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)]]>

How Women Can Create Support from Male Colleagues in the Workplace

Here’s an interesting story that I recently read in the Huffington Post. This real-life experience in the workplace created support from a male supervisor for his female direct report. Their experience developed from an e-mail error that they decided not to correct for a few days for the purpose of learning. Any pair of female/male colleagues could try this kind of experiment to see what happens. Here is the story: One day the male supervisor, Martin, sent an e-mail to a client from the e-mail account that he shared with his female colleague. The client sent a rude and dismissive response, which surprised Martin. This same client had never been rude or dismissive to him in past communications. Then he noticed that, by mistake, he had sent the e-mail to this client using Nicole’s signature. When he told the client that he was Martin, not Nicole, the client became very respectful and receptive to the information Martin had shared. This change in attitude surprised Martin, but not Nicole. They decided to switch their names on e-mail signatures for two weeks to see what would happen. Repeatedly, clients questioned Martin’s knowledge and experience. Martin took twice as long as Nicole to complete client consultations. In the meantime, Nicole, writing as Martin, breezed through her client calls because she did not have to convince clients that she knew what she was doing. Shocked by how clients had treated him during the experiment, Martin realized that, as a man, he has an “invisible advantage.” He then stood up for Nicole to their boss, who had complained that Nicole took too long to resolve client issues. Martin now understands what Nicole often has to deal with and is an ally. Could you use more support at work from your male coworkers? Perhaps you could run a similar experiment for a few days, creating awareness and support from a male colleague or two. As women working in predominantly male environments, we need all the support we can get. If you give this a try, let us know what happens.   Photo courtesy of Highways England. CC by 2.0]]>

Single Millennial Women Feel Pressure to Downplay Ambition

I am surprised by the findings of a recent study showing that single millennial women who are MBA candidates in an elite program feel they must downplay their professional ambitions when in public in order to attract a marriageable male mate. I realize I should not be surprised, given the support for traditional heterosexual relationships reported by voters for Donald Trump in the recent presidential election. Joan C. Williams, writing for the Harvard Business Review, describes the strong feelings about traditional gender roles that still exist in large segments of our society. She explains, “Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place.” With these attitudes still deeply embedded in our society, it is no wonder that many young women feel they have to minimize their goals in public settings. An article by Valentina Zarya in Fortune reports findings from a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. These findings show significantly different responses for single millennial women when compared to the responses of female peers in long-term relationships and to both single and partnered male peers. When they believe men are watching, single women:

  • Are noticeably less assertive and speak up less in meetings
  • Minimize their goals and lower their desired annual salary expectations from $131,000 to $113,000
  • Lower their willingness to travel from fourteen to seven days per month
  • Lower their ambition for leadership roles in the future
While the study only analyzed and reported data based on gender and relationship status, it seems likely that there are racial differences for single women that are not reflected in this report. Yes, we have come a long way, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Society still teaches that it is not acceptable to be ambitious and assertive as a woman. While I’m sure that many women will say they are not impacted by these traditional attitudes, many women are still getting the message that they must tamp down their ambitions if they want to be acceptable to men. What role models and societal influences have shaped you?   Photo courtesy of COD Newsroom. CC by 2.0]]>

How to Close the Gender Wage Gap

The gender wage gap is persistent. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reminds us that fifty years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar men earn in the United States, and the gap in different occupations varies. Miller notes that women who are surgeons earn 71 percent of what male surgeons earn. I have written in a previous article about differences in pay for different racial/ethnic groups, with recent research showing that Hispanic women in Massachusetts make 56 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries. In her article, Miller offers ideas that are starting to generate interest and be tested by a few state governments and private employers for closing the gender wage gap. I believe these ideas are promising:

  1. Publish everyone’s pay. Miller notes that “when employers publish people’s salaries, the pay gap shrinks.” President Obama required federal contractors to report salaries by gender in 2014, and the state of California passed a law to require municipal governments to publish salaries. A few pioneering companies have done the same with very positive results. Salaries got corrected and/or aligned.
  2. Coach, or curb, negotiation. Miller notes that “men are paid more partly because they’re more likely to ask for it. When receiving job offers, 51.5 percent of men and 12.5 percent of women ask for more money.” Miller is basing her information on the work of Professor Linda Babcock who also notes that women are penalized, deemed unlikeable, and often not hired for negotiating like men. Consequently, women need coaching on how to negotiate differently to be effective. Best of all, Miller suggests, would be to ban negotiation all together and set the salaries for positions, with a small range to allow for differences in experience.
  3. Don’t rely on previous salaries. Women get stuck in a lower-wage cycle when pay for a new job relies on an employee’s previous salary. The Massachusetts State Legislature is currently considering a bill that prohibits employers from seeking job candidates’ salary histories. More states should pass legislation like this.
  4. Make it easier for mothers to stay in the workforce. Affordable childcare, paid sick days, and paid parental leave need to readily available so that women can more easily stick with their careers.
  5. Build flexible work places. Miller notes that the pay gap is greatest in occupations with the least flexibility, such as medicine and finance.
  6. Change the law. Federal legislation languishing in the US Congress called the Paycheck Fairness Act would require companies to report salary data, give grants for negotiation training and make class-action lawsuits easier—but it has been stalled for a long time. It does not yet have enough support to move it forward.
The gender wage gap can be eliminated. We know how to do it, but we need to put more pressure on organizations and our government to do the right thing. Do you know of companies or state governments that are pioneering efforts to eliminate the wage gap? Let us hear your examples of what’s working. Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]]>