APU Business Careers Careers & Learning Leading Forward Podcast

Moving the Needle: Pay Equity for People of Color

Podcast featuring Dr. Aikyna Finch, Faculty Training Developer, Center for Teaching & Learning and
Bridgette Wilder, Chief Human Resources Officer

Many organizations aren’t aware of the pay inequity for people of color. In this episode, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bridgette Wilder, talks about her work conducting pay equity audits to objectively show leaders the data and educating them about such issues. She also provides recommendations for employees to advance in their careers by learning negotiation skills, tracking accomplishments, participating in mentoring programs, identifying professional development opportunities, and much more.

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Dr. Aikyna Finch: Greetings, everyone. Welcome to the podcast. I am Dr. Aikyna Finch. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to ensure pay equity for people of color in the workplace. Today, our guest is Bridgette Wilder.

From human resource manager to Chief Human Resource Officer, Bridgette has created foundational human resource policies, developed training programs in diversity, ethics, leadership, and workforce management, and has brought structure to organizations.

She has also worked in both the private and public sectors, inclusive to such industry such as transportation, telecommunications, business services, city government, higher education, nonprofit, and banking. She also has experience working in union, non-union, and service contract employees. I would like to welcome, Bridgette Wilder. How are you doing today?

Bridgette Wilder: I’m excellent, Aikyna, and I just really appreciate you having me as your guest today.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Well, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you, Bridgette. This is a great topic on pay equity. Tell us why you’re passionate about this arena.

Bridgette Wilder: Well, I’m very passionate about it because as a person of color and a female, it has been something that I personally have experienced in my career trying to have the same opportunities, the same equity and being considered for career advancement has always been a challenge. In my role as a Chief Human Resources Officer, I’m always cognizant of that and educating leadership, the importance of being equitable in compensation for people of color.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: When did you notice this was something that you needed to put more attention into?

Bridgette Wilder: Well, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in the ’70s. When I started working in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I experienced it myself. And I saw that there were differences in people doing the same work, but because of race or gender, they were paid differently.

As I learned how to negotiate myself for my personal experience and career, I knew that it was important to help others to do the same that wasn’t cognizant of this issue. And so, that’s been one of the things that as a HR leader, regardless of what company I go in, I always encourage the practice of a pay equity audit so that we get objective business data to share with leadership because you got to meet them where they are. By showing them objectively that this isn’t about a personal feeling, this is about the real data and the impact that it has on them being successful as an organization, you’re able to move the needle, as they say.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Tell me the success rate of moving the needle for you.

Bridgette Wilder: Well, in terms of moving the needle, it has a cost factor to it. In terms of measuring the success of it, it takes time, it’s not an immediate thing. When I was at the Citadel, we did a pay equity audit. By the time we looked at the whole organization, it had a million-dollar price tag.

When you’re having those type of costs, you have to have a plan to implement it over a period of time. But in that first year, we started with the positions that were at the lower end and we were able to get an entire department of about 50 people, have an increase in pay over average $10,000 because the compression, as they say, the inequity in the pay was an issue, but the Citadel stepped up to the plate. We were able, over three-year period, to bring everyone up to where they needed to be. I think that’s a great success.

But the even greater success is when leadership say, “Okay, you brought me the numbers, Bridgette, I get what you’re saying. Let’s do the right thing.” That in itself is the beginning of success, because then you can move the needle in an intentional way. It’s not a reactionary thing where employees come to you and say, “Hey, company. You’re not paying me fairly, do the right thing.” But if you are having things in place where you’re looking at it intentionally on an ongoing basis, you’re going to have success.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Wonderful. Have you ever had pushback from a company when you gave them this audit?

Bridgette Wilder: Oh yeah, definitely. Because many companies, they think that HR lives in a bubble and they think that you’re just all about people pleasing, for lack of a better word. But when you can pull out the actual numbers—one of the things that I do when I come into an organization from an HR perspective, I pull out all the data and not just looking at the employee data, but looking at the actions of the organization.

What I mean by that, when we have promotions, when we have advancement opportunities and you attach the race and gender and age demographics to that, I’m just telling you what the reality of that data means. When you say that you believe in diversity and moving the needle in equity, but your data says something else, I don’t have to speak much louder. That gives an organization to say, “Okay, we’re not living our values. Bridgette, what can we do?” That’s the start of moving that needle.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Tell us the importance of the data. What type of data should companies be looking for?

Bridgette Wilder: Anything that you are doing from an employment-action perspective, you need to measure and add the additional factors of race, gender, demographics, disability—all the things that relate to your equity and your equality.

