Today, April 4 -- or the 94th day of the year -- marks Equal Pay Day, the day the average women would have to work up to in 2017 to make the same amount men made in 2016. It's not a happy "holiday," but it's an important reminder how far the workforce has to go in closing the gap for women.
The stats are sobering: Women make an average of 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, adding up to $10,500 less annually, and the gap is significantly greater for women who are also under-represented minorities. The way things are going, the gap won't close until 2059, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
With a lack of any real legislation mandating equal pay in the US, it's been incumbent on companies to insist upon equality in their employee base. As you can imagine, that's a big part of the reason the gap persists. Investors have put the pressure on tech companies in the past year to be more transparent about their wages and to narrow the gap, but progress is also being made at a legislative level. As Bloomberg points out, this is happening with or without the help of the current administration. (See Investors Pressure Tech Firms on Pay Equity.)
At the state level, there are currently more than 60 bills pending across 20 states aimed at closing the wage gap with measures such as banning the use of a job candidate's previous pay in salary considerations, inflicting penalties on companies with pay gaps and making it easier to discuss pay in order to detect discrepancies. (See How Much Is Everyone Getting Paid?)
California is a good state to look to for an example. As of January 2016, it began banning employers from paying one gender more for largely similar work unless they could demonstrate other factors accounted for the discrepancy. It's hard to argue with a law like that, which is simply asking for fair treatment, yet other states fall so much shorter. Some, like North Dakota, Utah, Louisiana and Wyoming, won't see the wage gap close until the next century. (See Intel Closed the Gender Pay Gap in 2015.)
First daughter turned White House employee Ivanka Trump promised to make narrowing the pay gap a priority, personally and for her father's presidency. It remains to be seen whether that was a hollow campaign promise or not -- and so far signs point to "not" -- but the time is ripe to make a real change for women in the workplace.
It starts, of course, with transparency. Companies cannot fix a problem they don't know -- or claim not to know -- they have. If we share salary data, make it permissible to discuss it in context, we can understand the full picture. After that, better policies to support both mothers and fathers in the workplace would also help level the playing field by not putting the onus entirely on women -- and lessening the financial penalty they incur by taking time off for their children. (See Mind the Gap: Is Public Shaming the Way to End Pay Inequity?)
It's often hard to believe that women still have to fight for things like equal pay, transparency and support in the workplace in 2017, but that's the reality here in the US. It's time for a wholesale change that includes legislation, corporate support and an overhaul of company cultures that have allowed the pay gap to persist so long.
— Sarah Thomas, , Director, Women in Comms