Bold New Proposal to Close the Gender Pay Gap

As the 2020 presidential contest heats up, exciting proposals to address our nation’s problems are being offered by individual candidates. Astead W. Herndon of the New York Times reports that Senator Kamala Harris of California recently announced a proposal to close the gender pay gap. Harris’s proposal requires larger companies with one hundred or more employees to certify every two years that women and men are paid equally. While similar laws are being passed on the state level, this proposal would combat the problem on the federal level and put teeth into enforcement not always available on the state level. Harris’s plan would fine companies that do not meet pay certification standards, which is 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent difference in pay between women and men.

Herndon notes that previous federal legislation required employees to report or sue their employer if pay discrepancies existed—but salary information is generally kept secret by employees, and employees struggle to find out whether they are caught up in a gender pay gap. In a previous article, we wrote about a case where employees at Google had to gather pay data voluntarily from colleagues. When they found a gender pay gap, they published their spreadsheet to put pressure on their company to take action to eliminate the pay gap. Harris’s proposal will take the burden off of employees and create transparency and fairness.

Laura M. Holson of the New York Times writes that the myths surrounding secrecy about sharing salary information justify secrecy as protecting individual privacy. In fact, Holson notes, secrecy benefits companies that save money if employees underestimate their value in salary negotiations. She explains, “Managers want to keep salaries down and pay people less. It is easier if they control the information.”

But secrecy is costing women a lot. Holson cites federal statistics that find “a woman working a full-time job earns 80.7 cents for every dollar a man makes.” Herndon notes that this gap adds up to more than $400,000 in missed wages over the course of a woman’s career. She goes on to point out that the numbers are even worse for women who are racial minorities—about $1 million in missed wages over a career, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.

Holson suggests that pay standards should be set and adhered to if we are to have fair and equitable systems. Herndon cited Senator Harris as saying, “For too long, we’ve put the burden entirely on workers to hold corporations accountable for pay discrimination through costly lawsuits. . . . We’ve let corporations hide their wage gaps, but forced women to stand up in court just to get the pay they’ve earned.”

Let’s support a solution at the federal level for this persistent problem.

 

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Girls Do More Chores and Get Paid Less: The Gender Gap Starts Early

Can it really be that a source of the stubborn gender wage gap in the workplace is how girls and boys are treated at home? Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports new research that supports this idea. What has the treatment of children in the home got to do with adults in the workplace? Researchers agree that one big reason for the gender pay gap is that because women often carry a bigger share of the responsibility for home maintenance and childcare, they may work fewer hours for some part of their career and fall behind men in pay and career advancement. Miller cites researchers as explaining that “achieving equality . . . will require not just preparing girls for paid work, but also teaching boys to do unpaid work.” The roles children play in the home growing up shape the roles they take as adults. Miller reports new studies that show “girls still spend more time on household chores. They are also paid less than boys for doing chores and have smaller allowances.” The gender pay gap, and the gaps in responsibility for housework start early. Here are some of the findings reported by Miller from these new research studies:

  • One study found that boys ages 15 to 19 do about half an hour of housework a day while girls do about forty-five minutes. Housework is defined as cooking, cleaning, pet care, yard care, and home and car maintenance.
  • Another study based on American Time Use Survey diaries between 2003 and 2014 of 6,358 high school students aged 15 to 19 found differences based on the education level of parents. College-educated parents expected daughters to spend slightly less time on chores than do parents with a high school education. Both sets of parents expect girls to spend more time than boys overall, and expectations for boys from both sets of parents have not changed.
  • Another study found that boys are paid more allowance for doing chores. This study analyzed 10,000 families using the chore app BusyKid and found that boys using the app earned twice what girls did for doing chores—$13.80 per week compared to $6.71 for girls.
  • This same study based on the BusyKid app also found that boys were more likely to be paid for personal hygiene like brushing their teeth or taking a shower while girls are paid for cleaning.
Scholars note that the gender gap for chores for children is worldwide. Miller cites Christia Spears Brown, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky, as explaining, “Chores are really practice for adult living, so the problem is it just gets generationally perpetuated.” We need to become aware of the lessons and training we are giving our children about gender-role expectations if we are ever going to see gender equality in work and pay in the future. How do you handle this challenge in your family? Please share with us what works to equalize gender roles in your family.   Photo courtesy of David D (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Closing the Gender Pay Gap: Innovations in Boston, Massachusetts