So that as you are reviewing that data on a monthly and quarterly basis, you can see the reality of what you’re doing. Even from the standpoint of when you choose to open up your stores or you are going to have advancement opportunities or visibility opportunities, when you add those type of demographic that’s graded to it, it lets you know, am I putting women, am I putting people of color in those same opportunities? When I have mentoring programs, does my data speak to the fact that I have equity in my process?

There’s a difference between equity and equality. Equality means that, “Hey, everybody’s getting the same resources, the same amount.” Equity says, “I’m going to take those same resources and look at what each group or person needs and determine what it is.” It’s like when you have different levels of stairs, if you give everybody the same level of stairs, they may not be able to see the same thing that you want them to see, but if you got different heights and you adjust those stairs so that each person can see it, that is what equity is about.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Bridgette, we were talking about the data and you were telling us a few tips. Now, what are some of the things that you noticed that companies don’t look at when they’re talking about pay equity for people of color?

Bridgette Wilder: When they look at pay equity for people of color, you have to find out what an organization believes when we say people of color is, because many times, it’s just down to black and white. And so, you want them to understand there’s diversity in all aspects.

When you’re looking at pay equity, a lot of times, it’s not just simply about the salary, it’s about the opportunity to be visible where people can be seen so that they have advancement opportunities. Again, when I mention about the mentoring programs, when you have opportunities for them to be a part of boards and special projects where they’re going to be seen by senior leadership, do you have people of color and females in those same opportunities?

When you advertise, where you’re going to be promoting your business, are there people of color in those advertisements? When you look at your website, do you see people of color? All of those things are going to drive customers to you. All of those things are going to drive people of color that are applicants to you, which adds to your bottom line.

All that is going to, in turn, go back to how your pay impacts you, because if you’re not given the same opportunities so that you can put yourself out there in front of leadership to see you for advancement, your pay is going to remain stagnant.

Also, looking at your professional development opportunities, who is getting that training. Many times when you have people of color, they may be in lower paying positions or they’re in positions where their leadership really doesn’t see them as someone promotable because they don’t have certain skills, but at the same time, they don’t give them the time to learn those skills. Look at who’s taking your training and your development and your succession planning programs and put people of color and females in that so that they can increase their pay.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: What’s just someone of color be preparing theirselves for in this situation before they go to this company? What should they have in place?

Bridgette Wilder: One of the things that I encourage people of color to do when you’re interviewing, don’t focus simply on, I need the company to see that I’ll be great in this opportunity. I really want to work for them. You want to do that, but you also want to ask the questions of the company to make sure that this is the right fit for you. Do they align with your values? Do they align with what you’re trying to do in terms of your career?

Also, get you a mentor. When we met I think almost a decade ago, one of the things that really I saw in you is that not only were you intelligent and I felt your vibe, but I felt that I could learn something from you and you could learn something from me. And so, you want to have people that are on the same mindset as you, but also on next level.

Get your own personal board of directors so that those things that you have strengths in, they can help build on it, but also those areas of opportunity. Have someone that can teach you about negotiation skills so when you are offered that job, you just don’t accept the first thing that they offer you. Ask for what you are worth, know your worth.

If you have that as your foundation, the rest of it is gravy. Once you get into the organization, look for someone that can be your sponsor, your internal board of directors that will give you the feedback, because no matter how smart you are or how brilliant you are, you always want to put yourself in a position that you are always learning.

Then, the final thing I think is important, when I go into any organization, I view myself as a consultant and as a business owner. By consultant, meaning we’re at will, no matter where we go. The employer can say, “Hey Bridgette, I don’t need you at any time,” and or I can say, “Hey, employer. It’s been great, but it’s time for me to move on.”

But if I act in a consultant perspective, I’m always learning, looking for ways to help my client be the best that they can be, but I’m also always developing myself. Because at some point, my client can say, “It’s been great, but I don’t need your services anymore.” If I haven’t been developing myself and networking and having my own personal board, I’m in a reactionary stage versus a proactive stage, knowing I got another client I can go to.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: You mentioned your personal board of directors, tell us some of the people that should be on that board.

Bridgette Wilder: On the personal board of directors, you want to have people that will, A, tell you the truth. For you are part of my personal board of directors, when I’m thinking about doing something or have a goal, you ask me how am I going to go about doing that? Who’s going to help me. What are my resources? What’s your plan? What’s your deadline? You want people like that so that it’s not just a vision. It’s not just a dream. You’re going to put forth action, that’s when it’s a true goal.

Another person that you want to have on that is someone that’s going to be your cheerleader, because we all have those days where we think, “Oh, I’m screwing up. I’m not good at what I do.” Your cheerleader’s going to say, “Hey, yeah. You made a mistake, but let’s talk about all the great things that you’re doing and then planning on doing.”

