In recognition of Equal Pay Day, StyleSeat Chief People Officer KC Jorgensen pens a blog post on the significance of this date and the work that needs to be done to close the gender pay gap.

Equal Pay Day: a day that symbolizes how far into 2022 women would have to work in order to earn the same amount of money men in a similar role earned in 2021. That equates to 14.5 months of work to “justify” earning the same amount men only had to put in 12 months to receive.

Of course, if you are a woman who is also Black, Indigenous, or Latina, you’ll have to work a majority of this year to earn what men do in 12 months (20, 22, and 24 months respectively). 

All of this is unsettling, unacceptable, and has seen and unseen effects.

The persistence of the gender and racial wage gap further entrenches economic inequality on many fronts making it harder (if not nearly impossible) for many women and their families to: 

  • Obtain affordable housing 
  • Afford healthy food options
  • Seek treatment for chronic health conditions or receive appropriate health screening 
  • Find affordable child or elderly care services
  • Save money for emergencies and retirement
  • Pay for education (theirs or others in their family)
  • Qualify for anything other than high interest rates and predatory fees and terms on loans
  • So much more

These consequences are long-lasting (lifelong) and don’t even begin to mention the mental health issues that come with dealing with the outcome pay disparities.  

“I’ll take pay inequity with a side of anxiety, please.” – Said no woman ever

Equal pay alone won’t solve all of these problems. Be that as it may, that doesn’t free us (employers large and small) of our obligations to make things right. 

6 actionable steps to recognize and respond to the pay gap 

Compensation is a complicated process for most organizations. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with experts in compensation and labor economics to design and institute pay programs for companies large and small. 

Here’s what I’ve learned that may be of help as you move from vigorous agreement that the gender pay gap is unjust and “something must be done about it!” to non-theoretical action:

  1. Educate yourself on the causes of pay disparity and how it shows up at your organization
  2. Assess your current pay and compensation practices
  3. Seek help and support from experts and others with experience creating equitable pay solutions
  4. Assess and update your recruiting and hiring processes
  5. Make compensation information accessible by adopting a pay transparency policy
  6. Train everyone at your organization who has the authority to set pay or has enough power to influence pay (even if they are not the final decision maker) on how to make fair and equitable pay decisions

We often think about the pay gap relative to when someone joins an organization. Yet, performance-related pay increases further the divide. Gender bias creeps into everything, including “merit-based” performance review processes.  If processes are vague and unstructured, gender stereotypes may negatively influence a manager’s perception of a woman’s performance, leading them to give a woman lower ratings which lead to unbalanced and inequitable pay decisions.  Realizing this, equal pay cannot happen unless we also revise how performance is evaluated. 

There is a lot of work to be done, for sure. The gender wage gap will continue to widen and wreak even more havoc if we don’t make a concerted effort to pay all women what they are long overdue:

Equal pay, for equal work.

And 2.5 months of paid time off for our troubles. 

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