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Dr. Tanjia M. Coleman of Reimagine Organization Development: 5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap

A greater understanding of the market. Most team members and/or employees never truly look at a market analysis report. I’m not talking about a report you will find by simply searching on the internet, but a specialized report that takes into consideration your education, years of experience, certifications, and level.

As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tanjia M. Coleman, President, Reimagine Organization Development, Inc.

Dr. Tanjia M. Coleman is an organizational and societal culture expert with nearly 20 years’ experience working as a senior-level human resources and organization development professional. Dr. Coleman has vast experience on all sides of business, Fortune 100, small business, start-up, and non-profit. Her professional career has opened doors at Microsoft, Starbucks, Tribune Company, Whirlpool, Sears, Motorola, and more. She currently works as an adjunct professor at Loyola University in Chicago and recently launched Reimagine Organization Development, Inc., or Reimagine OD. Using a combination of organizational change management, positive organization psychology, conscious capitalism, and strategic planning methods, Reimagine OD can put a magnifying glass on blind spots in any business ensuring a safe and equitable working environment for all.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

I grew up in a home where human and civil rights were always a topic of discussion. A home where paying homage to your ancestors and understanding there were people who literally gave their lives for the freedoms that we have today was a steadfast center point. There was always a duty to be kind, empathetic, dedicated, giving, and resourceful. There was no room for feeling sorry for yourself, not showing up, nor not being your best. There was too much sacrificed and still so much at stake.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

I have been in some function of sales or human resources for over 18 years now. The most interesting story came mid-career when I was told that I should never utter the word, “ambitious,” in the workplace again. That the word itself harbored negative feelings for some as if you were not satisfied where you were, that you were looking for something else and that you were not content. At that moment, I knew that I was not in a workplace that was conducive to how I viewed my career or lived my life. I am always looking to challenge myself by taking on new projects, assignments, or engaging multiple verticals within my business.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started in human resources, I was a technical recruiter. Many of the candidates assumed you were somewhat familiar with computer science. Well, I was not, and so many of the computer programmers would bring in these long sheets of code, asking my opinion about the level and complexity of their coding. I had no idea, but I would actually look at what they brought into the interview because I felt that was the right thing to do and they were so proud of their work.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2020, women still earn about 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

  1. Women are often not coached on how to negotiate offers. They are excited about the opportunity and often times simply say “yes” to the initial offer. I have a framework for women to use when negotiating offers. If you cannot obtain additional cash, negotiate other areas where there might be some flexibility like vacation days, short-term incentive allocations, tuition reimbursement, certification, access to executive coaching, or leadership development programs. Some say this is a myth, but this continues to be an issue, particularly in line manager-level roles. On the flip side, the gap between an offer given to a woman versus a man is extremely broad. Despite best negotiation skills, women receive an inequitable salary. Organizations need to offer a fair wage from the beginning.
  2. Employers having this feeling that women work “less” because of things like maternity leave, childcare, etc. Particularly now, this is not true, the paradigm has shifted, men now have paternity leave and there has been a change in childcare responsibilities within the home.
  3. Salary history bans will help bridge this gap, but not every state has enacted this, and each state has nuanced rules around it. Banning questions surrounding prior salary history can truly set women up for success, especially if their last employer was not paying them an equitable salary. Not having to divulge past salary history to a future employer and instead requesting a salary that aligns with the current market within your field is truly game-changing.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

I coach women on how to negotiate their salary once the offer has been extended. Conversely, I work with clients to ensure they are engaging in internal compensation parity efforts by:

  • Engaging in compensation market analysis
  • Looking for unexplainable gaps
  • Developing a strategy to close the gaps. Depending on the gravity of the identified compensation gaps this could be resolved immediately or with a longer-term progressive strategy.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. A greater understanding of the market. Most team members and/or employees never truly look at a market analysis report. I’m not talking about a report you will find by simply searching on the internet, but a specialized report that takes into consideration your education, years of experience, certifications, and level.
  2. Employers having more transparency around compensation. I always coach my clients and inform them that if for some reason there was a data breach would you feel comfortable communicating the differences in compensation to your various team members? Most of them would not be prepared if faced with this scenario. If you cannot fully articulate salary differences, then they probably should not exist.
  3. In the United States, women hold the title of being the most educated, however, this is not paying off from a compensation perspective. After you graduate, you are faced with this reality where you have paid for your education and may have taken on the burden of student loans only to receive less compensation than your male counterparts, so it is truly a double and even triple whammy for women.
  4. Making compensation bands tighter so they are not so broad. A compensation band for a particular grade or level can fluctuate as much as $50,000, there is a lot of room for compensation disparity that is organizationally built in.
  5. Closing the gaps on internal promotion. Oftentimes, women wait longer than men for promotions causing even bigger compensation disparity gaps.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Get to know someone completely opposite of you. The learning will be immeasurable. As humans, we tend to gravitate to those that are most like us, share our values, our experiences, outlook on life, upbringing, age, race, and ethnicity. Data from the Public Policy Research Institute (PRRI) shows 75-percent of whites have an entirely white social network without any minority presence while there is a slight difference for African Americans at 65%, there is a lot of work to be done.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Keep it moving. This has been one of my favorite life lesson quotes for many years. It represents so much in terms of dealing with disappointment, triumph, naysayers, challenges, and/or opportunities. As long as you are moving you are going places. When you stop moving to take in negativity or success you take your eye off the ball and are prone to become stagnant, complacent and your energy becomes depleted.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would like to meet Rosalind Brewer, she is the only African American women CEO of a Fortune 500 organization, Walgreens. Prior, she was the first African American and female COO of Starbucks, as well as President and CEO of Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. She also sits on the Board of Directors at Amazon.

She has a unique story that other women need to hear, especially Black women. African Americans have 1.2 trillion dollars of spending power according to Nielsen. I would like to hear how she would guide African Americans to rally their dollars within organizations such as Walgreens, that are clearly promoting African Americans to higher ranks within their organizations versus those organizations that have not yet done this, even though they depend on the African American consumer dollar.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.