Nationwide, the gender pay gap in the United States has not changed much in decades. Katie Johnston of the Boston Globe writes that because of widespread discussion of this problem over the past three years, state and local governments have been passing gender pay equity laws and pay equity lawsuits are on the rise. The city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts are among those localities taking bold steps to close the gap. Anna Louie Sussman of the New York Times reports that in 2013, the city of Boston began to work with the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership. Sussman explains that the Boston Women’s Workforce Council teams up with area companies and institutions to help them figure out ways to advance women. The council, along with the mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, started offering free salary negotiation workshops to women in 2016 and plans to train eighty-five thousand women by 2021. The council has also developed guidelines to help companies conduct pay audits to identify gender pay gaps and adjust salaries. Johnston reports that the Boston Women’s Workforce Council also started compiling anonymous data, collected from 114 companies in Greater Boston, to establish a baseline. Their analysis of 2016 wage data for Boston shows the disparity of wages for women:

  • White women earn 75 cents for every dollar white men make.
  • African American women earn 52 cents.
  • Latina women make 49 cents.
According to research conducted by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, at the current rate of improvement in the United States, women will not reach wage parity until 2059. Sussman notes that as a result of the efforts to close the wage gap begun by the city of Boston in 2013, the state of Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2018. The law states, “No employer shall discriminate in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work.” In addition, this law prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. Johnston explains that the new law encourages companies to conduct pay audits and adjust salaries when gaps are identified. The law provides an incentive to conduct regular gender pay audits by giving the employers a defense against wage discrimination claims. She explains, “If a company can show that it conducted a pay survey within the last three years—and took steps to close any illegal pay gaps—it has an affirmative defense in court. If not, it could be in trouble.” The Massachusetts law outlines six instances in which pay differences are allowed between comparable positions, specifically if someone
  • Has more seniority
  • Has more education or experience related to the job
  • Has better performance reviews
  • Has higher sales or other quantifiable contributions
  • Lives in a more expensive city
  • Travels more
Johnston describes a recent discussion panel about pay equity where Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office is tasked with enforcing the new state law, noted that adjusting payrolls and eliminating salary history questions is not enough. Closing the gender pay gap will also require companies to look into providing childcare, paid parental leave, and pregnant worker protections. She also recommends that companies hold unconscious bias training. I agree with Healey. No single change will fix the gender pay gap. We must address the problem with a number of strategies, like those described above. I feel encourage reading about innovative efforts like those in Boston and Massachusetts to close the gender pay gap. Let us know of innovations taking place in your city or state.   Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]]>

Will Shame Close the Gender Pay Gap in Britain?

Britain’s new law requiring all companies with 250 or more employees to publically report their salary data and identify their gender pay gaps went into effect in April 2018. The gaps identified surprised no one: gender-based pay disparities exist at a vast majority of businesses, and often by a wide margin, according to Liz Alderman of the New York Times. A number of Western countries have recently taken similar steps with requiring gender gap reporting, operating from the same assumption that transparency and shame will force change. Gaps exist at some notable British companies:

  • At Goldman Sachs women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men.
  • At easyJet men outearn women by 52 percent.
  • At WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less.
  • Mills & Reeve, a British law firm, pays women an average of 32 percent less than men.
Alderman reports that while supporters of the new British reporting regulations acknowledge that shame and transparency alone are not likely to solve the pay gap problem, a recent study, “by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely.” British regulators assume that transparency will create pressure on companies to address the pay gap. Alderman notes that one study reported by Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice of Washington University found that transparency raised wages, in part because becoming aware of the pay disparity helped change organizational norms. While several Western countries, including Britain, Germany, the Nordic countries, and Australia have mandated gender pay gap reporting, the United States has taken steps backward. In 2017, the Trump administration rolled back reporting requirements put in place by an Obama-era initiative to close the pay gap. Women in the United States can take their own action:
  • Follow the example of British women who started a #PayMeToo campaign on Twitter to encourage employees to talk about how much they are paid.
  • Start their own collection of salary information within their companies and publish it to put pressure on their organization to close the pay gap.
  • Demand that their legislators pass laws at the state and federal levels to bring about transparency.
  • Vote for candidates who care about the gender pay gap.
Women are not going to receive equal pay for the same work as men unless we raise our voices and keep the pressure on.   Photo courtesy of Henry Hemming (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Could the Ban on Asking about Past Salaries Backfire for Women?

