The New Wave of Compensation Surveys: Addressing the Gender Pay Gap

The New Wave of Compensation Surveys: Addressing the Gender Pay Gap

For decades, compensation surveys have been the leading source where employers could go to learn about pay dynamics in the marketplace. Yet, until very recently, surveys have not included gender. The primary reason behind the omission is the simple fact that most U.S. employers have been unwilling to share it. This is likely due to the fact that our business landscape is characterized by a culture of legal risk aversion. Corporate compensation departments have long been told by corporate legal departments that gender data (as well as age and ethnicity data) should not be provided in compensation surveys.

Yet, things are finally changing. The school of thought that uses the defense of, “This is how we’ve always done things,” is being overcome. Now, at least four compensation survey firms are collecting gender data in the U.S., and according to an HRsoft survey, 50% of companies polled participate in compensation surveys that collect gender data. Here is a look at some of the firms collecting gender data:

Beginning in 2016, PayScale included gender in its online self-reported job and pay survey, collecting data from over 2 million respondents. In March 2018, they published an analysis of the gender-related data: The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2018. The study examines issues such as promotional opportunity, career disruption, and employee referral. It provides comparisons by industry, education level, and geography. Its major findings revealed that while the raw gender pay gap is a familiar figure of 77.9%, after adjusting for such compensable factors as experience, industry, and job level, the gap is reduced to 97.8%.

In 2017, Radford, whose compensation surveys focus exclusively on the high tech and life sciences industries, began collecting gender from survey participants on a voluntary basis. As of now, they are not publishing the data in survey reports, but make use of it in “client vs. market” analyses in consulting engagements. Until this point, they had lacked a source of this information that they could trust.

Like Radford, Culpepper focuses on high tech and life sciences, as well as the healthcare industry. They have been collecting gender in non-U.S. compensation surveys for many years but began introducing gender into all surveys (including the U.S.) in 2018. The gender data will be included in standard reports and analysis.

Western Management Group
Western Management Group (WMG) has been conducting compensation surveys since the 1970s but had not collected gender data in the U.S. As the gender gap issue gained prominence, CEO Tim Schwarzer instructed survey directors to ask survey groups if they would be willing to provide gender data. Their response was a resounding “no,” but in 2017, WMG decided to include gender as a data element in the Marketing Compensation Survey on a strictly voluntary basis.

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