All Articles Leadership Closing the equal-pay gap, one woman at a time

Closing the equal-pay gap, one woman at a time

3 min read


Happy Equal Pay Day!

Seriously, there is such a thing as equal pay day, and it’s today, April 8.

What’s going on with equal pay anyway? Isn’t it a thing of the past since women have achieved relative parity in the workforce?

Well, no. Despite the fact that women make up half the entry-level workforce, they do not yet represent half of the leadership tiers and they do not receive equal pay for equal work. But of course when we look under the covers to examine the data more carefully, we see that the issue of promotions and salary are complicated by the fact that women carry more of the family responsibility and have more sporadic careers because of it.

There are other factors at play, however, which include the cultural disincentives women have to negotiate aggressively for themselves, and employers’ profit incentive to acquire good talent for low prices. Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In,” quotes male CEOs as chiding her for writing a book designed to get women asking for more because “now all the women that work for me want a raise.”

Women can, in fact, close the wage gap for themselves by getting smarter about how they negotiate their value. As women’s career experts advise, this begins with an effort for women to negotiate with themselves first. An innovative new resource for working women, the Close the Gap App, helps women prepare to negotiate their salary and includes an entire section on exploring their relationship to power and their own value.

But what about the business leaders in charge of cultivating talent? Do they bear any responsibility for helping close the wage gap?

Of course they do. Hiring and recruiting managers know much more about the resources and needs of their organizations and have a natural advantage in the negotiations with potential employees at any level. Taking advantage of women, minorities and men who don’t understand their value to the company starts the employment relationship off on the wrong foot. In today’s economy where employment is fluid and employees are increasingly more mobile, undervaluing employees gives them little incentive to stay with you, and plenty of incentive for leaving you with the cost of replacing them (which can cost 200%+ for executives).

Where to start? Do a blind study of your employee salaries and see what you find. Look for cultural habits in your organization that fail to create incentive for equal pay for equal work and eradicate them. This isn’t rocket science, it’s good business.

Dana Theus is president and CEO of InPower Consulting, reframing leadership to integrate the emotional intelligence lessons learned from working with women leaders. Theus is also a personal brand coach and a regular contributor to SmartBlog on Leadership. Follow her on Twitter at @DanaTheus and on LinkedIn.