Growing up in the early 90s, my elementary school was strewn with motivational posters. The gym told me to “stop making excuses and start making improvements” with dynamic, brightly colored lines, and the hallways told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be.
I’m not complaining about this optimistic upbringing, no matter how poorly designed those posters were. But I realized in addition to encouraging me to be whatever I wanted to be, they should have specified that my female gender would always impact how much my work is valued.
This bold statement is no secret, and there’s quantitative data to prove it’s true. Despite the Equal Pay Act promising equal pay for equal work in 1963, even now women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterpart. For women of color, the wage gap is even larger, with Latina women making as low as 54 cents for every dollar.
There are a variety of factors at play here. But as more and more women get on equal footing with men as far as education level and skill set, there is a wage gap that cannot be explained away.
The current projection for closing the wage gap is in 100 years time. By then I’ll be a retired head in a jar, so I’d like to speed it up. What can we do to expedite that process, and in the meantime, get women paid what they’re worth?
Know the value of your role
Financials are a taboo subject for many people, but you can have respectful conversations among your mentors and trusted colleagues to get a sense of your position’s salary given your experience level and skills. There are also sites such as salary.com that allow you to research your role in your given location.
However, with both of those research methods there are a variety of factors affecting the data. Where was it sourced? What is the common market title for your role? How many years of experience do you have, and how does your educational background factor in?
For that reason you should….
Know your company’s compensation process
Talk to your HR department. After all, they helped shape the structure around your company’s compensation process. They should be able to tell you how they acknowledged and accounted for the factors mentioned above. If you trust and understand your company’s compensation process, you know that your pay will be fair.
The next step is for your company to engage in a pay audit to enhance employees’ trust and ensure good pay practices. Here at SpareFoot, our People Department participated in a pay audit through SameWorks, a third party company that certifies pay is fair across all demographics. Even for well-intentioned employers, there’s a chance that pay is not equal across the board if they are not taking deliberate actions to analyze their compensation process.
Participating in an audit boosts confidence that employers are treating their employees fairly, which goes a long way towards retaining top talent.
Pay equality matters to everyone, not just the women who are getting paid unfairly. Beyond their families, it also affects these women’s communities and ultimately the U.S. economy.
Scrutiny from all genders can help us move forward; public pressure forces decision-makers to address the issue and make changes.
I count myself incredibly fortunate to work for a company that values my work and makes a strong effort to ensure fair pay across demographics. However, I can’t ignore that I live in a society that undervalues a person based on their gender and color. It’s time for the world to stop making excuses and start making improvements.