Then, I have someone on my board of directors that is next level. They’re my next vision I want to be. What do I need to do to be more like them? And they’re going to help me learn from how they learn so I don’t have to take the long way around. That’s the foundation of your personal board of directors.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: What would you say to someone of color just getting out of college or that is in college right now and they’re already looking at their opportunities. Where should they start?

Bridgette Wilder: One of the things that I did when I was in college, I went to the career services my freshman year and I took the assessments to find out what it is that I’m good at, not just from a skill level, but my soft skills, my emotional intelligence skills. I got to know the person in career services. I found out from them how I could get internships and other part-time jobs related to the field that I wanted to be in.

Also, go on LinkedIn and reach out to some of the industries that you’re interested in and ask will they be willing to do an informational interview with you. You never know where that’s going to lead, because you could meet someone that says, “Hey, Bridgette, I think that you got some great insights. I got an internship program that I think you’d be great at, or maybe Aikyna, my friend, she has an opportunity that I think would be a great connection. Let me introduce you to them.”

Always be willing to learn from others and don’t go by the race or gender because you can learn from both regardless of the race. Everyone doesn’t have to look alike, but you got to be proactive. Also, take some courses in communication, in emotional intelligence, hone your writing because all those things regardless of your field, are going to be important to your success.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Now, what are some of the things that we miss as employees to make sure that we have pay equity?

Bridgette Wilder: One of the things that I think that we, as employees, miss is that we think that our manager remembers all the great things that we do. You have to help your manager help you. Keep track of your own accomplishments. Send those accomplishments to your supervisor on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Also, another important thing that we miss as employees, you’re getting paid a salary to perform a key function. Many times as employees, we think, “Well, I do my job. Why am I not getting an increase?” Well, that’s what you’re getting paid to do. But are you doing anything extra next level that shows that you are saving the company money, making the company money? Improving efficiency and productivity and recording it and then putting that information in front of your manager? Those are the things that help you to get increases.

When I go into a new position, I ask my manager, “This is what I’m getting hired to do. Tell me what it is that you need me to do, but also, I’m interested in moving to the next level. What are the extra things that, as I become efficient and productive in this job, that I can be learning and doing to get me to the next level?” Work with them to come up with an individual development plan so that you have a written plan that you can work from.

Another thing that I recommend, if you can get involved in different professional groups or conferences, whether it’s just as an attendee or even being a speaker or being part of a committee, those are some important things that will help promote your company, but also promote your manager. When you look good and do things that are putting you out there and the organization out there, that manager can say, “Hey, I was smart about hiring Aikyna. Look at what she’s doing to help the company and being productive in her job to help us to achieve our goals.”

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Well, I love that. As we’re growing to a close, I want to make sure that you have time to give us those quick nuggets, those things that they need to know right now to start working on their pay equity.

Bridgette Wilder: In terms of working on your pay equity, first do your own SWOT analysis of yourself. Many companies do SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You need to do that as an individual, so that once you know your strengths, once you know your weaknesses or areas of opportunity, you can, A) promote those strengths, utilize that in what you’re doing now in your job and communicate that to your manager.

Keep a tracker of your achievement so that you can put together a quarterly summary of what you are achieving, so when it’s time for your annual review, your manager already has that information and they can help promote you for those increases.

Get involved in different activities, whether it’s professional groups, professional organizations serving on a committee to show that you are not just doing the basics, you are doing the next level. Learn negotiation skills, because you got to be able to promote yourself and talk from a business perspective what you bring to the table, but don’t always go with that first offer. Know your worth, be able to negotiate what your worth is.

Then, finally, get that board of directors that can help you to see those blind spots, help you to develop yourself to the next level. The most important thing is you got to believe in you. You got to know your worth, because if you don’t know it, you can’t talk to it and then you can’t help yourself to get to that next level.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very, very powerful tips there, Bridgette. I appreciate you greatly for this. If you’re listening to this podcast today, please take note of the things that Bridgette has said. If you are thinking that you are ready for a pay increase, if your pay is not equitable, start using some of the tips that Bridgette just gave you today. Talk to your manager, see what can happen. Until next time, be safe and be well.

Dr. Aikyna Finch is a faculty member at the University. She received a doctorate of management, an MBA in technology management and an executive MBA from Colorado Technical University. Dr. Finch also has an M.S. in management in marketing from Strayer University, an M.S. in information systems in IT project management from Strayer University and a B.S. in aeronautical technology in industrial electronics from the School of Engineering at Tennessee State University. She is a podcaster, coach, author and speaker. Dr. Finch is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor to Huffington Post, Goalcast, Forbes, and Thrive Global. She can be found at DrADFinch on all social media platforms.

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