Pay equity means equal pay for equal work – but does that ever really happen? Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire gave our culture one of the best-known calls for being paid what we’re worth when he yelled out “Show me the money!” for his client. This call to action can also be said – mentally or literally – by professionals in the workforce who are ready for their company to start paying them a fair wage based on their experience and skills. And those companies need to be listening and adjusting salaries where needed in order to keep diverse employees engaged and valued.
Pay equity, the persistent inequality in comparable pay for comparable work regardless of one’s race, gender identity, religion or other demographic information, is an ongoing issue in industries around the world. While some governments are enacting laws to prevent pay inconsistencies, most countries are hesitant to use the legal system to ensure fair pay, allowing for growing disparities in pay. Conversations among leaders should make this issue a top priority because currently, if change doesn’t happen soon and quickly, pay equity won’t be achieved globally for 257 years, according to the World Economic Forum in 2019.
For companies that truly want to make a difference, steps in the right direction must be intentional and public. Here are some ways leaders can get it started.
Analyze pay gaps
We get it, businesses are about the numbers, so let’s look at them. Anonymize employee pay and allow a third party or a neutral outsider to perform regressive modeling on compensation to identify outliers. Any such analysis or modeling should include details like education, tenure and years of experience, and performance evaluation and review for the inconsistencies in pay between men and women and among racial and ethnic and disability demographics. For any outliers, determine if there is a legitimate business reason for such difference. If there is no justification, management should adjust pay to bring that person in line with his or her peers.
Allow workers to be transparent about pay
In many offices, conversations about pay are framed as inappropriate and some corporate cultures have specified rules about whether or not employees are allowed to share information about their pay with coworkers. It’s time to stop this outdated and unfair policy across the board, in both the explicit and implicit ways that companies try to ban the discussion.
One leader who has shifted the way she and her company face the conversation about transparency about pay is Amy Nelson of The Riveter. She shared in a Feb. 2020 New York Times story that in spring 2019, a team member at the co-working company expressed that they wanted a pay raise shortly after starting based on a conversation they had with a coworker about their salary. Though her background as a corporate lawyer had taught her the conversation about pay was forbidden, as a founder she wanted to support her team breaking the taboo. Ultimately The Riveter leadership team not only created pay bands for various roles, they also made that information public, a decision that did not sit well with some advisers. More leaders could learn from this example of radical transparency and the implementation of a culture of openness.
Commit to Pay Equity Advocacy
According to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer report, 65 percent of respondents believe that CEOs can create positive change with relation to pay equity and 76 percent believe that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it. More people than ever believe that leadership in the C-suite has a responsibility to make a difference. This should be the impetus driving these leaders to not only close the pay gap but also publicly push for change in their fellow executives and in elected officials.
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