A Simple Solution to Pay Equity for Women

We hear about the pay gap between women and men all the time. It’s not a new issue. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the pay gap currently stands at 20 cents on the dollar for women in almost every employment field. I will forgo the obvious diatribe on how in the 21st century we are still even on this subject. I will instead focus on a solution.

There are laws which prevent discrimination because of sex, age, race, religion, and sexual orientation; however, these are easily and legally pushed aside by employers. Here’s an example: Say I wanted to only hire a younger workforce. I can’t ask for your age on a resume or application, but I can ask for your educational background. It’s not rocket science to figure out that if a person graduated from high school in 1979 they are 56 years old. See? Easy and legal(ish).

Now assuming a woman makes it past the initial application and interview process, lands a job offer, and makes it to the salary negotiation stage, the odds are high they are going to make only 80% of what an equally qualified man would. They reason why? Because the failure is in the offer system itself. Let me explain in handy list form:

  • Salaries are not publically published in job postings. Would you feel comfortable in the integrity of a car dealer who doesn’t put the price of the car on the lot sticker? Then why should you feel comfortable about the integrity of an perspective employer who can’t put the wage on a job posting.
  • Companies often use salary ranges when computing salary offers. This protects them from litigation because they can prove that the applicant was, “within range”. But let’s be real about this, salary ranges are almost custom built to encourage wage discrimination, as well as other forms.
  • Candidates are admonished to not discuss their salaries with other employees. Why? Usually the way it is presented to employees is that they are making more money than their co-workers and it would cause internal strife if wages were discussed.

What we have is a perfect environment to discriminate against women without actually breaking any laws. Nobody forced the woman to apply for a job without knowing the salary. She accepted the offered salary, which was within range. She is paranoid to discuss her wages with anyone unless she creates an human resources situation and risks her job.

If companies were required to publish salaries of all employees, it would make it very difficult to undercut women insofar as wages are concerned. A good example of this is the government sector. All job postings have the salary’s clearly defined. A woman who gets the position will make the same pay as a man. As far as the private sector is concerned, some companies are starting to be more transparent in their hiring practices. The major push back is always going to be that some folks don’t want others to know how much they make. To that end I suggest they get over it. Having served in the military, my pay was readily apparent to anyone who wanted to know. What I did with my money was my business, however.

What I have outlined above only addresses the issue of the pay gap. It does not solve the issue of equal opportunities for women in the workplace, nor does it solve the current crisis in sexual harassment that many women endure. What I am presenting is a solution to ensure that once a woman (and other groups for that matter)makes it to the hiring stage, they get the same salary a man would get. I think most men would also welcome the opportunity to skip the salary negotiation stage as well. I know I would.

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