What is it going to take to significantly reduce the Gender Pay Gap in our Lifetime?

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Narrowing, Yet Persistent: The Gender Pay Gap

It’s a fact that the much talked about Gender Pay Gap has narrowed significantly since 1980, especially amongst younger employees, yet the gap persists still. Based on research from the Pew Research Center, an analysis of the median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers in the United States revealed that women earned 83% of what men earned in 2015. While women earned only 80% of what men earned over the same period when only full-time, year-round positions were compared.

However, for adults age 25 to 34, the wage gap in 2015 was much smaller. The female workers in this subset earned roughly 90 cents for every dollar earned by one of their male counterparts. This could indicate a trend towards closing the gender gap within the span of their careers.

In the United Kingdom, due to a new legal requirement, businesses with over 249 employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps within the next year. Presently, the UK gender pay gap is 18.1% for all workers, or 9.4% for full-time staff. The requirement covers public, private and voluntary sector firms, both men and women, and includes bonuses paid to each.

By April 2018, large and mid-sized companies in the UK must:

  • Publish their median gender pay gap figures, which compare the pay of the man and woman who are at the mid-point of the company payroll.
  • Publish their mean gender pay gap figures - produced by dividing the total payroll by the number of workers.
  • Publish the proportion of men and women in each quarter of the pay structure.
  • Publish the gender pay gaps for bonuses

Some organizations have already volunteered information. One revealed a fixed pay gap of 33% with a bonus gap of 66% lower than the average for male staff within the company. Being as this organization is in the financial sector, some have pointed out that there are far less women in leadership roles within the organization. Thus, tipping the scales to favor men with the average pay for each gender companywide is calculated.

While the transparency is a step in the right direction, the statistics don’t effectively show the relationship between the level of work required of the employee and the compensation they receive for it. Women in this organization may very well be compensated at an equal rate for equal work when compared to their male peers and we would never be able to learn that from these statistics. Back in the United States, gender pay parity is defined as equal pay for equal work. Executives in similar positions should receive equal pay, administrative employees should receive equal pay and janitorial service staff should all receive equal pay regardless of gender.

Resolving the gender gap is not nearly as simple as paying women in the workforce higher hourly or salaried wages. It’s also not going to be solved by promoting more women to higher levels within the organizations for which they work simply based on their gender. The whitepaper ‘Seven Steps to Conscious Inclusion: A Practical Guide to accelerating more Women into Leadership’ from ManpowerGroup discusses the concept of ‘Conscious Inclusion’. Described as Building the desire, insight and capacity of people to make decisions, do business and to think and act with the conscious intent of including women in leadership.

The societal imbalance created by a gender bias culture has a direct relationship to the number of women who choose to pursue promotions and leadership roles within their chosen sectors. In fact it relates directly in some nations around the globe as to the number of women in the workforce, period. Over half (59%) of the leaders surveyed by ManpowerGroup, for the whitepaper mentioned above, believe the single most powerful thing an organization can do (to promote more women leaders) is to create a gender neutral culture.

This means that the culture surrounding family responsibilities versus work and career responsibilities should be neutral when it comes to which gender should have a higher priority on each side of the spectrum. While cultural, religious and geographical metric play a very large part in this puzzle, speaking generally, this all begins with modeling behaviors at home for young people that show them that the adults in their lives balance and share work and home responsibility equally, regardless of gender.

If more families adopt this behavior model in this decade, we have the potential to make serious progress towards the closing of the gender pay gap and achieving full gender pay parity within the next few decades. When employees are equally committed to their careers, and other responsibilities in their lives are shared equally within the household, equal pay for equal job requirements makes sense. Employers productivity expectations are met by both genders because employee commitment is there regardless of gender.

What can employers do now to tackle the issue?  When asked by ManpowerGroup about what supports women in leadership, Millennial women said flexibility – not a tilted playing field, but more focus on outcomes that allow them greater control over how and when they get work done. Millennial males also say leaders need to collaborate with female colleagues and champion Emerging Female Leaders. The best male leaders are taking women to one side and asking them what they need to succeed, demonstrating their commitment.

In Asia Pacific, Leaders say focus on encouraging and training women to take advantage of opportunities that will stretch and develop leadership strengths. They stress the need for companies to adopt a culture of shared power, driven from the top. Coupling this with flexibility means more women can confidently commit to job roles with higher expectations, especially when they are measured by ‘outcomes’ as opposed to ‘presenteeism’. For the most part, the number of hours spent working has much less to do with the outcome of that work in today’s workplace.

Jonas Prising, CEO ManpowerGroup, shared his belief that “It’s a question of work-life integration. Figure out, for you as an individual, what that work-life integration needs to be so that you can do what you need (in order) to do both, professionally and personally. Our personal devices have become work devices, and frankly, you can do more things in a better way. You can decide to come in at nine, leave early, no problem. And then do two hours at night, after the kids have gone to bed. Work from home. Brilliant!”