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)]]>

Insights from New Research on the Gender Wage Gap

My niece just had a baby and is worried about being paid less than her male peers. She is an engineer with solid work experience on her resume, and she intends to return to work full time. She wants answers from me about how to avoid becoming a victim of the gender wage gap. Unfortunately, new research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reinforces that, as a new mother in her late twenties with a college degree and a professional career, she is poised to become a wage gap statistic. I don’t know what to tell her about how to avoid this. Because most companies keep salary data secret, she will probably only be able to suspect unfair treatment but will not be able to prove it. The odds, and statistics, are stacked against her. Miller reports on two new studies on the gender wage gap that sharpen our understanding of what is happening to women’s pay, when it’s happening, and why. The studies, conducted by Sari Kerr of Wellesley College in collaboration with several female colleagues at other universities, combine two databases from the Census Bureau on private sector companies that reveal fresh nuances in the gender wage gap picture:

  • The gender wage gap is wider for college-educated women than for those with no college degree and occurs between the ages of twenty-four and forty-five.
  • College-educated women make 90 percent as much as men their age at twenty-five, but only 55 percent as much by the age of forty-five.
  • Men with college degrees get significant pay increases when they change jobs during those years. When married women change jobs, they are less likely to get big pay increases.
  • Miller cites Kerr as explaining that the bulk of the pay gap, accounting for fully 73 percent of the gap, is from “women not getting raises and promotions at the same rate as men within companies. Seniority and experience seem to pay off much more for men than women.”
  • The wage gap is not as wide for women without college degrees. The gap for this group is 28 percent instead of 55 percent because there are fewer high paying jobs available for men without college degrees to create the larger gap.
Why does the wage gap happen? Miller cites Kerr’s report to explain:
  • High-paying jobs requiring college degrees place more value on long, inflexible hours and face time. Because studies show that the division of labor at home is still unequal, even when both spouses work full time, women’s careers tend to suffer.
  • Women are more likely to give up job opportunities in favor of their husband’s job.
  • Even when women continue to work full time after having children, employers pay them less because they assume women are less committed.
  • When mothers cut back on their hours, their pay is disproportionately cut.
What can be done to achieve pay equity? Miller suggests some workplace and policy changes needed to break the wage gap cycle:
  • Companies can put less priority on long hours and face time in the office and reward results instead.
  • Government-subsidized child care can make it possible for both parents to balance the demands of career and family.
  • Companies should offer moderate-length parental leave for both women and men. (While my niece received a three-month maternity leave, her husband’s company allowed only three days for paternity leave.)
  • Companies need to be transparent about salary data.
I wish I had specific guidance to offer my niece, but I don’t. We are all going to have to continue to push for policy changes that will make equity possible. In the meantime, I hope she keeps fighting for fairness and does not get discouraged. What suggestions do you have for young women who want pay equity? Photo courtesy of Skeddy in NYC. CC by 2.0  ]]>

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.]]>

Wage Gaps and Work Gaps: Implications for Women’s Lives

Recently, during a women’s leadership program I was facilitating, a participant, Amy, had an insight. She had been complaining about being exhausted and stressed all the time while trying to juggle a full-time job and family life—she loved her demanding job and her family, but she had no time for herself and was tired all the time. What was her insight? She realized that her husband expected her to do almost all the work of maintaining their home and family and did not really do much to share this load. She had never seen so clearly that she was carrying an unfair share of the burden, and she had also taken it for granted that this was her role. She now began to question these assumptions. In a previous blog, I wrote about the costs to relationships and women’s careers when both partners do not share the responsibilities for family and home care equally. I also wrote about the ways that we, as women, collude in keeping this imbalance in place as Amy was doing as well as the ways we can reverse this imbalance. Tyler Cowen of the New York Times writes that in several ways, women are in fact working more while men are working less. He explains that the Great Recession had a major impact on labor supply numbers:

  • In 2014, about 12 percent of American men ages twenty-five to fifty-four neither had jobs nor were looking for them, compared to 8 percent in 1994.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of men over the age of sixty-five are in the workforce.
  • Fewer teenagers have jobs—35 percent, compared to 55 percent several decades ago.
Cowen points out that women’s increased participation in the workforce has supported American economic growth. The unfair part is that women continue to carry a bigger share of the household chores and childrearing while also working full-time. The distribution of stress is uneven, and Cowen notes that while barriers are falling for women in the workplace, the distribution of work in the home is uneven and results in another type of inequality. No wonder Amy is so tired! But while women are working more, the gender wage gap continues, and women are still paid less than men who do the same work. Suzanne Woolley of Bloomberg News reports on new studies showing that one of the implications of the wage gap for women is a sleep gap. The author explains that people tend to lose sleep over things they feel are not in their control. In a poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the sleep gap for women has increased by 8 percentage points over the past year. The survey found that the biggest cause of sleep loss is fear of not having saved enough for retirement—56 percent of men reported losing sleep over money compared with 70 percent of women, for good reason:
  • Lower earnings from the gender wage gap mean less savings and social security for women.
  • In 2010, women received one-third less than a man’s average benefit for social security.
  • At age sixty-five and older, women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished.
Yes, the wage gap is important, but it is not the only gap that needs attending to. We also need to pay attention to the inequality of work itself. The implications for our health and our security in our later years are serious. If you and your partner have successfully addressed an imbalance in household responsibilities, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. Tell us what has worked for you!   The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Public Domain Pictures. ]]>

