For all the professional gains women have made over the years, gender-based wage discrimination persists. This was a key finding in a public forum held by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in late April. The forum, which was attended by government and private-sector experts, was just one of 24 events the federal agency sponsored this past spring to bring attention to the problem of wage discrimination.
A representative from Catalyst -- a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business – expressed concern about the gender leadership gap that accompanies the pay gap. She shared that over 98% of Fortune 500 companies are led by male CEOs, and that women at these companies start off with salaries $4,600 less than men.
Clearly, we can do better.
Employers can make equal rights for women a bigger priority (and demonstrate their support) by:
Extending equal pay for equal work – The wage gap was 23% in 2009, meaning the average American women was paid 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. How do the female employees in your company fare? More important, do you have a method for determining the fair market rate for any given job? Your company – and the women in it – may benefit from a fresh approach that updates job descriptions, assesses skill and responsibilities for each job, and ensures consistent application of rates and salaries.
Evaluating employee training, development and promotion opportunities – How are employees selected to participate in training programs or lead special projects and task forces? How many women, versus men, are in management positions due to your company’s investment in their growth and development? It’s important that the women in your company are targeted for career-building opportunities as frequently as the men. High-quality training enables your staff, particularly those who are taking on new or expanded roles, to be more versatile and increase their contributions to the company.
Preventing workplace harassment and discrimination – Of course you have a company policy that prohibits harassment based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability and/or any other legally protected status. But what are you doing to reinforce it and cultivate a positive, respectful corporate culture? You should give every employee and manager a copy of your company’s anti-harassment policy at the time of hire and at least once a year thereafter. You should also conduct periodic training to build awareness and strengthen your position against all forms of harassment and discrimination. Don’t assume managers and employees “know better,” especially when it comes to the finer points of proper workplace conduct.
Offering flexible options for a greater work/life balance – Employees are more stressed than ever, juggling increasingly heavier workloads and the demands of home. And since women are the traditional caregivers of children and aging parents, they tend to feel this push/pull more acutely. The good news is that workplace flexibility benefits both employees and employers by improving retention, boosting productivity and reducing burnout. Whether letting employees telecommute, work part time or leave early one day a week, be open to flexible arrangements that give employees more of what they want most: time.