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Finding the Right Pay Fit: Wisdom from WEV for Small Businesses

As entrepreneurship thrives, ensuring equitable pay practices is critical for small businesses. In California, Women's Economic Ventures (WEV) is empowering small business owners with tools and training to enhance their compensation philosophies through an equity lens.

California is well-known for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem of more than four million small businesses, employing more than seven million people. Women start forty-nine percent of new businesses in California, often searching for a better work-life balance and more control over their work environment. Women’s Economic Ventures, a non-profit organization based in Santa Barbara, offers training and tools for small business owners to help them enhance their business skills and connect with business advisors and financing. 

Kathy Odell, the organization's CEO, emphasizes that small businesses should take a holistic view of pay equity. Each might ask: What do we need to succeed and how should employees be treated fairly? "We talk to our clients a lot about what pay equity means and what their compensation philosophy could look like,” she said. “It's more than just salary and hourly wages and healthcare benefits.” 

Having a clear compensation philosophy helps align these compensation decisions with the organization's objectives. Odell said that small businesses can have a philosophy of using their size as an advantage, customizing compensation and understanding the relative value of ‌each employee's personal needs. For some employees, health care benefits are the most important. For others, it may be more time off in the summer to be with their family when the kids are out of school.  

Odell also highlighted that WEV’s focus is providing its members with a network of resources that are the same as a large company would have. These resources include ‌human resources consultants who can support pay equity initiatives. "Our HR consultant is available, and some of our volunteers who are in HR are available to our clients on a no-fee consulting basis," Odell adds. “Getting good advice is much easier than fixing a mistake.

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