A Gender Pay Gap for Female Physicians: New Research and Solutions

To the surprise of many, a large new study found a persistent gender pay gap for female physicians. Catherine Saint Louis reports in the New York Times that contrary to previous studies of physician salaries, which drew from incomplete data and could be easily dismissed, this study draws on a large objective sample of ten thousand physician faculty members at twenty-four public medical schools in the United States. The researchers carefully controlled for a variety of factors that can influence income, such as volume of patients seen, years since residency, specialty, and age. Saint Louis reports that after adjusting for these factors, the researchers found the following discrepancies:

  • Female neurosurgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, and other surgical specialists made roughly $44,000 less than men in those positions.
  • Female orthopedic surgeons made nearly $41,000 less than male orthopedic surgeons.
  • Women made about $38,000 less among oncologists and blood specialists, $36,000 less among obstetrician-gynocologists, and $34,000 less among cardiologists.
  • Only in radiology did women make more—about $2,000 more than men.
  • Female professors made about the same salary as male associate professors even though the female professors outranked them.
Dr. Kim Templeton, the president of the American Medical Women’s Association, notes that while this new research is important, “just having it out there isn’t going to fix the problem.” What will fix the problem? I am proud to report that the state of Massachusetts, where I live, is moving closer to passing legislation to close the gender pay gap, which has persisted in spite of the legal prohibitions against gender-based pay discrimination passed by the state in 1945. Michael Bodley of the Boston Globe explains that the new legislation, if passed, will take the following proactive steps:
  • Require all companies in Massachusetts to undertake a study of their gender-based pay practices and publish the results.
  • Protect employers from being held liable for pay-discrimination lawsuits if they can show that they have undertaken a study of wage disparities in the past three years and can demonstrate reasonable progress toward eliminating the gap.
  • Prohibit employers from asking applicants about their salary history until the employer has made a salary offer. This helps eliminate the negative impact of women’s historically lower salaries.
As long as organizations do not analyze and publish their salary data, they have “plausible deniability,” explained Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations. But as we know, tracking and researching the numbers are not enough. Both employees and legislatures need to hold organizations accountable for closing the gender wage gap. Do you have success stories for closing the wage gap? I would love to hear them.   The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Darko Stojanovic.       ]]>

New Research: Work Is Valued Less When Women Do It

Why is the gender gap so persistently stalled at annual median earnings for women of about 20 percent below men’s? It has been 53 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed by the US Congress in 1963, yet women still don’t get equal pay for equal work. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports on several new studies that reveal a core reason for the pay gap—work is valued less when women do it. Miller notes that a number of factors once thought to explain the gender wage gap are no longer true, yet the gap remains. For example:

  • Women now have more education than men.
  • Women have nearly the same amount of work experience as men.
  • Women are equally likely to pursue many high-paying careers.
One of the new studies, coauthored by Paula England of New York University, was conducted using US census data from 1950 to 2000. This research tracked the movement of women in large numbers into previously male-dominated occupations. When the occupation switched from being male dominated to female dominated, the pay declined for the very same jobs men were doing before, even when accounting for education, work experience, skills, race, and geography. For example:
  • When women became designers in large numbers, wages fell 34 percent.
  • When women became biologists, wages dropped 18 percent.
  • When women became housekeepers, waged declined 21 percent.
The reverse was true when an occupation, such as computer programming, attracted more men and switched to being male dominated. Another of the new studies, conducted by Claudia Goldin at Harvard University, shows that women and men are paid differently, even when they do the same job. For example:
  • Female physicians earn 71 percent of what male physicians earn.
  • Female lawyers earn 82 percent of what their male colleagues earn.
In other words, whether women have become the majority in an occupation previously dominated by men or are doing the exact same work as their male colleagues, these studies show that the work is valued less when women are doing it. We also know that there are significant differences by race—women of color are paid less than white women in the same occupations.

What Can Help?

I have shared several possible strategies for closing the gender wage gap in previous posts. In addition, some innovative policies and tools are being introduced at the state level. Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe reports on one exciting new tool introduced by Massachusetts state treasurer Deb Goldberg—an online salary calculator where you can look up the wage gap by sector. The calculator also allows you to send an anonymous e-mail to your employer, encouraging the recipient to download an “Employer Tool Kit” that explains how to close the gender wage gap. The data behind the calculator comes from the US Census, and the wage categories are large. The city of Boston is in the process of collecting actual wage data from city employers, on a voluntary basis, but that data is not yet available. Leung notes that there is power in numbers. Many employers do not report or analyze their wage data by race and gender and do not realize that pay discrepancies may exist. In addition to sending an anonymous e-mail to our employers, urging them to take steps to identify and remedy pay discrepancies in the organization, another step we can take is to elect women to state and federal offices. The record shows that women in government—like state treasurer Deb Goldberg and the US congresswomen who keep unsuccessfully introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act to remedy problems in the 1963 legislation—are committed to closing the gap. It will take action from all of us to close the gender wage gap.   Photo credit: Víctor Santa María from Buenos Aires, Argentina – Suterh Solidario – Víctor Santa María, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23362803]]>

The Gender Wage Gap at Home and Abroad: Are We Making Progress? Why Does It Matter?

