Is The Solution To Gender Equality Hiding In Your Bonus?

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Diverse team with trophy

© michaeljung / Adobe Stock

Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson
April 17, 2024 at 9:58PM UTC
We know that the journey to gender parity in the workplace is a rocky one when many Americans believe that we’ll get time travel before an equal number of female and male CEOs. But what if there was a solution that could speed up diversity hiring initiatives and put some money in your pocket?
While many companies have promised to do better when it comes to putting more women in leadership positions, many initiatives and public pledges fail to lessen the gender gap.  According to a 2017 Catalyst analysis, 44.3 percent of total employees in S&P 500 companies are women, but the percentages drastically drop the higher up the corporate ladder you look.
Catalyst CEO Deborah Gillis thinks that the U.S. workforce isn’t closing gender gaps fast enough. “Progress that’s slow is not progress at all,” she said to CNBC. Gillis says that women at work are held back by various assumptions and stereotypes, and organizations should have a “zero tolerance policy” for these implicit biases.
But Gillis also has a radical idea that may inspire the right kind of change at the right kind of pace: increase monetary bonuses for leaders who deliberately promote more women and dock the pay for those who do not.
“We know that women face a glass ceiling [and] for women of color it’s a concrete ceiling,” Gillis said. “Given that 95 percent of leadership positions at some of the largest companies are occupied by men, they need to be champions of gender equality.”
Tying diversity goals to financial benefits signifies that companies are taking diversity advancement goals more seriously. Not only does it mean that leaders have to actively focus on being inclusive, it reinforces behaviors that challenge gender-based stereotypes and unconscious biases.
"Who gets promoted? Who gets that new opportunity?" says Gillis. "It should be people who manage in a way that's inclusionary."
Though it might seem unlikely for corporations to pay employees for diversity hires, major organizations have already implemented policies with successful results.  Microsoft drew headlines when internal data showed a significant decrease of female employees.  In response, Microsoft began to tie senior leaders’ compensation to diversity gains and actively hired more women as interns, diversifying the company’s direct pipeline of talent.
Here are other companies that tied the advancement of women at work to financial compensation:
  • IntelWhile Intel offers a bonus to employees who successfully refer potential hires, Intel doubled the bonus for employees who referred diverse candidates. The financial boost helped the company exceed its goal for diversity hires to 43 percent in 2014.
  • Johnson & JohnsonEach Johnson & Johnson department is held to individualized goals based on metrics that are styled similarly to other business objectives. “Until you actually put metrics on these things… you don’t get the right outcomes,” Sandra Peterson, Johnson & Johnson’s group worldwide chairman, told the Wall Street Journal. “The signal of the importance of something is whether you’re actually measuring it and you’re holding people accountable to improving those numbers.”
  • FacebookStaff recruiters were given points for successfully recruiting diverse candidates. These points apply to Facebook’s internal ratings system and lead to stronger performance reviews and potential bonuses. While the company still has a long way to go (the amount of Hispanic and black employees has remained stagnant within the U.S. offices), the percent of female employees rose to 33 percent in 2016.
As the U.S. workforce continues to diversify, intentional leadership will ensure that the workplace does as well. Major corporations and company leaders must champion the organizational value diversity provides to actively include women and persons of color in the workplace. 

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