Gender Pay Gap: Decades of Discussion But Still a Long Way to Go

Nov 16, 2015 | Blogs

We may have recently passed the date that Marty McFly and Doc travel to in the future, yet in many ways we remain solidly in the past.  In 2015, there is still no industry in the United States where women earn equal to, or more, than men overall.

This is just one of the sobering, yet unsurprising, findings from PayScale’s “Inside the Gender Pay Gap” report which examines the difference in median earnings of men and women in the United States.   While there is some variation in the gender pay gap between industries, the pay gap consistently gets wider as job levels get more senior.  Male executives earn 6.1% more than female executives, even when controlled for all measured compensable factors (e.g. years of experience, education, job).

Despite decades of discussion on the gender pay gap, we have not made nearly enough progress on this global issue.  Certainly, part of the solution is to provide women with the training and resources to advocate for equal compensation.  Yet, to inspire real action, we need a more nuanced understanding of the issue.  While reporting on the national- and industry-level pay gap is important, greater visibility into corporate-level compensation would provide valuable information for stakeholders.

Companies already recognize that employees are one of their most valuable intangible assets.  Senior leadership should have a vested interest in analyzing compensation data to ensure that its leading employees are rewarded strategically.  Similarly, investors and shareholders have the right to know how compensation is allocated across the company as it can have a material impact on talent attraction and retention.  Greater visibility into the corporate gender pay gap will provide stakeholders with the information they need to better understand the issue and identify potential solutions to address it.

I’m not the only one who thinks that more transparency could have a real impact on the gender pay gap.  In July, the United Kingdom mandated that businesses with 250+ staff must publicly report the difference in salaries between male and female employees.  Most recently, the government announced additional transparency measures that require businesses publish the details of employees’ bonuses (The Independent).

Companies may fear that sharing this data will invite criticism, but public reporting provides companies with a new opportunity to further differentiate their businesses.   Through the public platform, companies can provide more context to their compensation data and explain what steps they are taking to address the issue.  With this new information, we will be able to have a more informed conversation and design high-impact solutions in the future.