How SameWorks is Systematically Improving Pay and Inequality Issues in Tech

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing partnership between Austin Inno and BLNDED Media to increase coverage of diverse founders, innovators, and investors. Learn more about this collaboration here.

Everyone knows that men are typically paid more than women over the span of their lifetimes. The passionate discussion surrounding how companies compensate employees is part of a system that’s decades old.

Crystal Hansen

Crystal Hansen, founder and CEO of SameWorks, thinks the lack of structure in how companies compensate their employees is one similar to the “wild west.” She also equates institutionalized issues around pay and inequality to companies’ outdated systems, while also believing that we should give more people the opportunity to prove themselves and to set themselves apart based on their performance.

“What I earn and what I make at a company in my career is highly dictated by how good of a negotiator I am,” she said.

It’s known that some people are great negotiators, but that doesn’t correlate to how they will perform in the role. Crystal sites the pay gap issue to the ineffectiveness of how people approach the negotiation table for their first real job out of college. Most recent grads are so excited for the opportunity to have a salary that they are not asking for more. Leaving $5-7K on the table haunts them over the next 10 years of their career.

SameWorks helps companies solve issues around pay equality by providing them with a methodology and framework based off a meritocracy system. This system runs on the belief that people are positioned and recognized because they have the right character, skills, and behaviors, not because they fit any gender or ethnic stereotype.

Providing companies with the ability to get certified, report diversity metrics, uncover and resolve pay situations, and create a plan of proposed adjustments is SameWork’s primary goal.

Once a company enacts a plan, SameWorks reviews the company’s work and approves them to become certified. Companies can then stamp their certification on their products and services, recruit new talent, or sell to their customers. Austin based companies SpareFoot, data.world and Square Root are among the first startups to get certified, making a long-term commitment to pay equity.

This system allows companies to incentivize and reward employees in the best way since creating a win/win situation of compensating people based on their performance, and not based on their negotiating skills, will help lead to more pay equality.

Crystal asked herself if this was a problem she should try to solve after witnessing some of her colleagues dealing with this issue. As WP Engine’s director of product development, she saw the upside to a company creating a great culture with equal pay, high company growth, top talent and diverse teams all working together to help make the business succeed.

After experiencing success with WP Engine, Crystal wanted to make a solution achievable for many other companies. After speaking with her managers, executive leadership, and WP Engine’s CEO Heather Brunner, Crystal not only had the support from her peers, but the company’s blessing to develop her idea before she left. She also cited her past experiences of having great women mentors at formal tech companies, working abroad in Sweden and participating in diversity-focused community groups, such as the Austin Diversity in Tech Meetup.

Crystal sees diversity as a tool giving us the ability to level the playing field. Giving people a fair chance at opportunities. Next up for SameWorks is publicly announcing the first certified companies and having 100 certified companies by the end of 2018.

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