The ingenious way one VP beat the gender pay gap

Karen Rubin came up with an innovative way to make her former company’s CEO see the discrepancy in pay.

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What would you do if you were sure your male colleague was making much more than you? You can read page after page of work advice, and you’ll never run across what this woman did … and won.

Today, Karen Rubin is VP of Growth at Owl Labs. But in a previous job, she was at VP level at another organization … and she was pretty sure there was a gender pay gap situation going on.


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I had a hunch that things were not exactly equal on the pay perspective but to be blunt, was worried about bringing it up,” Rubin told the Ladders. “Nobody wants to be the person saying, “It’s not fair.”

A colleague of hers suggested she propose a study. Yes, a study.

They would “look at the pay across the organization, and figure out, Are women and men being paid equally? And do it in such a way that we could actually use it to learn from,” explained Rubin. “And so we wrote up the proposal, and [explained] how we’re going to do the study, and presented it to the CEO, and then asked for access for all of the pay data for the employees.”

“He promptly said, ‘No,’ but took the study we proposed and ran it on his own, which I give him a lot of credit for doing.”

The CEO sat down with them to talk about the results.

“They were really interesting,” said Rubin. What they discovered was that “the company did a really great job hiring women at equal [pay] levels to the men that they were hiring. They had done a pretty good job of recruiting women into the organization. But – there were some problems during the promotions process.”

And there was one noticeable discrepancy: At the VP level, there was a problem with one person being paid less than the other VPs.

“That was me,” said Rubin.

Needless to say, Rubin got a raise.

“It was an interesting, different way to try and solve a problem through data as opposed to just saying, “I don’t think this is fair; I think something unfair is happening,'” Rubin said of her strategy. “That’s never the reason I would want to argue for something.

“This is just a different approach that worked really well because it came down to the data.”


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.