Recent changes in laws in New York, California and Delaware that were designed to end the gender pay gap by forbidding employers from asking about previous salary when interviewing candidates during the hiring process may have unintended negative consequences. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times writes that conscious and unconscious bias can still be at play and might even make the gender pay gap worse:

  • When employers cannot ask about salary, they might assume that a woman will accept less than a man and offer a particularly low salary.
  • Some employers offer a very low salary when they cannot ask about salary history and assume that applicants will speak up if they previously made significantly more. This can leave women worse off because they tend to be more reluctant to bargain than men.
It will take some time before we have enough data from these changes in the law to know their impact for sure. What does not bode well, though, are some recent studies reported by Scheiber on the impact of laws in some cities and states prohibiting employers from asking about criminal records during the job application process. These studies found that employers appeared to assume that young black and Hispanic men were more likely to have criminal records—and they hired fewer of them once the new policies were in place. It is too early to have any long-term results of these new salary laws, but we must keep trying ways to close this stubborn gender gap. Transparency or required reporting from companies on salary gaps determined by race and gender (at least) may still be the best avenue to pursue in terms of public accountability to close the pay gaps. Let’s keep the pressure on.   Photo courtesy of mohamed_hassan (CC0 1.0)]]>

Women in Physics and Medicine: Closing the Gender Pay Gap, Increasing Respect, and Decreasing Burnout

New studies on women in physics and medicine find continuing disparities in pay and promotions. Audrey Williams June, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, reports the results of a new study by the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics showing a gender pay gap of 6 percent for female faculty members in physics. The study also found that men are overrepresented in senior faculty roles and that women receive fewer grants for research and lab space. For women in medicine, the issues can be severe. Dhruv Khullar of the New York Times reports that female physicians

  • are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population;
  • earn significantly less than male colleagues
  • are less likely to advance to professorships; and
  • account for only one-sixth of medical school deans.
Khullar notes that gender bias begins to impact women physicians during medical residency training and continues throughout their careers. He points out that the structure of medical training and practice has not changed much since the 1960s, when almost all medical residents were men and only 7 percent of medical school graduates were women. Today women account for more than one-third of practicing physicians and one-half of physicians in residency training. Unchanged training structures that assume a stay-at-home spouse to support a trainee’s eighty-hour-work week create work-family conflicts for women. The combination of work-family conflicts and embedded gender discrimination in the profession takes a toll on women’s lives and careers in some of the following ways:
  • In households where both spouses are doctors, women with children work eleven hours less per week, while there is no difference in the hours worked by men with children. This statistic reflects the greater responsibility that women doctors carry for family care that their spouses do not share equitably.
  • Female physicians are more likely to divorce than male physicians.
  • For female physicians, getting patients and other doctors to show them respect by calling them “doctor” is a battle. Women physicians are assumed to be either physician assistants or nurses by both patients and other doctors and are often introduced by their first names in professional settings instead of by their professional title of “doctor.”
  • The gender pay gap for female physicians is significant and was detailed in an earlier article.
  • A recent study at Harvard found that gender bias affects referrals to female surgeons from other physicians.
What can be done to close the gender pay gap, increase respect, and decrease burnout for women in physics and medicine? Both June and Khullar suggest that having more women in leadership and mentorship roles could make a big difference. Khullar also notes that “disparities don’t close on their own. They close because we close them.” Let’s continue to put pressure on our institutions to be more equitable and inclusive. Do these disparities exist in your own profession? Please share with us what efforts your organization is making to close these gaps. Photo by Walt Stoneburner, CC BY 2.0.]]>

