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Berkeley Haas MBA Students Fight the Gender Pay Gap

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The gender pay gap is still alive and well in business, particularly in the tech industry. At least that’s what Christina Chavez, a ’19 Berkeley Haas MBA student, discovered when she logged into an online compensation board named Blind while working at Microsoft a few years ago. There was a shocking difference between what male and female colleagues were getting paid. So, when Chavez was accepted into the Haas MBA program, she put pay equity and transparency as one of her top goals.

Last fall, Chavez’s goal came to fruition with the help of her classmate Jack Anderson, a fellow member of the Hass Gender Equity Initiative. Together, they set up a spreadsheet where classmates could share details about their compensation packages. Then, using salary data and research provided by Professor Laura Kay, they created a Haas Wage Gap Infographic.

“We earned 96 cents to the dollar in the last MBA class, and people were like ‘yeah we’re approaching equity,’ but this gap grows over time,” Chavez said.

Transparency and the Gender Salary Gap

Christina Chavez, Haas MBA ’19

Unfortunately, for alumni with more than ten years of experience, the salary wage gap between men and women is much more extensive. So, the goal of the project is to expand what’s already offered through CMG Bears (a Haas Career Management Group tool) and to understand the long-term salary gap concern better. Transparency is a critical weapon to close the gap.

And transparency is particularly important when it comes to compensation outside of salary. While recent research conducted by Professor Kray and Margaret Lee at the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL), revealed that alumni base salaries between 1994 and 2014 were only 8 percent higher for men, it was in the bonuses, share values, and options where men far outpaced women. Overall compensation for Haas women MBAs averages about $290,000—66 percent of men’s $439,000 average.

More than Negotiation Skills

While you might think, at first, that it’s all a matter of negotiation skills, that’s not what Kray and Lee’s research found. Yes, it’s essential to know what compensation is available and what other people are earning in comparison; the problem for women is that there is an inherent bias toward men. Men tend to be put in charge of larger teams than equally-qualified women, and they get paid more because of it.

“You can change processes, but the long-term problem is people’s individual biases,” Kellie McElhaney, the founding director of EGAL, said. “If they believe things like men do a better job at leading big teams, or that women bosses are unlikable, this is unconscious and conscious bias at work.”

Read the full article in the Haas Newsroom here.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.