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6 Companies Hacking The Gender Wage Gap

As awareness rises among top leadership, more companies are piloting or refining initiatives to level pay equity once and for all. Read about six employer practices disrupting the status quo.

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A popular meme shows two enthusiastic-looking, professional women in “grayge” suits. One holds a briefcase as they victoriously high-five each other.

The caption?

“Women. Like Men, Only Cheaper.”

While that might sound like something from a Mad Men episode, there’s a reason the meme is popular today. A new study shows that a full 80% of women would leave a company for one that offered better gender equality. The same study highlights that additional 78% of respondents say a workplace where people are treated equally — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, race or religion — is important to them. And yet, roughly half of female workers (56%) and male workers (52%) surveyed believe their employers could do more to promote gender equality and diversity.

As we "celebrated" yet another Equal Pay Day this week, meant to mark how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year, the din on social media felt familiar. In reality though, this year is nothing like previous years. From the #MeToo movement to #MentorHer - from Hollywood’s exposed gender pay disparities to #TimesUp, we've arrived at a critical moment.

Add to this that in 2018, Equal Pay Day is being boldly delineated by Asian, White, Black, Native and Latina women: Asian American Women’s Equal Pay Day is on February 22, White Women’s Equal Pay Day on April 17, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on August 7, Native Women’s Equal Pay Day on September 27 and Latinas’ Equal Pay Day on November 1. Right now women’s voices are loud - and as awareness rises among top leadership, more companies are piloting or refining initiatives to level pay equity once and for all.

Here are 6 employer practices worth taking note of:

Open the books: A brave few companies have subscribed to the “Say what you Pay” philosophy of publishing salaries. Why is this important around pay parity? Research shows women are less likely to negotiate when conditions are ambiguous. (And if that’s not an apt description of a job interview, I don’t know what is). Take Buffer, a software application designed to manage social media. The company discovered its own pay discrepancies and then remedied them using a salary calculator that’s now public. They publish every employee’s salary noting “…an open pay system continues to breed high trust among our team while also holding us accountable to paying people fairly, equitably, and without bias.” If the old saying is true, it seems sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

Minimize salary histories: Starbucks not only avoids asking job candidates for a salary history, the company will now provide the pay range of any given role to U.S. job candidates who ask. Said Sara Bowen, who leads Starbucks’ Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) team, “If a woman comes into a company low, she tends to stay low. If a job candidate comes to Starbucks making 70 or 80 cents on the dollar, and we use that as the basis for her pay at Starbucks, we simply import gender inequality into our own system.” In the name of transparency, the company has established Pay Equity Principles and Best practices, which are publicly shared. An important distinction, some employer practices covering salary history “bans” are mandated by state laws. In 2017, 42 states introduced laws to address the wage gap; a slew of those states have succeeded in passing their laws.

Set promotion parity targets: Not long ago, Intel achieved an impressive 100% pay parity record for females and underrepresented minorities in the U.S. What distinguishes Intel’s efforts even more is that they realized women’s earnings are hurt not just at hiring - but when women are not promoted. Using promotion parity targets, Intel aims to distribute these plum opportunities equitably between diverse and non-diverse populations, closing found gaps on an ongoing basis. And, for the first time last year, they announced that they achieved promotion parity for women in U.S. operations.

Use promotion flagging: In November of last year, GoDaddy’s VP of global engagement and inclusion explained it’s use of promotion flagging to HRDive. Observing that women were less likely to receive feedback than men and less likely to ask for a promotion or raise, (something we’ve established can affect a woman’s pay), the company sought to get more high potential women in front of leadership. Using notices at key intervals - like at 18 months, for example - a people manager gets a promotion flag. The notification “asks them whether a certain employee is ready for a promotion and, if not, asks them what feedback they’re giving that employee.” This way, if someone walks away without a promotion, there’s an expectation that a clarity and a plan should follow.

Take a hard line: As a gender inclusion consultant to companies, I’ve observed over the years a change in the tone with which parity is discussed. First the problem was invisible and silent, then when it got more attention, it was handled rather cryptically, and then politely. More progressive employers today are going from polite - to pointed. Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme announced his own gender parity pledge to improve his firm’s record, where women make up 32 percent of newly-promoted managing directors today. His goal? Further spotlighting and promoting women so that they account for 25 percent more of all managing director positions by 2020. In Nanterme’s blunt words, "Men and women are equal. End of story."

Amplify the message: It’s commonplace enough for companies to donate to foundations and non-profits, but have you noticed that the cause is usually never pay disparity? Last year, LUNA, maker of nutrition bars for women, championed women’s pay equality by supporting women in industries where they’ve historically been underrepresented, like film, sports and business. The brand created Team CLIF BAR (formerly Team LUNA Chix®), a pro-sports team that strives for equal pay in the sport of mountain biking as well as an annual film festival by, for, and about women to raise the visibility of female filmmakers. More recently, LUNA provided financial backing to Sundance Institute’s 2017 Women at Sundance Fellows, awarding each fellow with a $10,000 grant, as well as funding two $15,000 women filmmaker awards at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. With commitments like those, LUNA is reverberating the importance of equal pay well beyond the walls of their own company.

The beauty of many of these practices is that they don’t just help women, they also improve the experience of working men. What practices have you observed that are hacking the wage gap? Chime in below.


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