How You Can Take Steps to Close the Gender Pay Gap in Your Company

Research indicates that pay transparency does result in smaller pay gaps. At the very least, if employees are aware of pay discrepancies in the company, women and people of color can confidently negotiate for higher salaries than those offered. But most companies keep salary information secret and are not transparent. That is why the step taken by employees at Google is so important—they took matters into their own hands to create transparency. Daisuke Wakabayashi of the New York Times reports that in 2015, a female engineer at Google created a self-reported salary spreadsheet that employees are still using. In 2017, twelve hundred United States Google employees posted their salary and bonus information to this spreadsheet, which shows that female employees are paid less than male staff members in comparable jobs at most levels. The spreadsheet does not cover all levels and is admittedly incomplete. Nonetheless, since Google’s board voted against making pay transparent for women’s and men’s salaries, and Google is in a court battle with the United States Department of Labor because it is refusing to hand over data as part of a routine audit of its pay practices, the self-reported data is the only source of transparency for Google employees. Without the spreadsheet, Google would not be held accountable at all. Now, more than ever, employees need to self-organize to collect salary data and make it transparent to expose pay gaps. Why? Because, as Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports, the Trump administration just reversed a regulation that the Obama administration put into place to address the pay gap. Miller explains that the Obama administration regulation, which was about to take effect, would have “required companies to report how much they paid people, along with their sex and race.” Europe and Britain require companies to report this information, but now, under the Trump administration, we do not. Without this pressure from the Federal government, companies have no incentive to close the pay gaps and will continue to keep salary information secret and, accordingly, to hide discrimination and avoid accountability. Miller reports that, according to an analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Pew Research Center, we know the following general statistics about the pay gap in the United States:

  • White women’s median hourly earnings are 82 percent of those of white men
  • Asian women earn 87 percent of what white men earn
  • Black women earn 65 percent of what white men earn
  • Hispanic women earn 58 percent of what white men earn
  • Black and Hispanic men earn less than white men, while Asian men outearn them
An example of the importance of transparency recently occurred in Britain at the BBC. Britain only recently implemented a new regulation requiring that companies report salary data. Steven Erlanger of the New York Times explains that when the government forced the BBC to publish the salary ranges of its highest paid employees, the resulting report showed significant disparities. An open letter signed by forty-two employees stated that the report confirmed a long-held suspicion that “women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work.” Until the data was made public, no confirmation of those suspicions was possible. Employees and the government are now pressuring the BBC to close this gender pay gap. If your company does not make salary data public, you could consider following the example of the Google employees and organizing a way for employees to self-report so that people have some information available to them when it is time for them to negotiate for salary increases. I recommend that a group of people, including both women and men, get together to organize this collection of information. If the company finds out and is unhappy, a group is at less risk than an individual when taking steps that the company may find threatening. The gender and race pay gaps will never close if we don’t take some steps to bring disparities to light. Let us know if you have been successful at creating pay transparency in your company. Photo courtesy of businessforward (CC by 2.0)]]>

6 Steps That Can Help Women Advance in Law Firms

Progress has been very slow for women’s advancement in law firms. Why is this the case? As Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports, women are

