I can’t wait until 2057 to get a “man-sized” paycheck. Can you?

by cv harquail on April 28, 2009

It’s possible that I won’t be around in 2057. If I am around, I probably won’t be lucid. And if I am lucid, I sure as hell hope that I’m not still working full time.Womenstake: Blog for Fair Pay Day 2009 - The Posts_1240926083235.jpeg

But if I want to get a “man-sized” paycheck and see the gender wage gap disappear for good, I might have to hold on that long… all the way until 2057.

In 2057, it’s predicted that the gender wage gap will finally close, if the current trend holds. That I might have to wait another 48 years is hard to believe, but true.

Here’s what else is true:

  • Many people don’t believe that gender-based pay disparity exists. (“Research deniers”, I call them.)
  • Among those who acknowledge that gender-based pay disparity exists, many think that it can be explained by women ‘dropping out’ to have children, choosing less remunerative careers, choosing more feminine industries, and/or being less ambitious than men. Research shows that, even when these factors are taken into account , gender-based pay disparity remains.

Today is Equal Pay Day, and I’m blogging today in support of my colleagues at MomsRising, the AAUW , and the National Womens’ Law Center and in support of equality and fairness for women, men and families across the US.

Equal Pay Day, April 28, 2009 - AAUW_1240927033960.jpeg momsrising logo.jpg

What’s Equal Pay Day?

Equal Pay Day was created in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. The day, observed this year on Tuesday, April 28th, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.

Let me put that into perspective, by focusing on what the pay gap looks like for just one day.

— Imagine a company where men and women both start work at 9 am.

— Men would leave at 6 pm, after 9 hours, for a full day’s pay.

— Women would need to continue to work until 7:36 pm (a full 11.6 hours) in order to earn what the men earned in 9 hours. That’s an additional 96 minutes a day. Every day. It adds up.

Why does gender-based disparity in pay continue to exist?

Gender-based disparity exists, across industries, up and down organizational hierarchies, due to three main factors:

  1. A continued unconscious and conscious sexism-based disparity in ‘assessing’ talent, where women and men with similar managerial behaviors and results are evaluated differently, to women’s disadvantage.
  2. Lack of transparency in pay and promotion systems.
  3. Lack of systematic effort by organizations to eliminate gender-based pay inequity.

There are other social, political, and economic elements that contribute to gender-based pay discrimination, but none so much as these three.   So what should we do? Can we make things change a little faster? Like, before I’m 90?

What we can do to eliminate gender-based pay inequity

1. Eliminate conscious and unconscious sexism-based disparities in assessing work accomplishments and skills. This will continue to take a lot of dedicated work. Individuals themselves can undertake this work, and so can organizations. (A post for another day.)

2. Increase the transparency in pay and promotion systems. This would help organization members recognize and acknowledge discrimination and track progress towards eliminating it. Unfortunately, virtually no one wants their pay to be made public, especially not in comparison with their coworkers’ pay. (See the HR Capitalist and KnowHR for rich conversations about pay transparency.)

And, even if pay levels were made transparent — someone would still have to crunch and present the data to identify trends over time and by important categories (e.g., gender, tenure, training, etc.) Transparency just wouldn’t be enough– it would need to be both transparent and intelligible.  … That leaves us with

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | Equal Pay Day: April 28_1240926517296.jpeg 3. Encourage a systemic effort within each organization to identify, track, and eliminate gender-based pay inequity. While some individual firms have aggressively monitored their pay and promotion systems to identify and root out discrimination linked to gender and race, most organizations have not.

That’s not so hard to do. Your organization can start with an Employer Pay Equity Self-Audit (HR, it’s a chance to demonstrate that you’re ‘strategic’….get going!) Use the guidelines from the National Committee on Pay Equity.

And, follow these steps recommended by Frank Roche at KnowHR, in Women Make Less Than Men: 5 Things HR Needs to Do Right Now to End Pay Inequality. Frank wrote this for HR managers in 2007, and the steps are still relevant. I quote Frank below because I can’t say it better myself:

1. Do a normalized study of pay equity in your organization. Find out if your organization’s results mirror the AAUW findings. If they do, be afraid, be very afraid.

