By Christa Fletcher, contributor at The Underground Group
- Women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, yet they earn an average 20 percent less than men. And they’re not the only demographic that faces lesser pay as a whole.
- Unfair pay gaps are neither the fault nor total responsibility of company managers, and there are many companies where they doesn’t exist at all. However, you can do your part as an employer to prevent or address pay gaps—whether related to gender, age, race or other factors—in your office.
- Women on the front lines of the equal pay movement say transparency, audits and carefully-crafted hiring practices are key to promoting gender equality for employers.
“Equal pay for equal work” became a rallying cry in the 1960s. Unfortunately, it’s still widely applicable today, as women earn, on average, less than their male counterparts.
Women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce. Yet they earn an average 20 percent ($.80 on the dollar) less than men for the same position in nearly every field, despite decades of equal-pay activism and laws, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Globally, it'll take more than 200 years to achieve equal pay for all women if progress continues at the current rate, according to economists from the World Economic Forum.
Most business leaders know that unfair pay gaps exist, along with gaps related to race and age. But tactfully guarding against gaps can be tricky in offices. So Grow Wire did some research, sourcing recommendations from women who are angling to change the pay conversation. Here are their words of advice for employers.
Be transparent about wages while hiring.
It’s crucial to create pay transparencies in your business, said Jessica Milli, a study director at the IWPR. When company owners are clear about the salaries they offer and how employees are paid, equality is a natural biproduct.
For example, “Since women tend not to negotiate [salaries] as much or as assertively as men because they worry about being seen as too demanding or off-putting, [gender pay discrimination] becomes an unconscious bias," Milli said.
Of course, not all women have reservations about discussing wages. But as a manager, you can offset general bias effects by explaining how their wage systems work during interviews and being open to salary negotiations from all candidates.
Run a pay audit.
Conducting a pay audit can make your company more transparent, according to the Lean In blog. This allows you to spot unfair pay gaps of any kind, whether related to gender, age, race or another factor.
During an audit, your company will examine how it’s allocating wages along with other benefits like bonuses, overtime pay, holiday pay, insurance and so on. An audit will make it clear if women are getting paid less than men, for example, and in which specific areas.
This may seem like an obvious practice, but in reality, only 63 percent of U.S. businesses track salaries by gender. Analyzing compensation allows leaders to not only address pay gaps but also discover what exactly drives employees’ pay: Is it mainly bonuses? Overtime? Insurance perks?
(If you find a disparity during a pay audit and want to fix it, it’s best to raise the wages or benefits of the lower-paid group instead of lowering the other group’s wages, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)
Be completely objective when hiring …
Hiring managers need to lay out hyper-specific requirements for their open positions, then make every effort to look at only those requirements when hiring, said Catherine Connors, the cofounder and CCO of Maverick, a social network for collaboration among girls and role models.
“Talent recruiting involves some subjectivity, but if a company makes [objective hiring] a policy and assesses [candidates] evenhandedly, they have a better shot at getting it right,” Connors told Grow Wire. “We need to set aside the questions of ‘who the person is’ and focus on the role we’re paying them to perform and the value to our companies.”
… and offer information to candidates during the process.
Connors said that when recruiting for Maverick, she helps candidates understand the value of stock options and supported negotiations if needed. She said this is especially helpful for female candidates, who tend not to ask such questions during an interview.
“Men get better advice about what they can bargain for, but women are taught to be polite,” Connors said. “We need to be aware of culture and not be blind to these things.”
In the broader struggle to narrow pay gaps, managers aren’t alone: Governments are doing their parts, even if indirectly. Ten U.S. states recently passed laws making it illegal for employers to ask job candidates about their past salaries. This could translate to a win for under-compensated groups like women, Milli said, because instead of mentioning their current (and often lesser) salary during an interview, they’ll cite the amount they want to be earning, and thus get compensated at a level nearer to others.
Meanwhile, abroad, Iceland became the first country to outlaw the gender pay gap last year. There, both public and private companies must demonstrate they’re paying men and women fairly, or risk fines.
We understand: As a company manager, you are NOT Iceland. But you CAN work to promote equality in your own office, and that’s an empowering fact indeed.
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