors to a systemic problem.
There is a pay gap between men and women, as well as one between white people and people of color. That is not news. Frequently these gaps begin early in the wage earners’ career. A small advantage, which is most often negotiated by men and white employees, and compounds over time. In fact, a recent study calculated the average working woman could lose $406,760 over her career – and in some careers, the loss could be closer to $1 million.
We decided to do something about that. We increased the starting salary for the consulting role and put out a policy that we would no longer negotiate the terms or salary. We also adjusted the salary of our most recent hires to this new base salary – regardless of whether they negotiated their terms and salary, or not. Through these actions we are aiming to correct our past wrongs.
Our policy for the consulting role now reads: Education Elements has a No Salary Negotiation Policy. We have implemented this as part of our commitment to a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization and to ensure that we do not contribute to pay inequities that often exist for women and people of color. It will now be on the job description and part of the interview process. It will impact every hiring cycle from here on out.
This is a truer expression of who we are, the values we believe in, and the way we want to move through the world as an organization. And, although we might lose some great candidates along the way who disagree with this approach, we believe strongly that neither gender nor race should affect salary. It’s a big step for a small organization, and we hope others follow suit.
Looking for resources on equity in schools and classrooms? Check out our video, How Can Personalized Learning Support Educational Equity?
About Amy Jenkins
Amy Jenkins is the chief operating officer of Education Elements. Following a meandering path of teaching in Oakland, running an after-school program, working at NewSchools Venture Fund and being a strategy consultant she is thrilled to now focus on supporting districts to in their efforts to become more dynamic, responsive and outcomes-oriented. Amy splits her time at work between coaching district leaders and ensuring the health and happiness of everyone at Education Elements through creating an environment where everyone can thrive and grow. On the weekends she can be found chasing her kids around.