Reddit CEO Ellen Pao bans salary negotiations

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Photo by REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Photo by REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Ellen Pao may have lost a Silicon Valley gender discrimination suit on all four accounts, but she isn’t backing down on a mission to increase gender equality in the tech world.

Pao has been interim CEO of Reddit, an entertainment and news website, since November. In her first interview since the verdict of her case, she told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that one of her moves to increase Reddit’s diversity includes banning salary negotiations for new employees.

Men, Pao told the Journal, often negotiate more aggressively than women, leading to higher salaries.

“We come up with an offer that we think is fair,” Pao said. “If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”

Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton who has partnered with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on her Lean In campaign, supported Pao’s decision.

“The research evidence is overwhelming that men tend to negotiate more aggressively than women,” Grant said to Mashable. “The data are also clear that when women negotiate assertively, they are often penalized for violating communal gender stereotypes.”

A Yahoo article pointed to a study that found when women negotiate, both men and women are less likely to want to work with them. But don’t expect a quick fix for gender equality from Pao’s move, UC Hastings law professor Joan Williams says.

“Does [ending salary negotiations] mean it will be better for every single woman? No, that’s not how things work,” Williams said to Yahoo. “But if you want to eliminate an advantage men have because of these prescriptive stereotypes, then this is a clear way to do it.”

PBS NewsHour’s “Ask the Headhunter” columnist and Silicon Valley headhunter Nick Corcodilos explains that one of the reasons he believes women get paid less, coming from his experience with executives who decide salaries, is “largely due to an ingrained sense that ‘women don’t need to earn as much,’” despite the notion that salary should reflect experience, not gender. Additionally, he explained, approaching a company for a job is one of the negotiating “hot spots,” or an opportunity for candidates to boost their pay.

In addition to banning salary negotiations, Pao has made other efforts to improve Reddit’s diversity, including bringing in Freada Kapor Klein, the founder of Level Playing Field Institute, an organization working to diversify workplace. Pao also said candidates are asked about their views on diversity, and that they “did weed people out because of that.”

Pao first gained attention when she sued Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, California, in 2012 for passing over her for a senior partner role because she is a woman. She was eventually fired from the job. The jury decided in late March that her gender was not the reason she was not promoted.

Despite losing her case, women in the tech industry have continued to show support for Pao. Shortly after the verdict, a group of women in the tech industry collectively took out a full-page ad in a Palo Alto newspaper reading “Thanks Ellen.”

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