Today is equal pay day in the US. A day when we’re reminded that women earn about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Unfortunately this frightening statistic is compounded when women take a leave from work (aka the ‘motherhood penalty’). And it’s far wider a gap for women of color too.
This problem is not easy to fix. Or is it? According to Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce it is. In 2015 his company spent $3 million to equalize compensation, essentially closing their gender pay gap. During an interview on CNN he stated, "With just the push of one button, every CEO in the world can know exactly what their pay discrepancy between men and women is, and I hope that every CEO pushes that button." I applaud Benioff’s efforts and am encouraged that other CEOs have recently gone on record to do the same.
But what about those companies who are not pushing the button? Those where gender equity isn’t even on the radar. These companies unfortunately are in the majority. And while Iceland recently announced they plan to become the world’s first country to require firms to prove equal pay, I see no evidence of that coming any time soon to a local theatre near you. In fact, because of differences in local laws and economic factors, the gender gap varies greatly depending on the state you’re in.
The move to a gig economy also does not help. While there are benefits for women such as increased freedom and flexibility, one of the significant drawbacks sited of on-demand work is an exacerbation of the gender wage gap.
So who’s going to fix the pay equity problem? Whose button do we need to push?
While there is some progress being made at the corporate and systemic level, women need to be vigilant about positioning themselves as equal in the compensation game too. While many studies have shown that female graduates typically ask for less up front, a trend that continues as women progress up the ladder, there is hope that future generations will continue to push the buttons of policy makers and corporations.
Last month on International Women’s Day my colleague Vince Molinaro wrote a #GutCheck blog asking leaders what they’re doing to pave the way for women leaders. In it he told the story of his daughter choosing the gender wage gap as her topic to create a persuasive speech to be presented to her fellow classmates. Coincidentally, just this week my daughter, 5 years younger, also had the task of writing and presenting a persuasive argument. Her topic however was a little less socially relevant. She chose the topic of why small dogs are better than large dogs (we’re at the ‘why can't I get a puppy’ stage in our house). But to my surprise, she came home and expressed her disappointment in the assignment. One of the girls in her class presented on the topic of why girls should get the same pay as boys. In retrospect she wished that she had chosen that topic, especially given what mommy does at work.
Whether you’re in school, entering the workforce, in a corporation, or lobbying policy makers, let’s keeping pushing buttons to achieve equality.