Today, March 24, is National Equal Pay Day.
It symbolizes how far into the following year the average woman must work to earn the same amount the average man did in the previous year, regardless of experience or job type.
On average, women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, Equal Pay Day differs each year; it’s also important to note the date varies by race. For example:
- Asian-American women earn 85 cents to the average man, so their Equal Pay Day was March 5.
- African and Black women earn 61 cents to the male dollar, so their Equal Pay Day isn’t until Aug. 22.
- Native American women earn 58 cents on the dollar, and don’t reach pay equity to the average man until Sept. 23.
- Latinas earned 53 cents to every dollar earned by the average man, and don’t achieve pay parity until nearly the end of the year on Nov. 20.
Looking at this data, you can’t help but think, “It’s 2021; why are we still so far behind?”
Gender disparities run deep
There are a lot of complex issues at play, but here’s an example that can help put things into perspective. I recently had an experience last week counseling a friend (not a Businessolver employee) of mine in negotiating her offer for a new role. She was actually afraid if she negotiated, the offer could be pulled. I thought: Would a man in the same position have the same concern?
This story may ring true for many of us.
Women are less likely to negotiate their pay both when receiving initial job offers as well as when receiving promotions, merit increases and bonus pay. Many women feel like they should just be grateful for what they get or what they have, which can lead to underemployment and loss of advancement opportunities.
What’s more, COVID-19 put a microscope on the disparities between men and women when it comes to childcare and household responsibilities. In December 2020 alone, women lost a total of 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000 jobs.
Even without the pressures of the pandemic, women more commonly leave the workforce for extended periods of time to care for children and/or elderly relatives, which can also result in lost income from missed pay increases, bonuses and/or promotions—putting them even farther behind men in earnings.
The other side of the slippery slope
Women can lose even when they do ask for what they want.
When it comes to salary negotiations, women who negotiate assertively can be viewed as difficult to work with, greedy, pushy, too forward…the list goes on. These negative connotations aren’t typically associated with men who do the same. Assertive men are seen as go-getters, leaders.
Who is winning the bread?
Another situation I’ve experienced first-hand, as well as had many stories shared with me, is where pay discussions take into account who the “breadwinner” of the family is. If men are the sole breadwinner of a family, they tend to get higher pay increases compared to women who may not be the sole breadwinner, but are performing similar job duties.
So, what do we do? How do we help?
HR’s role continues to expand in the workplace today, including taking on the burden of diversifying leadership and bringing equality to all levels of the organization. This is important, now more than ever before, as employees and prospective employees alike take an organizations social stance on these topics into consideration when deciding to stay (or leave) an organization.
Here are some tips for HR professionals to consider when thinking about pay equity solutions:
- Throw out the old thinking of leaving room in an offer for negotiation. Instead, HR professionals should use good market data and compensation philosophy to make the very best offer to all candidates.
- Remove bias from your pay decisions and base them on market and performance. Period.
- Educate your workforce on your pay philosophy and provide transparency around how you set pay. Communicate your process around discrimination testing and be transparent around the steps you take if material weaknesses are found. If you aren’t annually conducting discrimination testing, start.
- Empathy! Pay is very personal and can drive a lot of emotion. Recognize this, genuinely make an effort to understand where an employee or candidate is coming from and ground your decisions in data and facts. Transparency will drive trust.
Although we still have a long way to go when it comes to equal pay for both men and women, making transparent and positive strides can help increase employee morale, decrease turnover and help women in particular advance and succeed in your organization. At the end of the day, gender equality is good for business. Organizations with higher numbers of women in executive positions financially outperform their counterparts.
If you’re looking for a real-world example, Micron Technology, Inc. recently announced that it has reached comprehensive global pay equity in total employee compensation across base, bonuses and stock rewards.
For more information about embracing diversity at your organization, check out our e-book below.