A handful of recent events exposing gender-based pay inequity has seemed to bring the issue into the headlines to stay. A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported on House of Cards star Robin Wright’s battle with Netflix to negotiate pay on par with that of her male co-star, Kevin Spacey. Last month, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team alleged pay discrimination in a complaint they filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission highlighting striking salary and bonus differences between the hugely successful women’s soccer team and the markedly less successful men’s team. And the plight of high-profile women CEOs like Marissa Meyer and Ursula Burns — who stepped down from Xerox a few days ago — suggests that the shrinking ranks of Fortune 500 women CEOs will soon shrink even further. Today, there are only 19. If that number is any kind of bellwether for pay equity, it’s not encouraging. The time is long overdue for leveling the playing field between women’s and men’s pay, now and forever — not only for movie stars and on the soccer pitch, but in corporate boardrooms and everywhere in between.
It’s likely that your own company has a pay equity issue. Most do. In 2015, there was a 21% pay gap between women’s earnings and men’s, meaning that for every dollar a man made, a woman made only 79 cents for the same work. Whether you’re leading a company or on the lowest rung of the totem pole working for one, and whether you are a woman or a man, this is an issue that affects you. The sentiment in your workplace is at stake. To create a culture of fairness and respect, and to maintain a happy and productive workforce, Jane cannot be making less than John. Workers talk. If you are not paying equally, they will know. And they will not be motivated to do their best work if they are being treated unequally. I don’t doubt that discrimination complaints will be on the rise with national attention on this issue. So, what can you do?
For starters, make sure that you pay both women and men fairly for the work they perform. Equal pay is not just about equal wages, either. Make sure to count bonuses, performance payments, and discretionary pay, too. Put in place best practices to ensure successful pay equity. Five specific ideas include:
- Have transparent policies and practices in place with regard to pay structures.
- Audit those policies regularly to make sure that, even inadvertently, your company is not paying workers unequally for equal work. I admire how Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and SVP Leyla Seka are spearheading efforts at their 10,000+ person company to track pay across gender to ensure fairness.
- Consider flexible and mobile work arrangements and how those will help all people at your company to succeed and to thrive better. It is my gut-feel that with more gender balance in the workplace, pay inequity will cease. This has everything to do with attracting and maintaining a diverse workforce.
- Combat unconscious bias in hiring in order to secure that diverse workforce. Getting things right from the start of the process of staffing your company is critical. Describe jobs fairly. Hire accordingly. Pay based on the skills sought and decide that as much as possible before even interviewing candidates.
- Know your audience. A recent article showed that men are three times more likely than women to succeed in salary negotiations. Fairness must not be based solely on who asks or asks loudest.
These are some ideas to move toward the only acceptable solution of equal pay for equal work. Money isn’t everything, though. In fact, I credit my own success in part to focusing less on pay and more on opportunities and goals. After all, success isn’t only defined in terms of a bank account.
A friend saw Abby Wambach, former FIFA women’s World Cup champion and two-time Olympic medalist and U.S. coach, speak on soccer’s pay equity case recently. When asked what she’d do differently, Abby said she’d have asked for more earlier on in her career. She’d have raised her hand, asked specific questions with regard to the numbers involved, pushed for more when she was winning. But we’re not all emboldened by a national — or international — stage like Abby. As a woman leader in tech, this is my moment to spearhead, to ask the difficult questions, to pursue equity in every way. Especially for young women in tech, we have to make sure that you’re coming to us on a level playing field with the men, whether you’re playing soccer or building an interface or practicing medicine. Pay inequality is everywhere, but it doesn’t have to take us until 2059 to achieve pay equality. We can ensure a better and more diverse workplace by acting now.