4 steps toward making equal pay a reality at your company

Don't we live in a society light-years removed from sexism and the rigid ideas of what genders can and can't (or should and shouldn't) do?

In many ways we do, especially when compared to the old-world ideas of generations past. But, despite some progress, many elements of gender inequity remain. The lack of truly equal pay for men and women is one such issue.

"On average, American women make 22% less than men."

As an HR leader, you're only responsible for your own company, of course. No one expects you to fix the U.S. wage gap, but provided you have executive-level support, you can develop an equal pay plan that compensates employees of all genders equally and without damaging the company's bottom line. Here are 4 recommendations for how to achieve this objective.

1. Consider (and stick to) the facts

Individuals on both sides of the equal pay debate sometimes let emotion and rhetoric get in the way of progress. Don't let yourself fall into this trap. To support your case, simply rely on the plethora of facts that illustrate the current wage gap:

  • According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2017, American women earn an average 22 percent less than American men. This disparity holds true regardless of complementary factors such as education, age, location, race and ethnicity. 
  • By dollars and cents, Latina women suffer the biggest consequences of the wage gap. The Make It Work campaign found that they often earn 55 cents for every dollar earned by white men. By comparison, black American women receive 60 cents for every dollar earned by white men, while white women earn 79 cents for every dollar white males earn. 
  • Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the onus of enforcing equal pay falls on state governments. California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland all have comprehensive equal pay regulations, according to the American Association of University Women. By contrast, Alabama and Mississippi have no such laws of any kind.

To provide a genuinely beneficial policy – and avoid running into compliance violations in the future – all of the above must be considered when crafting a strategy for equal pay.

Steps toward making equal pay a reality at your companySolving the gender gap in employee pay isn't simple, but it is possible.

2. Look beyond wage adjustments

n theory, the simplest way to equalize pay across gender lines would be to collect payroll data, identify disparities and correct them – whatever that adjustment requires. But, as you may have guessed, acting on what you find won't be easy.

Although raising wages won't hurt, fully correcting the gender-based gap will require implementing measures that aren't directly related to salary. That may include adjustments to your benefits package. The National Women's Law Center recommends, for starters, resources such as paid family leave, child care and reproductive health care. If your organization lacks these benefits, adding them is one step toward balancing the scales. According to Forbes, several major corporations have adopted this tactic. Citigroup, Apple, Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Salesforce, among others, have pushed for greater gender equality in the workplace through by way of more inclusive benefits.

If your company is not in a position to enact such sweeping changes, you can start by creating a payroll distribution plan scaled to fit their workforces by using an efficient enterprise HR solution.

3. Establish a clear policy for pay equality

Instituting fair pay takes more than just changing some numbers. It's essential to clearly document and communicate any changes in a concrete policy that is transparent to all employees. The Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that companies use their equal pay policies to define all economic language involved, outline each aspect of benefits adjustments and include any notices or stipulations that are necessary for compliance to all state and federal regulations. Last but not least, the document must clarify that it corrects legitimate wage inequalities and isn't unfair to anyone.

You must also ensure that the policy is easily accessible. In addition to any printed materials you may post and/or distribute internally, make sure to post the policy online using your HR portal or company intranet.

4. Conduct a regular review of your policy

Inequality won't go away with a single policy change. It takes a cultural shift, consistent evaluation and updates to reflect regulatory or societal changes. Even after setting up equal pay, wage disparity and institutionalized sexism can find their way back into your organization.

Be sure to schedule a review of wage equality (and overall gender and racial equality within your company) at regular intervals. Doing so will go a long way toward mitigating the problem. Any disparities that recur for any reason can then be quickly spotted and adjusted accordingly.