I am encouraged about the wealth of new research on the gender wage gap. There seem to be new studies published every few days on this important topic. What’s encouraging is that the spotlight is finally on this previously invisible problem. What’s not encouraging is that progress in closing the gender wage gap in the United States seems to be stalled. A recent article by Eric Morath in the Wall Street Journal reports that “the gender pay gap is widening again because men’s earnings are growing this year at twice the rate of women’s.”  Consequently, the earnings of full-time female workers in the United State dropped to 81.1 cents for every dollar a man earned in the third quarter of 2015 from 83.5 cents during the same period in 2014. This issue of a gender pay gap is not just an issue of fairness. A recent report published in The Economist cites McKinsey research showing that the world economy would be $28.4 trillion (or 26 percent) richer if more women participated in the workforce and were paid equitably. The GDP in the United States would rise by 5 percent with increased gender parity in the workforce, along with other benefits for men and organizations that I have written about in a previous article. Let’s keep the spotlight on the gender pay gap both at home and abroad. It is only by being aware of it and insisting on transparency that governments and organizations will be forced to focus on equalizing access and pay for women.   Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]]>

The Latina Wage Gap (It’s the Worst!): What Employers May Be Missing

latinaNew research from the University of Massachusetts Boston on workers in Massachusetts finds that while a gender wage gap exists across all occupations for women, the gap becomes a chasm for Hispanic women, especially for low-wage workers. Here are some facts from the research:

  • White women make 83 percent of what white men make in the same occupations.
  • Hispanic women make 56 percent of their male equivalents.
More specifically, here are some numbers for low-wage workers:
  • Latinas who work as cleaners make 54 cents on the dollar compared to all male janitors and 59 cents compared to their Hispanic male counterparts.
Ann Bookman, the study’s author, notes, “the earnings gap for women of color is wider than for women as a whole, and for Latina women it’s egregious.” The wage gap for Latinas is particularly damaging for mothers. Women are the primary breadwinners in slightly more than half of all Hispanic households in Massachusetts with children under eighteen. Of these female breadwinners, 49 percent are single mothers. Many of the research participants complained that they are seldom offered promotions when openings occur because they are not seen as having leadership potential. They also report difficulty in being considered for higher-paying jobs as single mothers because they are assumed to be unreliable. These assumptions reflect misunderstandings about Latina culture. Evangelina Holvino conducted research on Latinas and found eight cultural scripts that can be leveraged as strengths if employers understand them. Holvino defines cultural scripts as commonly held assumptions shared by a cultural group that are learned beliefs about how to be in the world. The eight scripts she discovered for Latinas are
  1. Familismo—valuing close family relations
  2. Simpatía—avoiding conflict and disharmony
  3. Colectivismo—putting the needs of the group before those of individuals
  4. Personalismo—forging meaningful and trusting relationships
  5. El presente—being in the here and now
  6. Respeto—respecting authority, age, and power
  7. Machismo-marianismo—strongly differentiated gender roles
  8. Espiritualismo—trusting in a higher power/being
Holvino’s research offers us a way of understanding Latina cultural scripts as strengths that employers should appreciate and leverage. For example, instead of assuming that a single mother is unreliable, her value of familismo means that she is driven to work hard to support her family. She will do what it takes to perform well and keep her job. The scripts of simpatía, colectivismo, and personalismo give her an important leadership framework and capacity for building and leading teams.

What Employers Can Do to Close the Wage Gap and Value Latinas in Their Workforce

With these new wage-gap statistics and Holvino’s research in mind, here are some suggestions for employers:
  1. To begin with, employers can look closely for pay disparities by occupation in their organizations and make adjustments in pay to close the gaps. Pay disparities are often invisible and unscrutinized and reflect unconscious bias.
  2. Employers should become familiar with the cultural scripts, or cultural assumptions, that guide hiring and promotion decisions in their organizations. For example, the dominant criteria for leadership in Anglo culture, which focuses on valuing individual achievement and a direct communication style, runs counter to strengths in Latina culture.
  3. Employers can become familiar with Latina cultural scripts and develop appreciation for the value they can add.
  4. Employers can expand their definitions of leadership to include strengths in Latina cultural scripts, such as building relationships.
Understanding and including cultural differences can enrich us all and add capacity to our organizations. And it’s past time to close the gender wage gap for everyone. Image credit: Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net  ]]>