Closing the gender pay gap: brainstorming ideas

We observed a gender pay gap within the Open Food Network. If you count every dollar spent and if it was paid to a male or a female person, you see significantly more money going to men.

In my understanding, our situation is different to the simpler pay gap where two people doing the same work are paid differently. We have standardised rates for developers but we haven’t applied the same to the rest of the team. We also have a lot of flexibility around payments and volunteer work. That is partly because people are awesome and like to volunteer. But there is also a limited budget and not everybody gets their ideal payment.

The underlying causes are complex and I’m not sure if we understand them completely. In this thread, I would like to start brainstorming ideas how to close the pay gap. I would like us to avoid any judgment or adding any reasoning for our ideas. Brainstorming works best when you put all the stupid ideas out there and later we will review and find the best ones. I will start with a separate reply to this new topic.

After we collected ideas for a while, we can then analyse them in a different topic here or in a meeting. Then could be a good time to look at the underlying assumptions of the ideas and which values they might support. There may be a discussion about values before we can pick the best solution.

But for now, let’s brain dump everything we can think of or we have heard somewhere.


Okay, here are some ideas:

  • Apply the approval process and rates for developers to everybody working on OFN.
  • Divide our budget in halves and have one half for men and one for women.
  • Support females to learn computer science and coding.
  • Support males in social entrepreneurship.
  • Change our onboarding process to implement a quota.
  • Increase hourly rates for women.
  • Decrease hourly rates for men.
  • Stop paying wages at all and rely on volunteers.
  • Wait for the big grant that will allow us to pay everybody what they want.
  • Ignore the gender pay gap.
  • Look at other kinds of pay gaps.

Your turn. :slight_smile:


Nice of you to start this discussion again, @maikel.

  1. Some unpaid contributors consistently dedicate their time and skills.
  2. Sometimes, unpaid contributors dedicate more time than paid contributors individually.
  3. In their hearts, developers also “volunteer” hours if they forgo higher paying projects to keep working on OFN. Example: 40 hrs at 80% rate is like 32 hrs at 100% rate + 8 volunteer hours. And rejecting potential work is renewal of commitment to OFN.
  4. Log and categorize unpaid hours:
    a. Hours eagerly volunteered as stakeholder in an instance
    b. 100% contributed as philanthropy
    c. Volunteer hours that you wish could be paid or paid at higher rate
  5. Protect each other, as people who care about each other
  6. OFN Global should be a fair organization.
  7. Maybe compromising because people who offer time and skills are connected to instances? Need to define boundaries?
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Thanks @maikel for starting this thread.

I agree it is a tricky issue with many angles. I would like to brainstorm ideas for solving it and I completely agree that we should not filter our ideas because they might sound stupid. It is often the ‘stupid ideas’ that trigger new thinking in the long run.

I also want to use this space to flag up some of the underlying issues without necessarily getting to solutions YET :slight_smile:

For me, the underlying stuff in our wider society includes issues around women doing very important ‘feminine’ work like childcare and home-building and this work not being paid while men go out to work and have this work acknowledged financially. This financial acknowledgment is powerful.

I feel that this is mirrored to some extent in OFN in that the dev work is clearly visible but a lot of the non-dev work is as important as the dev work and often unpaid.

I really hope that OFN can use this as another opportunity to build a better way of working and that we can be brave in this discussion, tackle this thorny issue, being honest in our communication about it AND continue with the loving, respectful and constructive ways of communicating that we are getting so good at :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


@kristinalim you totally nailed it with your third point. All the points you make, actually, but that third one is very true. And tracking hours is something I think we all do, regardless of whether we’re paid or not.

Your fifth point is also a well made one…and I think we definitely do this. I feel supported by the global crowd, and I’m pretty sure most people would say the same. More than any other team I’ve ever worked with (and I’ve worked with many).

I think it’s interesting, because the pay gap is in itself a problem due to the value judgement we have collectively made about which roles should be paid and which ones we can’t afford to pay for. And therefore we have made the value judgement that we can do without it…or at least allow for it in piecemeal, ad-hoc, light touch ways via volunteer hours. And as @NickWeir notes, that value judgement about where the money is spent is going towards a role that is male dominated.

And to a point that @sauloperez said, that value judgement hasn’t necessarily put us in a good place, development-wise, and hypothetically we may well be in a better place with the pipe if we had non-devs paid for and dedicated to working on development in the same way.

But this is a scary, uncertain, and currently impossible (given the cash flow situation) step that none of use are able to collectively make. We can’t see how to do it, or if it’s possible, or if it really would improve at least the software development outcomes, and so we don’t do it.

The good news though is we have actually started doing this step, by bringing Yuko into the group and paying her for her design time. And we realised/saw the value in that, and wouldn’t do it any other way now. The only difference between this and the other non-dev stuff people do for free is the output (ie. design output and dev output provide tangible output, testing and product and train driving are intangible).

What I wonder about is how we get even braver, and when we get funding (whatever that amount may be) we enforce the payment of dev and non-dev workers. Maybe a quota where at least 30% of cash in the pipe must be paid towards non-dev/design work.


Some thoughts from my side…

  • Revenues come from relationships, not from software (OK, without the software there is no product but hopefully you get the point)
  • OFN seems very focused on IT development and whilst it’s a great product, the real power of OFN (as I see it), is the network that forms around the software

Unfortunately, modern capitalist societies pay for skills based on Keynesian supply and demand. IT skills have traditionally been scarce whilst the “softer” relationship skills were always taken for granted. In several years time this should completely reverse as the AI bots will handle development whilst real relationship skills will be in high demand, considering that most millenials are growing up clueless in this area.

But as we need a solution now, some further thoughts…

  • Development is a centralised function, paid for (I would assume) from the global pot
  • Relationships are a local instance function, paid for out of local operating revenues

If it were up to me I would pay equal amounts for equal time to everyone. But of course the devil is in the details and this probably speaks to how each instance contributes to the global pot etc. I’ve always considered paying shareholders (which is what I believe OFN staff to be) on a percentage basis, after costs. However, this implies risk to the shareholder, but also reward, versus paying a fixed rate.

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