Square details compensation and promotion practices

When tech companies explore diversity and inclusion initiatives, there’s a risk that marginalized groups may feel “othered” and reduced to a number. That’s what Square has found, the company revealed in the first of a series of posts on Square’s diversity and inclusion efforts. So instead of emphasizing demographic data, Square is taking a new approach that entails deep dives into its inclusion efforts.

Regarding promotions and compensation — two key places where unconscious bias can often show up — Square has begun to implement three specific initiatives. One is pushing managers to consider promotion readiness for everyone on their team, explicitly highlighting the people who have been at their current job level longer than the median time for people in similar roles who were promoted in the past two promotion cycles.

“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,” Square describes on its blog.

And before someone gets a raise, Square’s people analytics team conducts a full audit of pay fairness by gender, race and age. The goal is to mitigate bias by checking for any statistical evidence of it before the decision becomes final.

“We check for potential disparities both overall and within specific jobs, and review any outliers we find,” Square says. “While this lengthens the overall promotion process, it gives us the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments before finalizing employees’ new compensation.”

Square is not at the point where diverse people are evenly distributed across high-paying roles, but says addressing that is part of the plan.

Square’s series on these topics comes almost 18 months after the company released its first diversity report. Last year, Square was 36.7 percent female globally, and 57.3 percent white, 6.4 percent black and 5.8 percent Latinx in the U.S.

“Reporting is important, but it doesn’t appear to be driving meaningful change or increasing our public accountability,” Square explains on its site. “Even worse, what these reports do seem to accomplish is the commoditization of the communities the practice was intended to support. Many employees tell us these reports make them feel like they’re reduced to numbers. And that sucks.”

While Square still has plans to share demographic data, the company is looking to be more transparent and communicative around all of its efforts. The purpose of these posts is to shed some light into Square’s approach to D&I, speaking candidly about what has worked and what hasn’t worked. The ideal outcome is that other companies will open up and share their best and inadvertently worst practices.