Every year in April, on Equal Pay Day, we are reminded that women make just 80 cents on the dollar to men. It’s a sobering statistic that barely budges from year to year, and frankly sad that we need a day to raise awareness about a topic that should be a non-topic — because women should be paid the same as men. Period.
So what can you do to make an impact when it comes to leveling pay?
A friend of mine used to call up male counterparts and ask what they made for a bonus, compare it to hers with knowledge of each of their deals, etc., and then go to her manager and demand an equal bonus. It’s certainly one strategy. But bigger forces will likely be needed to move the needle significantly more than these one-off efforts.
Here are a few efforts to get behind:
1) Promote pay transparency at your company.
Do women in the same role as men make the same in salary at your company? In 2015, two women at Salesforce asked this question and proposed to CEO Marc Benioff that the company conduct an audit of employee salaries to find out. The subsequent Equal Pay initiative resulted in Salesforce spending $3 million to equalize pay for about 6% of 17,000 salaries across function, level and location. Buffer, a social media company, publishes what everyone makes publicly (!) as a way to stay on top of the pay gap.
The women that suggested the audit to Benioff were part of a program at the company to promote women called Women’s Surge. If your company has efforts like these, this could be a good place to raise the issue even when you aren’t the HR lead or CEO.
Benioff notes it’s pretty easy with HR systems these days to assess the gender pay gap at any company. Of course, it’s what a company does with the information that’s important.
2) Support federal policies that work to bridge the pay gap.
Nationally, the average wage gap per year between men and women is about $10,470. But the gap is bigger for Black and Hispanic women, varies from state to state (see state breakdown), and is biggest for mothers, who make just 70 cents on the dollar to fathers. (Lean In created graphics that show this data well.)
The impact of the gap, and what is essentially lower wages, affects not just women, but also their families and the economy. For example, if the gap were closed, The National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF) says women could afford 15 more months of child care, 78 more weeks of food for her family, and more.
In its latest “America’s Women and the Wage Gap” report, NPWF identifies a handful of policy efforts that could fight bias and address fair pay, including family friendly workplace standards, and The Paycheck Fairness Act, being reintroduced in Congress by Democrats on Tuesday.
3) Make your voice heard.
Whether it’s negotiating for more and demanding what you’re worth, supporting legislation or the organizations pushing for change you want to see, or working within your company’s women’s employee resource group to bring change, we all have a personal muscle to flex in some direction on behalf of women everywhere. Decide where your strength is, and work it.
Finally, take advantage of the 20% discount Lean In organized with hundreds of companies to account for the 20% pay gap women endure. Find participating companies here.