Ellen Pao Cuts Salary Negotiations At Reddit In A Smart Effort To Level The Gender Playing Field

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 11: Ellen Pao leaves the Superior Court Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break from her trial on March 11, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit, is suing her former employer, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, for $16 million alleging she was sexually harassed by male officials. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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She may have lost her groundbreaking workplace sexism lawsuit, but Ellen Pao is still making things better for women at work. Pao claimed the firm where she worked for many years, Kleiner Perkins, discriminated against her professionally because she was female. But the defense for Kleiner worked to build a case that framed Pao as "passive-aggressive, disloyal and generally ineffective," according to The Wall Street Journal, and a jury eventually ruled that Pao was not discriminated against on all four counts. But she won't be stopped by one loss. In a WSJ interview on Monday, Pao said she was working to end sexism one step at a time — starting at her current workplace, Reddit.

Software development is a field notorious for its gender inequality. Though technology just keeps getting bigger and bigger, the number of women in Silicon Valley has actually declined since the 1990s. The U.S. Census found in 2013 that women occupy only 22 percent of software development jobs. One way Pao wants to stop gender bias and sexism in the workplace is by eliminating the disparity that is established in the hiring process itself.

Pao is currently the interim CEO of Reddit after her predecessor abruptly quit, and she intends to stay on permanently. As CEO, Pao is eliminating salary negotiations for new hires because women usually fare so much worse than men. 

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Why do women tend to lowball themselves so dramatically when negotiating a salary for a job they are well-qualified to do? It has to do with the implications of a woman demanding a substantial salary. According to NPR, women who advocate for themselves financially aren't just talking about money — they're managing their reputations.

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So to eliminate the pay gap, at least at Reddit, Pao is ditching the pay negotiations. She told The Wall Street Journal:

Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate. So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. 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. 

And on top of that, Pao is eliminating potential hires who might not feel as strongly about the importance of gender and racial diversity in the workplace as she does:

We ask people what they think about diversity, and we did weed people out because of that.

Pao is also hiring more community managers to check on the level of quality of the posts on Reddit. Since the site is often a vehicle for users to post "revenge porn," the company — under Pao's leadership — banned that content in February. "A big part of my job is to uphold those values," Pao said. She's certainly going above and beyond in the values department.

Images: Getty Images

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