Lead With Inclusion

Sometimes, equal pay isn’t about equal pay

March 13, 2024

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day in the United States.

A few days ago, I saw this question posed, “Why is it that when we talk about Equal Pay Day we’re only talking about white women?”

Equal Pay Day can’t even support women in an equal manner – it’s why we have to recognize Black Women’s Equal Pay Day (July 9), Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day (October 3), Native and Indigenous Women’s Equal Pay Day (November 21) and more.

It doesn’t really matter anyway because we can’t talk about equal pay without talking about equal advancement opportunities. If women (or any underestimated group) aren’t being equally considered for a job in the first place, there’s nothing to be equally compensated for.

Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. If it was, we wouldn’t have 49.6% of women in the global population and 46.3% of women in the U.S. workforce yet only 30% in managerial roles and less than 10% in the top spots of leadership.

In many of the highest paying professions, women’s salaries as a percentage of men’s are lowest. According to Dr. Claudia Goldin, Harvard University Professor and Nobel Prize Winner for her research on this topic, “In the past, the difference in earnings between men and women could be blamed on educational attainment and occupation choices.” However, she has shown that the bulk of the current earnings gap is now between men and women in the same jobs — and that it mostly emerges after the birth of a woman’s first child.

Rearranging women into higher-paying occupations would erase just 15 percent of the pay gap for all workers and between 30 and 35 percent for college graduates. The rest of the pay gap has to do with something else happening inside the workplace: The key is workplace flexibility in terms of hours and location.

The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if companies didn’t have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who work long hours and/or non-traditional hours.

Be An Inclusive Leader

If we want to address equal pay, there are a few things we have to do:

Equal hiring. We’re still struggling to consider women for technical roles and leadership opportunities so as a leader, this is something you have to tackle. Your recruitment process and the practice have to be reviewed. Hiring managers need to be accountable for implementing change and a consistent review process has to be enacted. There is no more avoiding this issue.

Stop asking for salary history when recruiting. Many states have some variation of a law that prohibits employers from asking candidates for their salary history and the number is increasing.

Fix parental leave policies. And not just how much leave or whether a woman gets paid, but the practices around how women are treated after they return from leave for the birth of a child. How they are treated, what happens to their clients and their workload, and how long it takes to be considered for advancement after leave.

Stop fighting remote work as an option. 90% of companies say they will return to the office by the end of 2024, yet according to the latest Future of Recruiting report, “Employers who are considered to have flexible work policies enjoy a sizable hiring advantage: they are 16% more likely to have candidates accept their InMails and 29% more likely to receive an application from a candidate who viewed one of their jobs.” Therefore, if you want to be an inclusive leader, like it or not, if you want to attract talent and stay competitive, you’re going to have to deal with remote and flex work policies.

Lead With Inclusion

Interestingly enough, women innately lead with inclusion. Women are 30% more likely than men to provide fair pay and benefits. They are also more likely than men to value diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. This means, women are already addressing the items I outlined above.  If you want to lead with inclusion, you have to do the same.

Ask yourself how you’re contributing to the inequity around equal hiring. Have you ever advocated for change within your workplace or do you stay silent when someone else does? Do you support parental leave or do you whisper about the perceived unfair workload when someone is out of the office?

When salary talk comes up among coworkers do you refrain from contributing because you’re fearful of what might be disclosed? Are you aware that salary transparency is a thing and that you are in fact allowed to discuss salaries?  And while we’ve been conditioned not to talk about our salaries, open communication helps  set realistic expectations, avoid severely underpaying (or overpaying) employees in similar jobs and aids in better career progression for everyone.

Equal pay is relevant at all levels, but as you can see, financial compensation is not the only issue. The conversation must include how to actively remove the blocks that keep women out of the leadership roles they desire and are qualified for, as well as the barriers to flexible work and leave policies.

The workplace is changing and it is continuously evolving. At Rework Work, we are all about the evolution of work and have worked to craft tools to help leaders manage this flux. If you’d like to Disrupt, Evolve and Innovate your workplace, join me for the next cohort of Unconscious Inclusion.

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