Ellen Pao just banned salary negotiations at Reddit. Here's why it matters.
Ellen Pao — the interim CEO of Reddit who recently gained international attention for her gender discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — has some pretty amazing things to say about equality. In her first interview since last month’s verdict, Pao spoke with The Wall Street Journal this week about the shared experiences all women face in the workplace, and the very rad reason she’s getting rid of salary negotiations at Reddit.
“I think the fact that a lot of [discrimination] is subtle, that people have different views on where the line is, makes it a very worthwhile discussion. Until you draw that line at your company, people are going to give it a wide boundary,” Pao told The Wall Street Journal. “[We] have moved through a lot of the really blatant issues that are clear-cut and now we’re getting to harder issues. When you look at the overall experience of women in the workplace, they are not succeeding, and that seems pretty clear-cut to me. So how do we fix that problem?”
Pao has a few ideas, and it’s obvious that having a woman in charge has led to some amazing changes for the site. During her time at Reddit so far, Pao has tightened up the guidelines for allowed content and increased privacy measures for its users; but perhaps the most compelling things Pao has done for Reddit have been for employees rather than consumers. Most notably, she told The Wall Street Journal that Reddit has removed salary negotiations from their recruiting process — and the reason why is truly progressive.
“Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate,” Pao said. “[We] aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”
The research backs her up on this one. According to a survey done for Levo’s #Ask4More campaign, about 60% of millennial women will accept a job offer without negotiating their salaries or benefits. When asked why, some said they didn’t know how to ask for more, others felt uncomfortable doing so, and a surprising amount were afraid to come across as too “pushy.” Another study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology supports these findings, and found that “framing situations as opportunities for negotiation is particularly intimidating to women, as this language is inconsistent with norms for politeness among low-power individuals.” While our girl power gut reaction might be to tell those girls to “lean in” and get the money they deserve, it’s just not that simple.
As reported by Mic, a Harvard-National Science Foundation report found that women were penalized more often than men for initiating salary and benefits negotiations — which means our concerns about asking for that raise are totally founded.
“[When] you start out in your career, you think that everything is fair, and you are getting equal opportunities,” Pao continued. “And then you reach a point where you realize, hey, these opportunities are not equal — and I think that’s been the case for many women.”
We concur, and we’re glad she’s continuing to address this issue. Due to the popularity and very public nature of her case, Pao has received an outpouring of support from women the world over who, in turn, shared their own experiences of discrimination with her. While this just goes to show the amazing solidarity that exists between all women, it also proves how prevalent gender bias continues to be. Pao’s case brought sexism in Silicon Valley — and, if we’re being honest, everywhere else — to the forefront of our collective attention. While she ultimately lost her case in court, the trial forced companies to turn a critical eye on workplace culture, and it helped re-ignite a very important dialogue on gender discrimination.
“Women get criticized on both ends, and you have this needle that you have to thread, and sometimes it feels like there’s no hole in the needle,” Pao said. “From what I’ve heard from women, they do feel like there’s no way to win. They can’t be aggressive and get those opportunities without being treated like they’ve done something wrong.”
She perfectly addresses the double standard between men and women in the workplace: even if we do exactly the same things as our male peers, we will still be treated differently. We think her decision to ban salary negotiations at Reddit could be a game-changer — because even if it proves unsuccessful, it shows a willingness to try whatever means necessary to fight gender inequality, which is the most essential first step in creating change.
And Pao seems hopeful for the future. When asked what advice she would give to a young woman coming into the workforce today, her answer was simple.
“I would tell her to have confidence in herself, to know that what she’s doing is important, and to always remember not to let other people change her view of herself.”
We’d say that advice is well worth taking.