One Way to Tackle Systemic Racism: Tackle the Gender Pay Gap
4 steps every business needs to take.
Like much of the world, I’ve experienced a lot of emotions over the past few months due to the pandemic and protests against systemic racism, but surprise has not been one of them.
After all, we haven’t seen or learned anything new. The work my colleagues and I do at Catalyst has always focused on the barriers created by bias. We have long known that systemic racism and sexism exacerbate inequities in the workplace. What is new is that the corporate world is being asked to prove they are taking actions to break down these barriers. And one place corporations can do so is by closing the gender pay gap—particularly for women of color.
The gender pay gap is the result of two conditions:
- Lack of equal pay for work of equal or similar value; and
- Underrepresentation of women—again, particularly women of color—in higher-paying jobs, roles, and careers.
It has always been a serious problem, of course, but the stakes are higher than ever before, with working women around the world—and once again particularly women of color—experiencing job loss, furloughs, and reduced income. In fact, as my colleague and Senior Vice President, Global Head of Corporate Engagement Tanya van Biesen points out, layoffs due to the coronavirus threaten to erase many of women’s workplace gains, particularly for—yet again—women of color.
A Call to Action for Business Leaders
While I haven’t been surprised by these grim statistics, I am heartened by the loud and sustained calls coming from all parts of society to end systemic bias. However, words and statements are no longer enough. The business community is being challenged to take action. Will they do it? I know from my time as part of the Catalyst Awards Evaluation team that smart companies do. I am further encouraged that more and more companies are asking, “How do you fight systemic racism? How do you stop systemic sexism? How do you create and sustain an inclusive workplace?”
These questions aren’t new, and the solutions aren’t easy. But one way to do so is by closing the gender pay gap, particularly for women of color. Commit to the following actions, which must be undertaken over the long-term and with consistency:
- Conduct internal pay equity studies/analyses to make sure you don’t have a gender pay gap. Conduct the studies/analyses on a regular basis to ensure the gap remains closed.
- Support pay transparency. Publish salaries or salary bands along with explanations, and hold discussions to ensure lines of communication are clear and honest. Knowing salary ranges for particular jobs gives employees the information they need to negotiate and ask to be paid fairly and equally. When that data is presented and employers are made aware of it, they have the tools they need to change their workplace.
- Ban salary history requests. Recent studies found that a ban on asking for salary history can increase pay for job changers, particularly Black people and women.
- Evaluate recruitment, promotion, and talent management systems for bias. Monitoring and tracking are critical to closing gaps both in pay and representation. Analyze your pool of candidates for hiring and promotions. Look at who’s in leadership positions and analyze what’s working and what’s not.
I am worried, scared, frustrated, and angry like everybody else. Yet I’m also hopeful. I see the opportunity to make real change in our workplaces and look forward to the day when gender gaps in pay, representation, and opportunity are out of the ordinary and not the norm.
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Vice President, Strategic Engagement
As Catalyst Vice President, Strategic Engagement, Serena Fong drives positive change by leading and executing strategic communications and strategies to key stakeholders, including government leaders, policy-makers, influencers, strategic partners, Catalyst Supporter organizations and board members. She works across the organization to create and execute a compelling and impactful engagement strategy,…