Equal Pay Day - What You Can Do

March 28, 2018

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April is right around the corner, and that means one of my least favorite days is almost here. No, not Tax Day, but it's close to that date on the calendar - Equal Pay Day.  This year Equal Pay Day is April 10.  The day women must work until, in order to catch up to what their male counterparts earned in the previous year.  It is amazing to me how many people still don't know this. Or don't believe that it is true. Or want to completely rationalize it away versus doing something about it.   


Equal Pay

I personally became acutely aware of this issue several years ago after landing a great job opportunity. I vetted the offer with a few trusted advisors who had personal knowledge of compensation at the level I was going to.  And as good as it was, I made a mistake. Not in accepting the offer - the job proved to be an excellent experience. During the interview process one of the items I had asked to review was the organizational chart in order to assess gender/race representation.  The mistake I made was not also assessing pay equality.  It wasn't even on my radar.  That was until I got into the role and soon found out that the salary of this great offer was still LESS THAN one of my male direct reports.  So what did I do?  At first, nothing. I already had signed my employment contract. So, I chose a strategic retreat, that is: I decided to build some leverage and wait a bit for a window of opportunity to open so that I could rectify the situation. 

Sure enough, about nine months later, it happened. 

About 9 months later the opportunity presented itself when my boss shared the news with me about a major organizational change that would be taking place.  He was concerned about my reaction and assured me nothing would be changing with my role.  At that point I didn't realize I had gained the leverage I needed to rectify the pay issue. I didn't understand until I got a call from our HR leader the next day. She wanted to know how I was doing. She wanted to know if I was going to leave the company.  A good sign!  And then the meeting requests started coming, from my old boss, my new boss and our CEO.  They wanted to meet. They wanted to talk. And I then I knew it was finally time to rectify the pay issue. The next week we met and one of the three items I asked for and received was the pay increase.  Through it all I learned some valuable lessons, for myself and also for my organization.  I also now have one more item to add to the list of questions to ask:  "Do you compensate equally, and are you willing to provide the data?"

So, what can you do? 

  1. As an employee, you can ask the question and ask to see the data.
  2. As a manager, male or female, you own this.  If you haven't looked at your employees' salaries through this lens, you need to do so. This is not HR's responsibility. It's Yours.  

Please don't wait for it to be legislated.  It is taking too long (note Equal Pay Act of 1963, 55 years ago!).  Sales Force did this a couple of years ago.  They were a pioneer in this space when they launched a comprehensive analysis of salaries which resulted in nearly $3 million dollars invested to eliminate significant differences in pay.  Others have since followed... what are you doing?   

Kate Johnson
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