How to make pay equity work

Last month, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team scored a big victory with a $24 million equal pay settlement that put the gender wage gap squarely in the spotlight. Whether you are a female worker, a person married to one, someone with a daughter in the workforce, or a business owner, the issue of equal pay for women impacts you.

The women’s soccer team ended a five-year legal dispute over their pay being less than men’s soccer. That was despite their winning their World Cup at a time when the men didn’t even qualify. But it certainly didn’t end an issue that has been plaguing women for centuries.

Today, women are paid just 83 cents on the dollar compared with men. That’s up from 77 cents ten years ago, but far short of where it ought to be. For women of color, the gap is even wider.

This is an issue I’m particularly interested in. I am proud that my mother Janis Sweeney founded her company at a time when most women were just entering the workforce, paving the way for other females to follow her lead including the strong female leaders that we have in place here at NEMR.  I am also proud of that my wife is holds several graduate degrees and is a strong leader in the public education field, helping to shape and build our leaders of tomorrow. And I am hopeful that my young daughter will one day earn equal pay for equal work.

I also see clients losing very talented female employees to the Great Resignation. Many females with young children are staying home because their incomes aren’t enough to justify the high cost of childcare.

“Labor market policies and norms that discourage a healthy balance between work and family commitments contribute to this disparity,” U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen recently told CNN. She cites the fact that most top jobs require longer hours, so women with caretaking responsibilities are often left behind.  “For example, in the field of law, women make up 47% of students at the top 50 law firms but comprise just 17% of equity partners at the nation’s top law firms.”

The disparity isn’t limited to high-paying fields such as law. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the wage gap pervades 94 percent of occupations. In this day and age, I find that disheartening.

It’s time for businesses across the board to end the practice of gender compensation disparities.

Why businesses should pay attention

In this labor market, offering the right compensation is more important than ever. A recent survey about why employees quit their jobs sheds some light. Of those who left, 53% said better compensation was the major factor. Of interest, only 26% of executives agreed, citing other reasons why they think employees left (Source: Society of Human Resources Management).

Today’s job candidates care about equality too. Nearly 72% of women won’t apply at a company with an equity pay gap (Source: Glassdoor Economic Research Study).

Compliance is certainly another factor. Over the past few years, two-thirds of the states have introduced legislation to ensure that workers receive equal pay. The laws range from prohibiting candidate’s salary history in hiring to requiring employers to collect and report pay data.

Whether your motivation is competitiveness, legal compliance, or simply because it’s the right thing to do, gender pay equity is gaining momentum. In 2022, 66 percent of organizations surveyed said they were planning an analysis of pay equity at their organization. It’s a good start (Source: Payscale).

Tips to fixing your gender pay gap

If you agree that women should earn equal pay for equal work at your company, but aren’t sure what the process looks like, here are some tips:

  • Conduct a gap analysis – It starts with aligning your management team on the issue. A pay equity audit should follow. Done right, it will identify pay differentials and why they exist. Is the problem at the beginning of the pipeline? For example, is there bias in the hiring process? Have you created salary bands including the skills needed within different levels of the same job? Does your pay structure consider length of service, education and special skills and certifications? Once you find the gaps, make the necessary salary adjustments.
  • Focus on your managers – Pay equity is not a one and done. It needs to be part of your ongoing hiring and employee evaluation process. Much of this effort lands on the shoulders of supervisors and managers. Be sure they receive training on federal and state laws, what unconscious bias looks like, and how to conduct fair and objective evaluations.
  • The big picture—Adjusting salaries is just one part of a strategy to ensure gender equity. Do you have competitive parental leave policies? Opportunities for women to take on big projects? Most important, do you actively promote women from within and do you have females in executive leadership roles?

Need assistance with the gender wage gap at your company? An advisor like NEMR Total HR can guide you to create alignment and equity. Chat with us or email us here.