by Les Hiscoe
This year, March 31 marks Equal Pay Day – a day that raises awareness of the gap between men’s and women’s wages by illustrating how far into the year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year. I find the fact that the average woman works an additional 12 weeks to achieve the same pay as the average man to be completely untenable. As the leader of an employee-owned firm with a people-first culture, I feel a deep responsibility – both personally and professionally – to foster true equality. We’re proud to have three times more female representation at Shawmut than found industry-wide, but it’s meaningless without equity for all. At the beginning of 2019, Shawmut set a goal to achieve 100% pay equity. By simultaneously establishing pay transparency as a business imperative, we met this goal by 2020 and have laid the groundwork for a continued path to diversity, equity, and inclusion. With that in mind, I want to offer a glimpse into our pay equity journey to help guide firms looking to forge their own path.
We began by bringing in an independent law firm to audit all elements of compensation. Interestingly, the firm validated that based on their findings, women and men in similar roles were being paid almost equally at Shawmut for comparable performance. While they did identify a few pay gaps, these were largely between people who were rapidly promoted and newly hired. We flagged areas of inequality and made necessary adjustments. This process forced us to re-examine unconscious assumptions and develop additional rigor in defining what constitutes strong performance. As a result, we added a process for articulating promotion readiness as this is a typical area where unconscious bias factors come into play.
Next, we launched an effort to bring transparency to our pay-decision process and created a system that would mitigate the risk of unconscious bias. We had already set ourselves up for success by switching to a focal point review cycle in 2017, which helps keep compensation decisions fair by removing the influence of business cycles. We compiled benchmarked salary market data for every position, which is shared with staff as part of annual reviews, including where they fall in the range based on their role, experience, and performance. Thanks to these efforts, we’re proud to say we met our goal of 100% equity.
In understanding the path to true equity is a journey that requires steadfast commitment, we regularly revisit our data and processes. And, as an employee-owned company, it’s especially important as research shows that when companies commit to equality, they improve employee satisfaction, see better decision making, provide better client service, and are more profitable. We wanted “Equal Pay Day” to be every day, and we are committed to maintaining pay equity among all employees, regardless of gender or race. Our approach to creating an inclusive and equitable culture is ever evolving, but I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and I hope our journey can inspire others to do the same.
Les Hiscoe is CEO of Shawmut Design and Construction.