2. If you’re paying women less than men for equal skills and experience, then fix it. Today. Don’t pull that “We need to reconcile this over years” BS. You have to fix it now. Best time to plant a tree? Ten years ago.

3. Put gender-based pay inequality on the discussion for each and every pay strategy session that you have with other senior managers.

4. Ask yourself, “With all the data and testing that we do, how could it be that women make less right out of school?” Think about the culture of your organization. If you talk the talk about diversity, do you walk the walk and pay fairly?

5. Scream from the rafters that you won’t tolerate gender-based pay inequality, make it a much-discussed policy, and fire people who think it’s okay to pay men and women differently for the same job. (I add:) Celebrate and promote the employees who champion pay equity.

But that’s still not enough.

These five steps will help organizations close the part of the gender wage gap that is due to (what I call) “first degree” discrimination— discrimination that occurs right at the site of the disparity– in this case right at the point of allocating pay for skills & results.

But there is still “second degree” sexism, the discrimination that occurs earlier in the value chain, like when women are assigned to accounts that are less profitable or less prominent than the accounts to which men are assigned, or when men get assigned to the powerful mentors in the corporate program and women get the well-meaning but ineffectual ones.
And then there’s the benevolent sexism, where women get assigned to “women’s accounts” unless those accounts mean big business (and then get assigned to men.)

heartoffalsehood wordpress com.jpg

What can you do to encourage gender-based pay equity?

Support the Paycheck Fairness Act . Things have changed just since January, when Congress passed and President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a critical step in giving women the ability to challenge unequal pay. A bill currently before the Senate, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would build on the success of the Ledbetter bill and deter wage discrimination against women. The bill has already passed the House this year, and there’s strong momentum to move it forward in the Senate.

Please write to your Senators and urge them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Over the last 45 years, women have gotten 19 cent raise. That’s great, but … I don’t want to wait until 2057 to get paid the same as men just like me in jobs just like mine.

Do you?

This link makes action really easy.

For some useful research, see:

The Gender Logic of Executive Compensation. King, Brayden, and Cornwall, Marie. Academy of Management Proceedings; 2007, p1-6. Abstract: Industries operate according to gender logics and some industries have gender logics that facilitate women managers’ access to top executive positions. Using data from the S&P’s Execucomp data set, we find that industries based in a logic of care and engaged in interactive service work or in the social reproduction of everyday life are more open to hiring women among top executives. The greater representation of women in industries based on a logic of care also influences the average compensation of omen and men across industries.

The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can? . Blau, Francine D. and Kahn, Lawrence M. Academy of Management Perspectives; Feb 2007, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p7-23. Abstract: The trends in the gender pay gap in the United States form a somewhat mixed picture. On the one hand, after a half a century of stability in the earnings of women relative to men, there has been a substantial increase in women’s relative earnings since the late 1970s. One of the things that make this development especially dramatic and significant is that the recent changes contrast markedly with the relative stability of earlier years. On the other hand, there is still a gender pay gap. Women continue to earn considerably less than men on average, and the convergence that began in the late 1970s slowed noticeably in the 1990s. Is this slowdown just a blip in an overall trend, or has the pay gap converged as far as it can? We look at this issue in depth and make some predictions for the future.

The U.S. gender pay gap in the 1990s: slowing convergence. Blau, Francine D. and Kahn, Lawrence M. Kahn. 2006. Industrial and Labor Relations Review , Cornell University, vol. 60(1), pages 45-66.

Career paths and career success in early career stages of male and female MBAs. Cox, T. H., & Harquail, C. V. (1991) Journal of Vocational Behavior, 39: 54 -75.

An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications of gender inequality. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). American Psychologist, 56, 109-118.


Charlotte-Anne Lucas April 28, 2009 at 10:14 pm

What a wonderful, thoughtful, incredibly well-researched piece!
And a list of things that each of us can do.
And we can. And we will.
Thank you so very much!

Joe April 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Interesting post – enlightening too.

Body Combat DVD May 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

We don’t generally reply to posts but I’ll in this case. Wow 🙂

Comments on this entry are closed.