The importance of dealing with a gender pay gap

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There probably aren’t too many working women in Canada who are terribly surprised by the recent report that gender pay gaps grew at several major Canadian firms in 2018.

Nor is there much surprise that men and women view the issue differently, according to a new Angus Reid Institute poll. This Huffington Post headline, in fact, said it all: “Gender Pay Gap Is A Serious Issue, Canadian Women Agree. Men See It Differently.”

If you’re a working woman in Canada, chances are you’ve probably experienced at least one moment of slack-jawed disbelief upon learning that the guy in the office next door is making a lot more money than you do for doing essentially the same work. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a big promotion in favour of man whose CV isn’t any more impressive than yours.

The “always on, always available” trend in modern-day workplace culture also favours men, according to a new report by Deloitte Insights.

Thankfully, Provident is a company led by someone who’s a passionate believer in equal pay for equal work and a healthy life/work balance. But some companies aren’t as lucky. And some may not even realize they have a problem.

So what to do?

There are lessons from some U.S. companies on how to determine the extent of any gender pay gaps at your firm, and how to deal with them.

Salesforce is a cloud computing company with 30,000 employees. The company did a deep dive in 2015 and was startled to learn of a thriving gender pay gap. The CEO spent $3 million that year to close the gap, and two years ago, committed an additional $3 million to correct pay differences by gender and race throughout the company’s workforce.

Smaller companies have made similar discoveries, including Xactly, a cloud-based sales compensation software provider in the U.S. The company of 600 discovered its female employees met their quotas more often than men, but were still paid less. Via a detailed audit, the company pinpointed exactly where the biggest gender pay gap problems existed, and closed the gaps by giving raises to those underpaid -- and cutting salaries for those being overpaid.

Every year, the company repeats the audit, just to ensure it’s staying on top of any wage gap issues. And it’s also committed to making more diverse hiring choices.

What measures can your company take? First, figure out if a gender pay gap exists, and take immediate measures to correct it. Establish quotas and a timeline for getting women into senior positions. When there are openings for senior jobs, look hard for talented female candidates.

And offer a good, market-competitive salary, not based on a woman’s past income. Income inequality dogs women throughout their careers, so be careful about using a candidate’s previous salary to determine what your company should offer. Also keep in mind: Women don’t feel comfortable negotiating salaries, and often accept offers that are less than companies would have been willing to pay.

Eliminating gender pay gaps isn’t just the right thing to do -- it’s also smart business practice. A study in the U.K., where gender gap statistics are publicly released annually, found that women will switch banks in favour of those that pay their female employees fairly. And so if your business has taken measures to close the gender pay gap, get that message out to the public, customers and clients. Women, in particular, want to know that your female employees are getting compensated fairly.

Indeed, if you’re a big, well-known company that’s tackled its gender pay gap successfully, it’s imperative to tell your company’s story in the media.

Share your company’s progress on eliminating the gender pay gap through news releases, blog posts and even a section on your website. Turn your executives into thought leaders on the topic by getting their views into the media, whether it’s via op-eds or as commentators who can speak to the challenges.

And if you want to discuss how to best tell your pay equity story, write us today.