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The Hard Truth About Your Gender Pay Gap

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If you’re interested in closing your gender pay gap, great! However, it won’t happen quickly or easily. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has found that it could take 202 years for pay to even out among women versus men. Why so long?

“You have to calculate the gap the right way and figure out how to fix it without ballooning your wage bill, all while truly helping underpaid women, maintaining your incentive structure, and avoiding the creation of new legal liabilities,” writes a group of professors who researched the subject for the Harvard Business Review.

The professors caution that even seemingly easy solutions to the problem are complex. To see where they’re coming from, check out their antidote about giving certain men raises to reduce the gap fairly.

Then there’s the uphill battle of not everyone being on the same page. In a recent survey, 46% of men feel the problem with equal pay and gender parity has been “made up to serve a political purpose” and is not a “legitimate issue”; 43% feel there’s no difference by gender in compensation for performing similar work. A whopping 60% feel the obstacles that once made it difficult for women to advance in the workplace are largely gone.

Plus, no one knows what the gap truly is. Commonly cited research shows that women still make 80 to 85% what men make – but that’s comparing all women to all men in all fields. Compare women to men with equal education in the same occupations, and the gap is reduced to 92%. Then you have studies that show when factors like wage penalties for unpaid paternity leave are factored in, the 15-year gender pay gap might clock in at 49 cents on the dollar (meaning, over time, women may take home less than half of what men make).

Don’t get overwhelmed by these figures. You can’t fix issues like complex salary history progressions overnight, but you can take a look at your workplace’s behaviors and policies. Look inward at your own organization’s possible gaps and do what you can incrementally. For instance, a recent study found that when women ask for raises as often as men, they’re less likely to obtain them. Is that true at your organization? Why? Talk to a payroll consultant to decide if you’re on the right track when it comes to structuring your pay and reducing bias.


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