To Eliminate Pay Inequity, We Must Change Corporate Culture

By Jewelle Bickford, Paradigm for Parity Co-chair

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As we observe this year’s Pay Equity Day, we are faced with the stark and sobering reality that many women had to work approximately four months into 2018 to make the same amount as men earned in 2017. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar men are paid and it is worse for women of color. Black women make 63 percent of what men are paid. And Hispanic women make 54 percent of the salary of white men.

We often hear about this gap when high-profile stories emerge, but this is a problem that transcends income levels and industries and affects women of all backgrounds every day. According to a 2017 study conducted by Pew Research, one-in-four working women say they have earned less than a man who was doing the same job, and one in 10 working women say they have been passed over for important assignments, compared with just five percent of men.

The silver lining is that companies are beginning to take these statistics seriously, and many have committed to achieving balance in pay. While this progress is positive, chipping away at the pay gap without addressing both the cultural and structural root of the disparity, will not diminish or eliminate pay inequity. The fact is, the structural engineering of the corporate workplace forces women to work harder to be the right “man” for the job and to get paid fairly for the work they do. Women also face biases when it comes to hiring, promotions and assignments, which will ultimately impact their pay and advancement.

Because so many corporate environments have been engineered by men and for men, their involvement is key to changing the current climate. But having men advocate for women is only one part of the solution; we must achieve a gender balance in leadership to truly equalize the workplace. Until we achieve gender parity “at the top,” equal pay, flexible hours, and safe workplaces free of sexual harassment will never become the status quo for all.

It is no easy task to address these structural issues that have led women to account for just one in five positions in the C-suite, according to research produced by the Women in the Workplace 2017 study. There is a compelling case for companies to address these structural disparities because it is productive for businesses’ bottom line to empower and promote women to senior roles. Research shows that gender-balanced leadership can lead to superior financial results. According to Credit Suisse Research, companies with 50% women in senior operating roles show 19% higher return on equity on average. And a recent study from McKinsey found that companies with gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to have above average profitability.

The Paradigm for Parity® coalition has developed a 5-Step Action plan to give companies the tools they need to promote all women and foster a diverse company culture. So far 70 companies — including Walmart, Accenture, United Technologies, Bank of America and many more — have committed to follow the action plan and achieve parity in leadership levels by 2030.

The five steps in the action plan include minimizing and eliminating unconscious bias; increasing the number of women in senior operating roles; establishing a baseline and measuring results; basing career progress on performance, not presence; and, identifying women of potential and giving them sponsors, not just mentors. When simultaneously implemented, these actions will catalyze meaningful change, leveling the playing field for all women — both in terms of reaching leadership positions and getting paid fairly for the work they are doing. And these steps will go a long way in helping companies meet their broader inclusivity and diversity goals, as well.

We applaud the companies that are engaged and taking active steps to close both the leadership gender gap and the pay gap. We encourage every single company to take a hard look at their practices and work towards giving women and men an equal chance to succeed and reach the pinnacle.

About the Paradigm for Parity® Movement

The Paradigm for Parity® coalition is composed of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in corporate leadership: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity.

The coalition created the Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan for corporations to accelerate the pace of gender equity in senior executive roles. This unique agenda defines bold and specific actions that, taken together and simultaneously implemented as a package, will catalyze change and enable today’s business executives to secure the best leaders of tomorrow. Visit or follow us on Twitter using @p4parity to learn more about this exciting initiative.

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