Pay Equity: More than Equal Pay for Equal Work

Since the Industrial Revolution, American women have been fighting for pay equality. Social activism and political pressure eventually led to the Equal Pay Law of 1963, but despite this step forward progress has continued to be slow. Today, women make an estimated 80% lower median income than their male counterparts. This statistic is frustrating enough but becomes even more extreme when minority women are compared to their white male counterparts, many making as low as 63% of the salary their white male coworkers make. While the argument has never really disappeared, it was brought back to the limelight this year.

In June 2019, the American Women’s Soccer Team won their fourth World Cup. After which they entered mediation with the US Soccer Federation, over a lawsuit brought by all twenty-eight players. The lawsuit accuses the US Soccer Federation of pay discrimination, alleging that while each female player received a $90,000 World cup bonus, their male counterparts would have received $500,000 each.

The US Soccer Federation openly admits that female players are paid significantly less than male players, but cites decreased revenue as the reason. Despite their persistence, research does not provide evidence to back their claim. While the men’s soccer team may be generally more well known, the women’s team has generated increased interest and with that, significant increases to ticket sales meaning they generate more revenue than the men’s team.

The argument presented by the US Soccer Federation is not a strong one, nor is it unique. Like the Women’s Soccer Team, many professional female athletes are bringing lawsuits alleging pay discrimination, and the argument is not in the world of sports alone. Across the spectrum, pay inequality is being brought to light and organizations justifying the inequality are unable to win. Many advocates for equal pay argue that federal laws demanding “equal pay for equal work” are not enough. They argue that federal laws are too subjective, allowing room for management to make choices that lead to discrimination. Many states agree and have integrated legislation at the state and local levels that put additional barriers in place to decrease unconscious bias in pay and hiring policy. While it won’t fix the pay gap overnight, it is a step in the right direction and experts suggest that organizations begin to follow suit.

Organizations can take action in order to ensure they are contributing to the solution rather than the problem. The first step is conducting an internal audit. Internal pay audits annually can highlight any existing gaps, giving your organization room to understand and act. Once you know the gap exists, policy should developed surrounding the hiring process that keep the issue from arising again in the future.  Ne Necessary adjustments should be made for impacted employees. In addition to policy changes, ensure your work environment is respectful, diverse, and supportive, which will allow employees to bring to light any issues they may have. Ensuring your employees feel comfortable bringing possible discrimination to your attention may not feel like a leap into the future, but it will help to ensure your organization is heading in the right direction.

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