How do you get paid what you’re worth as an instructional designer or elearning developer–especially as a woman? I spoke on the topic of pay equity as part of TLDC’s Women of L&D 2023 event. As an individual, I think getting paid what you’re worth starts by knowing the benchmarks and understanding what others are paid for similar roles. I reviewed data from multiple sources on pay in the learning and development field, including comparing pay for employees and freelancers. A number of different factors affect salaries and hourly rates, so it can be tricky to figure out what’s fair. I also talked about how to advocate for yourself. While organizations also bear responsibility for closing the gender pay gap, we as individuals can make a difference by knowing what we’re worth.
I started with a short presentation to share pay benchmarks, but most of the time was spent answering questions. Thanks for Linnea Conely for hosting the interview part of this session and moderating the chat.
Watch the recording
Resources to help you get paid what you’re worth
I have collected all of the benchmarks on instructional design salary and hourly rates in a single post. That post includes sources where you can dig into more detailed data for various positions.
The Freelancing Females Freelance Rate Database is an interesting resource that I discovered as I was researching for this presentation. This is all self-reported data, so some caution is warranted, but I appreciate the detail for each entry. Just reading the description of the types of projects each freelancer does helps show why some people are charging $65/hour while others are charging $125/hour.
Most of the sources I consulted that had specific breakdowns by gender showed a 10-15% gender pay gap. The Learning Guild’s research found that gap to be fairly consistent over multiple years (although I wonder if the gap may have widened during the pandemic).
I reviewed several research reports and articles from the Learning Guild in my preparations. Patti Shank, Temple Smolen, and others from the Guild have done a lot of work digging into the pay gap and the reasons for it.
- Research Spotlight: The Gender Pay Gap in eLearning
- eLearning Guild Research: Gender Issues in Pay, or What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You
- Overcoming Hurdles That Block Female Advancement
Systemic problems require systemic solutions
While I focused a lot on resources to help individuals get paid more, the pay gap is a systemic problem. We can’t fix it just as individuals. Pay transparency is one of the systemic solutions to help reduce the gap, and sharing benchmarks helps with that. But that’s not enough, nor is it enough to just negotiate for more pay.
Julie Dirksen wrote a rant on the gender pay gap in elearning over 10 years ago. Unfortunately, a lot of this is still true today; I don’t think we’ve moved the needle very much. In particular, Julie talked about how much of the discussion on the gender pay gap focuses on the actions individual women should take.
I don’t object to the notion that women need to change their behavior, but I have a MASSIVE problem with the notion that ONLY women need to change their behavior to fix this!-Julie Dirksen (emphasis in the original)
So, I think all of this data is helpful, and certainly people can take action to make their own personal situations better. But, let’s not pretend that this is going to fix the problem. Truly fixing it likely involves work like Salesforce has done on pay equity. They audit how they pay their employees, review the data, and invest in adjusting pay. Salesforce also “learned that you cannot fix it once and move on.” They now do annual audits and readjustments to correct factors like employees joining the company via mergers and inflation. (Thanks again to Julie for mentioning this example at the Learning Solutions Conference.)
More on the Women in L&D 2023 event
Tuesday, October 31, 3:00 PM EDT: Level Up Your Elearning: Character Creation for Scenario-Based Learning. Part of TLDC’s free event From Instructional Design to Dungeons & Dragons: The Chronicles of Educaria.
In Dungeons & Dragons, character creation is the foundation of epic storytelling. In learning and development, the creation of characters plays a pivotal role in scenario-based learning. For this session, you will complete activities focused on shaping character backstories, defining their objectives, and constructing challenges that spark curiosity and foster learning. Learn tips for creating characters who are both relevant to your training context and interesting enough to spark attention. A good character for scenario-based learning is one your learners can identify with and that draws them into the story. Just like in RPGs, creating characters for workplace training scenarios requires a bit of imagination. Plan to actively participate in this session and practice creating both protagonists or player characters (PCs) and additional non-player characters (NPCs).