Written By Wendy Doyle, Women's Foundation President & CEO
It is a shocking reality that in 2018, more than a half century after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women are still not paid equally for equal work. Equal Pay Day marks the day when women’s wages “catch up” to those of men, demonstrating how much longer – and harder – women have to work just to make the same amount as their male counterparts.
This year, in the wake of the #MeToo movement that exposed pervasive sexual harassment in nearly every industry, Equal Pay Day is another reminder that more work must be done to combat discrimination and ensure equity and opportunity for all women.
The pay disparity starts almost as soon as women enter the workforce and widens over time – robbing women of hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings, undermining their financial independence and weakening our economy. That means women in Missouri who work full-time, year-round, earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. In Kansas, the number drops to 77 cents on the dollar.
Equally troubling is the fact that last year, while the overall pay gap narrowed, women of color continued to face wide disparities, and Black women even saw their wages decline. Today, Black women still make just 63 cents and Latinas are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
As an organization that uses research to understand this challenge, we believe everyone has a role to play in being part of the solution.
In 2016, the Women’s Foundation developed a set of pay equity best practices guidelines with three simple steps employers could take to identify and combat pay disparities. This year we’re adding one more, in light of the mounting evidence that sexual harassment has a negative impact on women’s career paths and earnings.
Here are four steps employers can take right now to close the gender pay gap:
Self Audit Pay Disparities: First, we encourage employers to take an unflinching look at the status quo by collecting data and examining whether gender-based pay disparities exist.
Evaluate Your Pay System: Employers should also examine specific job categories. For example, are “human resource managers” (who tend to be women) being paid less than “information technology managers” (who are predominantly men)?
Promote Pay Transparency: In many companies, discussions about compensation in the workplace are stigmatized – or even banned outright. This needs to change. Making salary ranges and compensation packages more transparent can help combat the pay gap and empower employees to negotiate for higher pay.
Rid your workplace of sexual harassment. While not included in our initial set of pay equity best practices, a growing body of research indicates that victims of sexual harassment take a hit to their careers – and their earnings. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and professional workplace where sexual harassment and discrimination are clearly defined and never tolerated.
The reasons for the pay gap are complex, but these nuances cannot be an excuse for inaction. Women and their families simply cannot afford wait decades for the wage gap to close.
Women make up 47 percent of the workforce, we outnumber men on college campuses, and recent estimates indicate that 42 percent of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families. Equal pay for equal work shouldn’t be a lot to ask.
The good news is that there’s reason to believe employers and policymakers are getting serious about tackling this challenge.
Forward-looking companies like Starbucks are taking bold action to narrow and even eliminate the gender pay gap among their employees.
The American Association of University Women is doing vital work equipping women with the tools they need to negotiate higher salaries. And states and cities across the country are prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history in an effort to break the cycle in which pay inequities can follow women throughout their careers.
These combined efforts have a real chance to move the needle and close the pay gap once and for all.
Together, we can close the gender pay gap, boost family incomes, and empower financially-independent women to drive the next chapter of economic growth.