Gurdeep Singh Raina: Reducing Gender Pay Gaps among Top Managers

By Becky Kramer

Gurdeep Singh Raina

Reducing the pay gap between top male and female managers could be as straightforward as adding more women to a company’s board of directors.

When women make up about 15 percent of the board members, the gender pay gap narrows, according to research by Gurdeep Singh Raina, a doctoral student at the WSU Carson College of Business.

“A lone woman in a group of men may hesitate to speak up,” he said. But when at least two women sit on a 10-member board of directors, they are more likely to voice their views, influencing company policies on issues such as executive pay.

“They feel safer being vocal when their viewpoint differs from the majority, because they might assume the other women will back them,” said Raina, who is studying management.

Raina analyzed data from 2,658 publicly traded US companies between 2005 and 2018, looking at board composition by gender and compensation packages for top managers. The research focused on C-suite level executives who report directly to the CEO.

Having a female CEO was also an influencing factor in pay parity. When companies had both a female CEO and multiple women on the board, gender pay gaps among top managers decreased to almost zero, according to Raina.

“We believe the same principles are at work,” he said. “Female board members might think ‘The chief executive is a woman. She’s likely to support us on pay parity for top managers.’”

Gender pay gaps vary by industry, but they’re widely acknowledged in the business world. While researchers have studied the issue, most of the analysis has focused on pay for female CEOs and rank-and-file women employees, Raina said.

Besides broadening the understanding of gender pay gaps in upper management, Raina said his dissertation research is a topic of personal interest. He worked in manufacturing and business consulting in India, China, and Hong Kong before he started his doctoral studies.

“I worked in male-dominated industries, and I often wondered why there wasn’t more female leadership,” he said.

Raina’s research placed second in the college’s Three-Minute Thesis competition last spring, where doctoral students give brief overviews of their research. He also has presented his findings at several academic conferences.

The research has broad significance for organizations—not only for companies, but also for government entities and nonprofits, says Arvin Sahaym, Raina’s dissertation advisor and a professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems, and Entrepreneurship.

Bringing diverse ideas into an organization requires more than having a token woman or person of color on the board of directors, he said.

“We need to think proactively about diversity, equity, and inclusion. That includes addressing what prevents people from bringing their unique viewpoints to the table,” Sahaym said. “Having that diversity of ideas helps organizations deliver the best results.”

Teaching and community service

Besides his research, Raina has earned recognition at WSU for his classroom teaching skills and community service.

Raina’s industry background helps him connect with students, said Ron Moser, scholarly associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems, and Entrepreneurship.

“He has a strong executive presence,” Moser said. “When he was my teaching assistant, I quickly realized that instead of an assistant, I really had a trusted business partner. That’s how we’ve treated our relationship.”

Moser also recruited Raina to work with him on WSU’s 2025 strategic plan, a university wide effort to strengthen WSU’s role a as a public research university.

In addition, Raina spent two years as senator for the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) and is a past president of the WSU Indian Students Association. He’s an advisor to WSU’s Sikh Students Association and an outside advisor to the board of Spectrum Institute, a nonprofit advocating for adults with mental and developmental disabilities.

Last spring, Raina received the GPSA’s service award, recognizing contributions to the WSU community and beyond.

“He’s heavily invested in all things Coug,” Moser said.