Today is Equal Pay Day in the United States, which recognizes how much further into the year women must work to earn the same amount that men earned the previous year. That’s 74 extra days of work to achieve an equivalent annual salary. In five years’ time, women are behind by an entire year’s salary. Academic research on this gender pay gap attribute its persistence on discriminatory factors and human behaviors such as unconscious bias, caregiving expectations, and women’s disproportional representation in the low-wage workforce.
We are often assured by companies that there is no gender pay gap in their workforce. Their gut tells them that they are equitable on compensation, but this confidence is not always backed up with data. Annual pay equity audits – a rigorous process that should examine salaries and wages at all levels of the company by gender, race, and ethnicity – is a best practice, as is acting on the findings by improving hiring and recruitment practices, scheduling and work expectations, and promotions and advancement. Even better is transparently communicating the results of the audit to all staff.
Including race and ethnicity in a pay equity audit is critical because the gender pay gap widens when broken down by demographics. For Black women, Equal Pay Day will not arrive until August 3. Native women will wait until September while Latinas must wait until October. Intersectionality does reveal some awful truths about the lived experiences of women of color. Layering on other factors like disability and sexual orientation will paint an even bleaker picture.
Diversity Works applauds companies that are brave enough to examine their own data, identify gender pay gaps, and take proactive steps to close those gaps. We also applaud the many women sharing their own pay gap stories on social media. While the U.S. is currently on pace to close the gender pay gap by 2111 – that’s 89 years from now – we can get there sooner if more employers recognize the problem and do something about it, and if more employees help keep them accountable.
About Elizabeth Curwen
Elizabeth is a veteran communications and public affairs strategist who developed a keen interest in workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion as an opportunity for employers to improve their reputation, performance, and social impact.