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Closing the Wage Gap

Closing the Wage Gap

In the fight to eradicate male-female wage disparity, Corning has been recognized as a long-term leader by Bloomberg Businessweek, Cornell University, and others. After achieving 100% pay parity in the U.S., Corning is extending its processes to identify and close pay gaps for the entire global workforce.

Christy Pambianchi, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, shares about Corning’s practices for achieving wage parity, as well as its commitment to continue championing diversity.

Christy, can you start with some background on why Corning was highlighted in the feature by Bloomberg Businessweek?

A Bloomberg Businessweek reporter named Claire Suddath decided to tackle this topic and told me she found that the issue is still currently engrained in our economy and our culture. Her research showed that wage gaps originally narrowed from the 1960s to the 90s and then the problem stayed more or less the same for the past 20 years.

When this reporter looked back at what was going on historically, she found a number of news articles from the 1980s that mentioned Corning. The company was at the forefront of addressing what at the time was this very novel idea that women and minorities were not being represented at higher levels in companies, not through their own failings but because of the corporate system that worked against them. So she wanted to see what we had done back then and what we're doing now as leaders on this front.

What drives Corning to take a leadership role in this fight?

Fundamentally, paying men and women equally for doing equal work, inclusive of experience and performance, is just the right thing to do. And it's consistent with Corning's Values and our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, both of which are so critical to our success. I feel we would be failing our employees if we were a company that was cited as not having strong practices in this area.

Additionally, the way we in HR have approached pay equity is reflective of our corporate culture. For any critical program at Corning, you have to have process rigor and robust systems in place to make real progress, and you have to apply metrics. As an engineering culture, we're not afraid to measure what we're doing in a particular area and say we're not as good as we need to be, and identify the things we're going to do to improve. Our human resources organization has that same discipline. We want our workforce to be reflective of the available talent pool, and we want to promote and pay our people equally. That’s why we have invested in sophisticated tools that help us measure trends and analyze root causes so that we can implement corrective actions and constantly improve.

When we say Corning has 100 percent pay equity, how do we compute this?

Over the years, our HR leadership team regularly conducted annual reviews to make sure there was no gender or ethnicity bias in our pay system, which factors in external market benchmarks, internal salary ranges, hierarchy structure, and performance ratings. Seven years ago, we decided to take it up a level. We started working with a high-power data analytics firm to deeply examine our pay system. Then for the last four years or so, we've built on that by working with a consulting firm that specializes in this practice.

When we first started doing this kind of analysis, we found we were at about 99.2 percent of women's pay by comparison to men for equal work, inclusive of experience and performance, etc. Over the past three years or so, we've increased it to about 100 percent parity.

In the past, it was a year-long process to get all the data downloaded, do the evaluation, and make manual adjustments to correct gaps. Now, we've accelerated the process in the U.S. so that we can do it quarterly and make real-time adjustments. Starting this year, we'll be extending the process for our entire global workforce.

Human resource managers from around the company will call us saying, "I'm doing some hiring and I want to make sure I maintain my pay equity when I extend my offers." The Compensation team uses the analytics tool to provide guidance and to look at how we bring people into the businesses and staff groups to sustain pay equity across the board.


What else comes into play in maintaining parity?

For one, if you're not bringing in a workforce that matches the diversity that's available, you've already lost. So step one for us, starting in 2004, was to make sure we're hiring to availability as determined by the United States Census Bureau for every job classification. You can't do what you can't measure, so we put in some very robust metrics that enable us to understand the availability for a particular job every time a requisition is opened.

Second, we make sure that our promotion rates are tracking inside the company so that women and minorities are promoted according to their performance, their contributions, and their areas of expertise. And we work proactively to make sure diverse emerging talent is aware of available opportunities for promotion.

Then the third thing we do is manage attrition. We focus heavily on making sure we're not seeing minorities and women leaving at rates that are greater than the majority.

By doing these three things in conjunction with our Diversity in Leadership initiative, we've made great progress. Today our attrition rate is approximately three percent in the U.S. and five percent globally. We have three women and one African American on Corning's board, and there are two women and two African Americans on the Management Committee. Additionally, we've tripled the number of Asians and ethnic minorities and doubled African Americans and women in the management and leadership ranks across the company.

From a business perspective, why is it beneficial to prioritize diversity and inclusion with the rigor you describe?

We know that successful innovation at Corning depends on diversity of thought, experience, background, and the unique traits of individuals working in a collaborative, inclusive culture. We foster a culture in which people can bring their whole selves to work, be fully included, and feel safe in debating, challenging, and exchanging ideas. Diversity truly inspires innovation and provides a competitive advantage.

In addition, there is a solid business case for diversity and inclusion. McKinsey & Company published a report in 2015 showing companies in the top 25 percent for gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are more likely to have greater financial returns than their peers. Further, the report shows that in the U.S., for every 10 percent increase in diversity on a company's senior executive team, Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) rose 0.8 percent. That's significant.

Group think is the death of innovation, so to carry out our mission of inventing life-changing technologies, it's imperative that we have a culture that embraces collaboration, teamwork, and diversity of thought, as well as diversity in people, because great things come from the synergies of our differences.

How will Corning continue to advance wage parity and diversity around the globe?

  • Corporate culture of continuous improvement; always looking for ways to improve
  • Describe how Corning is expanding wage parity to other regions, starting with Asia