Pay equity is the law in the U.S., yet it often falls victim to gendered expectations surrounding having and raising children. For example, one study points out that much of the pay gap between men and women amounts to a penalty for women having kids. In fact, when children become part of the employee’s life, that development may create a pay gap of 20% over the employee’s career.
The fair and just policy is to pay people who are doing the same work the same wages, regardless of their parental status. It’s not equitable to assume a female worker will eventually have children and automatically become less committed to her career. That line of thinking helps companies justify pay inequity in the first place. The unavoidable consequence of such policies is the loss of top talent.
The best strategy to maintain an attractive workplace for top talent and keep employee engagement levels high is to ensure pay and benefit equity and cultivate a workplace culture that supports and helps advance the interests of your workers, regardless of gender. This requires a clear-eyed, unflinching, and objective examination of your company’s current practices and policies.
These five tips will help you identify areas where you can help your company’s culture and pay practices become more equitable and worker-friendly.
1. Get a clear picture of how your employees advance in your company.
Look carefully at how your employees advance internally, then break down that data by gender. If men are outpacing women in advancing up the ladder in a statistically significant way, then some kind of gender disparity is at work, and it’s essential to find out why.
It’s key to examine more than just the result of “promoted” or “not promoted.” Look at how often your female employees put their names in the hat for promotions or project lead roles.
If women aren’t seeking more significant roles, it’s a good idea to spend some time examining why. If work culture or specific personalities are sending out the “don’t waste your time” signals to women in your company, you’ll need to address that promptly.
2. Examine pay and benefits policies critically.
Companies that rely on salary ranges to establish pay equity may well be kidding themselves. It’s not enough to state salary ranges that you think are fair. Now’s the time to examine actual salaries in your company and evaluate them for both historical and present-day parity.
If men are routinely being paid more or offered more attractive benefits, your next step is to find out why and where that pay gap is happening. Then you can address the cause to bring your policies and practices more in alignment with equitable goals.
3. Recognize bias.
As human beings, we all have blind spots. Usually the result of societal conditioning that we may not even be aware of, these subconscious biases can make it hard to see inequity. So instead, we must make conscious, affirmative efforts to look for places where we might have fallen prey to them to counter these biases.
Start by pinpointing areas where you can promote more women to achieve a more equitable management sector. Then, proactively seek out female candidates to create more women supervisors and managers. It’s not enough to say “they’re not qualified for these roles.” Instead, figure out how to help interested candidates get qualified and actively support them in those efforts.
4. End the male-centered default perspective.
A pay gap is probably not the only issue you’re facing. A gap in perspective may be at the root of the problem. For example, are all your team meetings at bars and golf courses? Are all your incentives tickets to sporting events?
Many women like those things too, of course, but the point is that this sort of approach sends a message to your female workforce as a whole that the male POV is the default, and it’ll take something unique to force a change.
Instead, change it proactively. Find more universally appealing alternatives. Root out every instance of an assumption that the male perspective is more valuable or somehow “sufficient” for all. Then make some changes to those approaches.
5. Consider your employees’ whole lives.
Your employees aren’t just workers. They have rich, complex lives outside of zoom calls or the office. Many have families. Others care for elderly parents. Some may be pursuing educational goals.
Figure out ways your company can support them in these endeavors. For example, you could look into offering errand-running services, on-site childcare, or laundry service access at the office. There are many things you can do to make life easier for all your team members.
This strategy also has the added benefit of showing your workers you actually are paying attention to them and that their needs are essential to you. That alone can help raise your employee engagement level and reduce turnover.
Eliminate the pay gap and outdated practices
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the lack of lawsuits or complaints means that a company is doing just fine regarding pay and benefits parity. Unfortunately, people decline to pursue legal or formal disciplinary channels of relief all the time for many reasons.
Instead, look at the data, which will paint a more accurate picture. Then you can proceed to bring your company’s practices back in alignment with its principles.