CEO Ellen Pao Eliminates Biased Salary Negotiations For Newbies at Reddit

The gender equality champion aims to level the playing field a little more with her latest policy.

Photo via Flickr user Martin Lafrance.

Much talked about Ellen Pao, who recently lost her contentious gender discrimination case against venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is making waves yet again for banning salary negotiations entirely from the hiring process at Reddit, where she is interim CEO. Citing years of studies, and not to mention experience, that proves women are loath to engage in haggling over compensation not only because they struggle with it, but also that they’re likely to be punished if they do, as opposed to their male counterparts, Pao concluded elimination was the best course of action.

“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 in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last Thursday. “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.”

Instead of negotiating for a higher payout, prospective employees may instead propose an exchange of a portion of their salary for increased equity in the company.

This action came about as a result of Pao looking at the broad view of women’s experience in the workplace, and seeing that, as a whole, they weren’t succeeding. And while many are applauding Pao’s attempts to level a tilted playing field that’s increasingly being scrutinized (also thanks in large part to the Kleiner Perkins case and subsequent verdict), others are biting back, arguing that a policy like this may weaken Reddit’s ability to lure talent from other companies or discourage employees who enjoy having the ability to influence their pay, or even reinforce gender stereotypes.

On top of that, under Pao’s leadership, Reddit’s interviewing process now includes gauging a candidate’s feelings on diversity, which she says has helped in the selection process, noting in her WSJ interview that, unfortunately, you can’t always rely on common sense to change people’s biased perspectives. She doesn’t mind her appointment as a martyr for gender equality, and believes education and awareness are key in overturning long-held prejudices.

“I think it’s an opportunity to learn,” she said. “I think avoiding those conversations means you’re not learning. Hoping they go away is not realistic. You need to work through these issues and you can’t just hide from them, because they are here and they’re not going to go away.”

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

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