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Coffee Break Conversation: Writing a New Story: Centering Equity and Humanity in Staff Compensation

Info: Join us for an AEA Coffee Break conversation, featuring an upcoming pre-conference workshop taking place at Eval 23 in Indianapolis, Indiana. In this session, you will hear about the topic from the presenter and have the opportunity ask the presenter a question before heading out to Eval 23. You can find registration information for pre-conference workshops here:

Many commonly-accepted compensation practices reinforce unequal treatment amongst professional evaluators, which often run counter to the expressed equity-centered values of their organization. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies employers and supervisors can take to bring their practices in greater alignment with their equity-centered values. In this professional development session, we will critically examine longstanding practices in employee and subcontractor compensation, and explore more equitable alternatives. Attendees will reflect on how their identities and experiences affect their ability to detect and address inequitable compensation practices, and how consistent use of “bias interrupters” can counter those habits. Participants will develop an inventory of their current practices and identify near- and mid-term steps they can take to better align their compensation practices with their values.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Upon completion, participants will be able to describe the multiple dimensions of employee/subcontractor compensation and name which dimensions are used in their professional context.
  • Upon completion, participants will understand ways to identify and interrupt biased and/or inequitable compensation practices.
  • Upon completion, participants will have a draft action plan for their organization that identifies near- and medium-term actions they will take to better align their compensation practices with their values.

This workshop is aligned to AEA’s Competencies and Guiding Principles as follows:
Evaluation is a service business. The staff is the main driver of clients’ experiences and the quality of the work. For example, our organizations spend 70% or more of our annual budget on staff-related costs. Attracting and retaining terrific people is at the core of success in evaluation, whether as a consultant or in an internal-to-organization role. Many members of the AEA community are employers, contractors, or supervisors responsible for setting policies regarding compensation. Yet their prior experience with human resources related topics varies widely, reflecting the eclectic professional training amongst evaluation professionals. Many employers, contractors, and supervisors in evaluation prioritize on-the-job learning, including their approach toward compensation, which is, very often, one of their many responsibilities. In the last several years, the evaluation field has collectively taken a clearer stand on the role evaluation professionals play in supporting social change. For example, the Statement on Cultural Competence in evaluation urges evaluators to “recognize the dynamics of power,” and numerous sessions at the 2022 AEA Conference touched on concepts of equity, justice, anti-colonialism, and culturally responsive professional practice. Many compensation-as-usual practices run counter to equity-centered values, and are too rarely examined in this light. Moreover, many employers, contractors, and managers are from “centered” backgrounds (e.g. white, cisgender, high levels of formal education) that discourage active reflection on how seemingly neutral policies can further marginalize others. This dynamic affects AEA members, as well: in 2019, 72% identified as white or caucasian, and anecdotal observations indicate that nearly all members hold at least a bachelor’s degree, while most have a master’s or PhD. Fortunately, there are robust alternatives to compensation-as-usual practices that are well-suited to the evaluation field. Equity-minded employers, contractors, and supervisors can implement a variety of these strategies in order to better align their practices and values, and to increase employee/subcontractor engagement and retention as a result. Awareness of these strategies, and building the ability to constructively interrogate existing practices, is especially important for employers, contractors, and supervisors from “centered” identities, since compensation-as-usual practices are designed to benefit those in power.


Corey Newhouse, MPP (she/her/hers)
Founder and Principal
Public Profit

Komani Lundquist
Via Evaluation

October 2nd, 2:30 PM - 3:00 PM ET