Finding Jobs in the She-cession

By Sara Shapiro-Plevan and Rabbi Rebecca W Sirbu

She-cession. None of us like how this sounds, nor the implications. This is not the way women want to make headlines. This term was coined just a few weeks ago by C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Job losses are staggering. Women, however, are faring worse. The unemployment rate for women is above 15% at the end of April, and for men, 13% (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Certainly, this will get worse. 

Jobs are open here and there, and when hiring happens, and when jobs come back, we cannot abandon the gains we’ve made toward gender equity in hiring. We can’t permit the collective fears of our community to be realized: “many leaders are concerned that the progress that has been made in recent years to center conversations and initiatives around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) will begin to fall away or be deprioritized in this environment.” (What We’re Hearing From the Field, eJewish Philanthropy, May 11)

Over the past year and a half the Gender Equity in Hiring Project has been advocating for employers to post salary ranges when posting open positions. We believe that this is a diversity, equity and inclusion issue – and a justice issue. Research has demonstrated that doing so is particularly helpful for minority and marginalized candidates, in particular women, people of color, and LGBTQ people looking for jobs. Here is why:  

  • Transparency and trust are values, and listing salary demonstrates that an organization is transparent about its budget and process. Salary transparency aligns with these organizational values of transparency. Individuals seeking a position prefer to work in organizations that align with their articulated values, and of course, trust their employees, and have transparent budgets, too. 
  • Using everyone’s time effectively allows the process to move more efficiently. Listing salary ranges helps an organization to limit candidates to the right applicants, not the ones who are expecting to earn many times as much or the ones for whom a position is a giant reach, helping these organizations to save time in the process. A salary range helps a potential applicant to identify a position as “executive level” or “entry level” even if the advertisement does not clarify it as such.
  • “Commensurate with experience” is meaningless. Organizations that include this are really expressing that either they haven’t yet decided on a salary, or they’ll choose a salary based on their preferred candidate. This speaks to an internal indecisiveness that should raise red flags for potential candidates, and raises the risk that implicit bias will be engaged in the search process. In addition, this may also be detrimental to women and others who have the experience and expertise deserving of a particular salary, but who may have been systematically held back or marginalized, resulting in reduced rank or prior pay.
  • Women are less likely to apply if they feel that they are not just right for the position, or that the organization is not just right for them. Adding a salary range helps everyone of any gender determine if the financial package is right for them, complementing other decisionmaking on the way to determining whether or not they are “right for the position.” The more information any individual has about a particular job in the hiring process, the better the chance that they will be able to make an informed decision.
  • But most of all, not listing salary requires women and other  minorities to negotiate from a position of weakness, perpetuating and even deepening the pay and equity gap. In many cases, women and other minorities have less experience and different skills in the art of negotiation, and a woman or other minority or marginalized candidate who is forced to negotiate without any salary range data is required to bargain for her salary. Transparent salary ranges posted along with job postings eliminate this concern and help women begin from the same position of strength as their cis-male colleagues. 

Right now, in this moment of terrible flux, jobs are disappearing. Unemployment is rising, furloughs and salary reductions are being structured, and budgets are falling, in the Jewish community and well beyond. We are all terribly concerned about the future of work, our economic health as a society, and the equity of and in our community – in addition to our physical and emotional health and safety. 

This makes it all the more important to not abandon the core issues for which we fight. When we strive for equitable treatment in the workplace, specifically in the hiring or termination process, it doesn’t only mean that we are guided by our values in times of prosperity, when it is convenient. It means that this equitable treatment is required at all times, in lean times, even when it is difficult.  Our values must guide us, even now. Even when it is hard. 

We at The Gender Equity in Hiring Project are confronted by this issue now. We have been asked if, given the current rate of unemployment, it is permissible to share jobs with friends or colleagues and on social media without listing a salary range in order to help people find work. The answer is a resounding yes. We want to do everything we can to help people find work. We recognize that many organizations work towards change at different rates. Several have already begun posting salary ranges on every job, while others are in a transition phase, and still others just are not ready to make the leap yet because of complicated internal structures. When we see job descriptions without salary ranges attached, know what we are advocating, often behind the scenes, to make sure that the organization is considering how they may include a range, fighting for equity inside and with that organization, and supporting their efforts, however gradually to make change. You may not see it, but know that it is happening. 

This is the reality we are living in. We can do both: help individuals find the jobs they need and continue to advocate for change in the hiring process. These two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. Our overall goal is to support all people, but especially women and other minorities, in their job searches and to help organizations design, create and launch equitable searches as they make the best matches for their communities.

We advocate for salary range transparency because it is a justice issue. And we do so as well – and now most especially – because we cannot afford to stand idly by and watch the talent pipeline continue to leak. In this crisis, and at every other time in the future, we cannot permit our talented women and other members of our extended professional community to exit the Jewish professional workplace for leadership positions elsewhere. We must do better. The response to this pandemic needs to be a feminist response. It must be a fight for equity for women and all minorities in our community, and for the vulnerable everywhere.  

What can you do?

If your organization isn’t there yet, advocate internally for their inclusion. Learn from the example of TCJewfolk, who made this commitment in 2019 and leads in the Jewish community by example.

  • When you share jobs with friends and colleagues, advocate for the inclusion of a salary range. If the jobs shared don’t have a salary range included, ask your network to give feedback to the organization posting the job that a salary range should be included, and share the rationale. We invite you to note that this will help them get the best, most appropriate candidates for the job in question.
  • When an organization or individual expresses concern about posting a salary range, share some of the big ideas expressed in this article to help advocate for change. 
  • And when you need help, reach out to us. 

Now more than ever, when we are in a time of great economic uncertainty, transparency in the hiring process, and diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, are values that we all must embrace. 

Sara Shapiro-Plevan and Rabbi Rebecca W Sirbu are the Co-Founders of The Gender Equity and Hiring in the Jewish Community Project.