As the mother of two daughters, our household is full of “girl power.” My daughters believe they can do anything and that they are not limited by their gender. So, how do I explain to them that in 2017, women earned 82% as much as men? My husband and I focus on education and the benefits it provides for a lifetime; how do I explain to my high school daughter that she will most likely make less than her male peers right out of college?There are many reasons that pay disparity still exists: training, negotiation skills, caregiving roles, and unconscious biases. Men, women, and businesses have all been a part of creating this inequality in our workplaces, yet most people believe that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. According to Lean In, 75% of Americans think the gender pay gap is unfair and only 16% think companies are doing enough to close the gap. Many aspects of this issue are cultural and will take time to resolve, yet there are specific things that companies can do now to help close the pay equity gap.
- Perform a wage analysis – It is possible to have a wage gap problem and not even know it. Best practice is to hire an outside firm who specializes in compensation review. Senior leadership should be involved and committed to act if disparity exists.
- Establish pay ranges for each job description – Before interviewing candidates for a job, a pay range should be determined and posted along with the requirements. This will help curb any unconscious bias and help both the candidates and company know the parameters surrounding wages.
- Avoid salary history questions – The average woman will lose more than $530,000 over the course of her lifetime because of the wage gap, according to the Economic Policy Institute. If women start off their career being paid less and with each new job they are asked about their salary history to determine future compensation, then they can never catch up. Nine states have adopted laws that prohibit employers from requesting salary history from candidates. Best practice is to avoid this question and base salary on the established pay range of the job.
- Consider work flexibility - Women are often financially penalized for being the primary caregivers in their family. If feasible in your work environment, consider more flexibility so that all employees can perform their job successfully and still maintain a work-life balance.
The burden to narrow the gender wage gap does not fall on businesses alone. Women have a responsibility as well to not only fight for equal rights but to be a part of the solution. The pay gap won’t change overnight and I realize that my daughters will also have to work towards equity. When it is time to begin their careers, I hope they will remember my motherly advice: negotiate salary with skill and confidence; know what your job is worth in the marketplace; find a mentor; don’t be afraid to use your voice; and most importantly, Work Hard.