By Mark Stouse, CEO/founder of Proof

The tone of this op-ed is exceptionally blunt for one simple reason: it is shocking that in 2017 the question of equal pay for equal performance is something we still need to discuss.


This is especially true for marketing and communications, given that both assert the importance of human creativity and conscience, not to mention a general liberality. Yet it seems that this avowedly humanist approach very often still does not extend to equality and equity in compensation and promotion.


Equal pay for equal performance is a very simple economic calculus, one that most people on either side of the aisle appreciate and support. The clear objective is to first assess and then reward innovation in thought and deed, consistency and excellence in execution, collaboration with others for a greater good, and above all significance of impact.


Implemented properly, equal pay for equal performance also means the opportunity to earn better pay for better performance.  The downside risk is always there too: a consistent failure to perform should mean less pay or even no job, regardless of who you are.


I am a large company CMO and CCO turned analytics software CEO.  I’ve been privileged to lead large global teams of employees, agencies and contractors.  Almost twenty years of leadership have taught me that no one can be an effective leader, much less a good employer, if three things are not fundamentally true.


  1. Your colleagues must see that you love and appreciate them intrinsically. That means all people, regardless of whether you like them or whether they profit you or not. This is not a small thing.  It is hard, but there is no way around it.

  2. You must seek and do what is right and good for them before you take care of yourself.  Leadership is a sacrificial act. If you’re not prepared to sacrifice for others, you should think twice about accepting a leadership role. Quintuple the intensity of that statement if you’re in a startup.

  3. You must work very hard to identify and reward performance wherever it is to be found. This means adhering to a merit-based evaluation system that uses the right performance metrics, pervasively applied, in order to eliminate bias and undeserved preferences in any area, including compensation and promotion.

I promised candor in the first paragraph, and I want to keep that promise.

If you keep “two sets of books” when it comes to compensation, one for one group of people and one for another group, you have accepted an evil idea into your heart.


Every time you pay a woman less than you’d pay a man for the same performance contribution, you are stealing from her and denigrating the value of every woman in the workplace.


Every time you pay a person of color less than a white person for the same job, you are picking their pocket and tarnishing the integrity of every other employer.


Every month that goes by without a change in your behavior is creating massive new risks to your reputation and your business.  When it blows, your shareholders will not be amused.


It’s time to end the need to have this conversation by eliminating the problem. It’s time for people with talent and companies with money to refuse to work for or do business with any organization that fails to correct inequitable pay and promotion policies. If you are a CMO or CCO, ask to see evidence of equality and equity in your agency’s pay and promotion policies. If you’re an agency or consultancy, be the first to raise the issue of equal pay for equal performance with your clients and prospects. Let them know that you care a lot about their reputation and yours – enough to put your money where your mouth is.





Mark Stouse is CEO/founder of Proof Analytics, a collective intelligence and computing platform that helps you and your organization prove and improve your business impact.