In the U.S., women earn 82 cents on the dollar that men earn. That means in order to match the income of their male colleagues, women would need to work an extra 47 days each year.
The wage disparity has many sources, including educational level, job experience and type of work being done. But one of the drivers — gender discrimination — has no excuse, and is in fact illegal.
A Seattle-based startup working to quash unfair pay gaps is gaining steam. Syndio Solutions recently announced a $5.2 million seed round and that it had hired Smartsheet co-founder Maria Colacurcio as CEO and Rob Porcarelli, who served as Starbucks assistant general counsel for 13 years, as chief legal officer.
Founded in 2016 by data scientist and law professor Zev Eigen, Syndio Solutions has created a platform to analyze a company’s salaries, rooting out discriminatory differences in pay that are tied to gender, race, ethnicity or age and providing strategies for fixing those disparities.
“You can have big [wage] gaps that are not a problem and tiny gaps that are absolutely a problem,” Eigen said. “These are all questions that can be answered with data science and statistics, but there is really no other way.”
Past solutions for employers concerned about unequal pay included hiring outside legal counsel and a labor economist to generate a snapshot analysis of wage gaps, an exercise that could cost around $150,000. With Syndio, a company pays $25,000-50,000 for a yearlong subscription that allows them to run and rerun salary comparisons in different ways and come up with solutions for making wages fairer.
Eigen and Colacurcio said the tool benefits businesses by safeguarding them from pay discrimination lawsuits and negative press. A commitment to wage parity can be a powerful recruiting tool in hot markets. And workers who know they’re being fairly compensated are going to be happier and harder working, boosting a company’s bottom line. More broadly, fair wages to women and minorities benefit communities and the overall economy.
“This problem is totally solvable,” Colacurcio said of pay gaps.
Employers using Syndio upload information on employees including education, experience, tenure at a company, performance and their location, then the software analyzes their salaries to determine if pay variation is due to legitimate differences in a worker’s profile, or if gender or other traits are driving the disparity.
“You can immediately see if there is an issue,” Colacurcio said.
The 10-person startup has mostly served companies of around 1,000 or more employees, including Nordstrom and Slack, but is looking to work with smaller businesses as well.
Other companies providing software solutions for addressing pay gaps include PayScale, SameWorks and Gapsquare.
Before launching Syndio, Eigen worked as an attorney with clients trying to address pay gaps. The “one and done” approach of creating a costly report that simply documented the disparity didn’t make sense to him. Employers needed ongoing analysis to make real changes. And Eigen was keen to provide a long-term solution.
“I’m very tired of people lamenting problems but not putting in the work and the time to eradicate them,” he said.
The Syndio team wants to expand their scope to address equity across the HR lifecycle, including hiring and promotions.
“There are other questions,” Eigen said, “that need to be looked at through the same fairness lens.”
We caught up with Eigen and Colacurcio for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Syndio is a company committed to eradicating pay disparities in the workplace. We license software to companies that are serious about equal pay. We help them find and fix pay equity issues, and stay in compliance over time.
Inspiration hit us when: Inspiration hits the team every single day. It hit Zev when he realized he could automate the complex regressions being done by lawyers and labor economists to provide ongoing analysis and lasting change. It hits us as we measure ourselves on impact, e.g. how much money do we move for women and under-represented classes in the workplace. We are given an annual bonus on this figure and we all have the same (transparent) percentage, even the CEO.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Right now we are funded by private equity and VC investors. We have a huge opportunity in the market to penetrate companies and make change. At the end of the day, we care deeply about solving this problem so the faster we grow, the better for all. Do you know that the economy benefits when women make more? This is because women influence more than 85 percent of retail decisions.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our team. We are passionate about having lasting impact and eradicating pay disparity once and for all. This problem is 100 percent solvable!
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Focusing 100 percent of our energy on the pay equity product (the diversity and inclusion product is awesome too — we will get to that when pay equity is solved).
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Trying to bootstrap for too long. And in the early days, we undervalued our product and sold for a price that was too low with license terms that were too short.
Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? We’d love Melinda Gates and her company Pivotal Ventures in our corner. She invests in companies who want to make a difference and that is who we are. Melinda is a visionary and sees the business, economic and philanthropic logic for equal pay. Having her as an advisor or on our board would be a huge win.
Our favorite team-building activity is: Converging on a white board in a tiny conference room where half of us sit on the floor. Collectively deciding how we want to measure ourselves to achieve an annual performance bonus. (Individual goals/collective goals/what percentage/how will we measure it?)
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Passion on the topic of eradicating pay disparity in the workplace is first and foremost. Second is kindness (our mantra: don’t be an ass).
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Find a solvable problem with market fit and customers that you can identify (e.g. what title/industry/field).