Inclusion & Diversity

This is a series discussing Inclusion & Diversity at Square. Below, we’re talking about promotion and compensation. Scroll down for more posts in our series.


On the People Analytics team at Square, we work to surface insights that drive better and more impactful people decisions at Square. Promotion and compensation cycles are places where unconscious bias can unfairly impact employees, so we want to share learnings from our efforts to help ensure that bias along the lines of gender, race, and age doesn’t influence promotion and compensation decisions at Square or elsewhere.

Here’s what we’ve implemented to date.

We encourage managers to consider promotion readiness for everyone on their team: Before promotion nominations are due, each Square executive receives a “promotion primer” with details on their entire team, highlighting people based on how long they’ve been in their current job level. To do this, we find the median time in a specific level for people in similar types of roles who were promoted in the past two promotion cycles, and highlight the current team members who have been in their level for longer than this median time. Although time in job level is just one metric in a multi-dimensional promotion consideration process, these primers help ensure that every team member is considered, not just those who are more vocal or in more visible roles.

HR facilitates fair and unbiased promotion calibration sessions: Inspired by research from Google, we created a Fair and Square checklist to remind promotion panelists about biases that might come up while discussing potential promotees. The HR Business Partners who facilitate promotion calibrations set the tone early on by conducting an exercise with panelists to create a checklist of potential biases, and then encouraging everyone in the room to call out biased language or reasoning if they hear it. We piloted this approach with our engineering organization this spring, and have now expanded the bias checklist to all promotion calibrations company-wide in the fall promotion cycle.

Analysts check for statistical evidence of bias before compensation decisions are final: During our compensation review process, after managers submit proposed compensation changes, we have a checkpoint for our People Analytics team to conduct a full audit of pay fairness by gender, race, and age. We check for potential disparities both overall and within specific jobs, and review any outliers we find. While this lengthens the overall promotion process, it gives us the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments before finalizing employees’ new compensation.

What’s next: While we’ve worked diligently to ensure people in similar roles are compensated fairly, we’re still not at a point where everyone is distributed evenly across high-paying roles. The checkpoints above help ensure that people doing similar work are paid fairly, but when our analysis doesn’t control for type of role and level of seniority, we still see pay gaps because we don’t have equal representation in our highest-paying jobs.

Societal structural inequities drive a lot of this disparity, and the next step of this work is addressing the inequalities that lead to different representation for job functions across the industry. We’ll talk more on how we’re addressing that issue in an upcoming post on leadership. This is one piece of the puzzle. By making these bias mitigation steps part of our recurring People programs, we’re building a process that should only get better over time.

Promotion & Compensation

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