Fair Paychecks and Career Success for Women | DCR Workforce Blog

Fair Paychecks and Career Success for Women

“Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.” – Sheryl Sandberg, CEO, Facebook

Now that the brouhaha raised over the statements of Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has brought the matter back into focus, we want to take a dispassionate look at the larger question about the fairness of the paychecks being received by the ‘fairer sex’.

  • 1963: President John F. Kennedy signed the ‘Equal Pay Act’ which aimed to abolish gender pay gaps.
  • Fifty years after this law was enacted, The American Association of University Women (AAUW) conducted a survey in 2013 and published its results in September 2014. The survey found that women working full time in the United States were paid 78% of what men were paid. The gap has come down from 47% in 1973 to 22% in 2013; but 22% is still a very large number!

Women get paid less than men, even at white collar jobs. This has been proved time and again by various surveys and also from the anonymous information hosted on sites like Glassdoor. Fair Paychecks and Career Success for WomenAccording to a report published by Glassdoor, women earn 77 Cents to every dollar earned by men. What is more, at least 42% of them are completely aware of this unfair practice of their employer! In a study by Hannah Bowles, senior lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, both men and women were asked to seek pay raises using identical scripts. While the men continued enjoying their original standing, the women were looked upon as aggressive and their reputations took a beating. The study goes on to propose tactics that can be adopted by women when seeking a raise, like negotiating for their whole team or using their feminine charms when they bring the subject up.

No one can truthfully claim that women are less productive, less qualified, or less capable than men. According to numbers tracked in 2008-2009, In the United States, women earned more bachelor’s (57.2%), master’s (60.4%), and doctoral degrees (52.3%) than men.

So, why would they settle for less pay? Why would anyone offer them less pay, and how can they get away with it? Are women being held back by cultural expectations which prevent them from standing up for themselves – afraid that they would be perceived as too aggressive? Are employers taking unfair advantage of this aspect of women’s workplace behavior to keep them from achieving their true potential?

Nearly every major company around the globe will find in its statement of values or code of business ethics a sentence that speaks to “respect for all workers” and “merit-based compensation”. What can be done about the gap between corporate desire and actual business practices? As is true in any change management initiative, companies require fact-based decision-making, leadership, communication, and training.

On a regular basis, at least once each year, companies should analyze worker compensation. Comparisons must go beyond company-wide statistics, evaluating differences within each function and location. Analyses should go beyond salary to look at frequency and amount of bonuses and other rewards for top performance. Today, this information is tightly held within the Human Resources organization. It should be shared with line managers, with drill-downs into major discrepancies.

  • Leading companies committed to gender equity include the issue in their strategic agenda. Fair and consistent treatment is considered a core management skill that must be explicitly demonstrated by all supervisors and managers. Executive leadership will continuously reinforce the importance of this issue in communications to the workforce. Many companies establish an “advisory board” composed of employees (men and women) at varying levels of seniority within the company.
  • Causes of compensation inequity are often subtle. If asked, most managers will state that they treat every employee fairly and equally. Education is needed to aid in recognizing the frequency with which decisions are made based on assumptions of what might happen. For example, a woman of child-bearing age might become pregnant, or might need to frequently leave work to care for an ill child. Older women might be distracted by the need to care for an elderly relative. In many companies, business decisions are made and business relationships are forged outside of the normal workplace – at ball games or over a drink. Male supervisors often assume that their female employees would not be interested in participating in these activities. This puts the women at a disadvantage when vying for leadership of a key project or a promotion. Education programs will help to increase awareness of the adverse consequences of these unintentional forms of discrimination.
  • Women are also known to negotiate less than men – with one survey of MBA grads reporting that 57% of the men said they tried to negotiate their pay while only 7% of the women said they negotiated their pay. Other studies bring in the lack of confidence (but not competence) which holds women back from success with pay negotiations, promotions and other opportunities; while men push ahead as they overestimate themselves.

Clearly, legislation that has been passed over the past fifty years, including the Equal Pay Act, FMLA, and other laws, establishes a basis for equitable treatment and compensation. The vast majority of companies fully comply with these laws. Unfortunately, strong evidence indicates that regulations aren’t enough to truly close the gender gap. Corporations need to establish and execute plans to address this issue.

Share with us some successful initiatives that your company has implemented.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.