  • Slightly over 50 percent of current law school graduates (and have been for a long time)
  • Under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms
  • Only 20 percent of equity partners, where the highest compensation and best opportunities for leadership exist
Olson cites a recent study by Anne Urda of Law360 that found that “only nine of 300 firms surveyed had a lawyer work force that was 50 percent or more female.” Olson notes that a number of recent gender bias lawsuits have been filed against law firms alleging substantial gender pay disparities and discrimination for either associates or partners, reflecting
  • Substantially lower starting salaries for female associates compared to their male counterparts
  • Promotions for female associates without commensurate pay increases
  • Female partners being excluded from meetings about client matters, not being allowed to pitch to firm clients, and being thwarted in their efforts to assume greater leadership
  • Company tolerance for female partners being targeted for harassment and humiliation by firm leaders and peers
  • Being made nonequity partners rather than equity partners, where the compensation levels are higher and the opportunities for leadership available
Shira A. Scheindlin, a recently retired federal district court judge writes that in her courtroom, it was rare for female lawyers to have a lead role or to speak at all. The talking was done primarily by white men, with women sitting at the counsel table, usually junior and silent, although they were clearly the ones most familiar with the details of the case. In a study that she recently conducted with the New York Bar Association, the gender of the lawyers who primarily spoke in court in 2,800 cases over four months was recorded. Scheindlin found that
  • Women were the lead lawyers for private parties barely 20 percent of the time.
  • Overall, women were lead counsel for only 25 percent of criminal and commercial cases in courtrooms across New York.
Without the opportunity to be in the lead counsel role, women find it hard to advance in law firms. What can be done?  Scheindlin suggests the following:
  1. Clients can demand that their legal teams be diverse.
  2. Law firms can take concrete steps to pay women and men at the same rate for the same work.
  3. Firms can ensure that junior female lawyers participate in the same number of depositions as their male counterparts.
  4. Firms can ensure that every trial team has at least one woman.
  5. Firms can ensure that women are meeting clients at the same rate as men.
  6. Law firms can make sure that bright, aggressive women are given the same opportunities for leadership positions as their equally qualified male colleagues.
These are serious and concrete steps that can remove the barriers to success for women in law firms. Isn’t it about time?   Photo courtesy of Cal Injury Lawyer (CC Public Domain Mark 1.0)]]>

How to Close the Gender Pay Gap: Massachusetts Leads the Way

The Massachusetts legislature just unanimously passed the strongest equal pay law in the country. In spite of a legal prohibition against gender-based pay discrimination passed by the state in 1945, the gender wage gap has persisted. Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe reports that currently

  • Women in Massachusetts, in general, make eighty-two cents for every dollar a man earns
  • Black women fare worse at sixty-one cents for every dollar a man earns
  • Latinas fare even worse at fifty cents per dollar
Clearly, having state and federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination on the books for decades has not worked to close the pay gap. The Massachusetts law, which takes effect in July 2018, addresses the wage gap in the following ways:
  • The new law takes steps to promote salary transparency. While companies are not required to publish salaries, employees in Massachusetts can now openly discuss their salaries and join together to compel employers to monitor and fix wage gaps. Employees are still responsible for demanding that wage monitoring occur, but a group of fifty companies in Boston have volunteered to do wage-gap audits and publish their results, which could influence other organizations to act before their employees pressure them to do so. The state treasurer has also set up a website, equalpayma.com, to help women understand how underpaid they might be.
  • The law sets new standards for determining comparable work. These standards did not previously exist, so winning a lawsuit claiming unequal pay for comparable work was almost impossible.
  • The law provides companies with new incentives to monitor and correct wage discrepancies—if they do so, they get legal protection if workers sue for gender-based discrimination. They will be given three years to demonstrate they have corrected the problem if employees sue.
  • The new law also prohibits employers from asking the wage history of applicants until after the employer makes an offer with a salary figure attached. This can help prevent women and minorities from being locked into lower salaries.
This new legislation arose from Boston mayor Tom Menino’s establishment of the Women’s Workforce Council in 2013. This council included representatives of many stakeholder groups and drew upon extensive research reported by Iris Bohnet in her new book, What Works: Gender Equity by Design. Transparency and accountability, two of the most important findings reported by Bohnet, are at the core of the new Massachusetts laws. Focusing only on the gender-wage gap is not enough—we must also address the race-wage gap. New state and federal laws must be passed to provide transparency and accountability for pay equity across race and gender. As Shirley Leung notes, wage gaps are often not intentional. In fact, they are often the result of unconscious bias. But as noted by Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations, “as long as organizations do not analyze and publish salary data, they have ‘plausible deniability.’” While I believe the Massachusetts law could have gone further, it is a great start, and I hope other states will follow with their own innovations until we finally close the gender- and race-wage gaps.     The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Thomas Breher.]]>