The Gender Pay Gap

Posted: Jun 9, 2016
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DoveLewis is comprised of 85% females.  While this is true for most clinics in the veterinary industry, we also have an unusually high number of females in Leadership positions: four of our six top leaders are women and all of our hospital staff ​managers are women.  I point this out because it has occurred to me that over the last eight years I find myself in a bit of a bubble.  I spend a fair amount of time worrying about the minority of males on our staff as sometimes we females can say things that are insensitive or gender biased.  Gender discrimination, as we sometimes forget, goes both ways.

That being said, the issue of the gender pay gap hit us all squarely in the face in May when the AVMA released its pay calculator aimed at graduating students.  The calculator pointed out that graduating females have a starting salary of about $2,400 less than their male counterparts.

Say what?

You heard me.

Now, I’ve taken a fair number of classes on compensation and one thing I’ve learned is that the gender pay gap is a complex issue.  The argument has always been made that companies inherently put fair compensation models into place, but things like manager bias and taking time off for child rearing, etc affects many female employees from keeping pace with their male colleagues.

For sure taking a few years off of work will definitely set anyone back (regardless of gender) pay wise, but this argument does not address the gender pay gap head on.  The fact of the matter is that we as leaders are not doing enough to keep this from happening.  We, as managers, are letting our own biases get in the way and we are letting this happen.

What do I mean?

A Harvard Review Article called Nice Girls Don’t Ask hit the nail on the head brilliantly (and is one of many articles on the subject).  When surveyed, women are way LESS likely than men to ask for a raise.  Why?  Well, we are taught at a young age not to argue for our own interests.  Second, women who do ask are often seen as pushy or bitchy.  It goes back to our biases and the assumption that Nice Girls Don’t Ask. 

As clinic owners, leaders, and managers it is important that we talk about gender pay equality head on.  We need to encourage our staff to ask for what they are worth.  That does not mean we grant a pay raise to everyone who asks, rather, we coach them to negotiate and make sure that the compensation they are making IS fair, both in the market and internally.  We need to build equity into our compensation.  At Dove all of our DVMs make the same production percentage.  The shifts they work are distributed equally.  The more they choose to work and the better they communicate with clients, the more they make.  It is fair and in their control.

What can you do?  Acknowledging if you have biases is the first step.  What are your assumptions about people and why? 

Here is an example.  Let’s say you have two new grads interviewing with you, one male and one female.  Both have the same GPA and both have good references.  Who will you make a job offer to? 

Do you wonder if the male has better leadership potential?

Do you worry the female will get married and have kids soon?

Do you think the male will bring less drama to your highly female staff?

All those are biases.  And we all have biases, whether we mean to or not.  You as a leader need to take the time to sit back and really examine those biases and try to determine what is valid and what is not.  Maybe one of the candidates overshared personal or even professional information during the interview process – they, regardless of gender – may be your dramatic candidate. 

Finally, be honest about the gender pay gap and your role.  There is absolutely no reason new female veterinarians should be making less than new male veterinarians.  Both have potential for leadership.  Both have potential to be high producers.  We, as leaders, are the key to changing the gender pay gap.  Let’s get to work on bringing about positive change.  The first step is honesty.