Gender parity is a multifaceted issue that has proven a challenge to achieve. Across the world, different countries and cultures have handled gender issues in different ways, many lagging behind in a variety of metrics.
Perhaps the most important way to address gender inequality is to work toward fixing the pay gap. While a lot of progress has been made on making women’s voices heard, very little has been done to ensure that they are able to earn fair pay and excel in the workforce. On average, the pay gap stands at around 20%—meaning that, for every dollar a man earns, a woman is likely to earn around 80 cents.
These statistics can be somewhat misleading. Some of this disparity is due to the fact that women are more likely to be in jobs that pay little or not at all, such as outreach programs and nonprofits. It has also been suggested that time taken off to raise children may have also contributed to this gap. However, even adjusting for these factors, there is a significant gap between what professionals of each gender make, even in the same industry and with the same level of education.
Therefore, it falls to companies to police themselves when it comes to earnings. Equal pay is a cause that has languished in recent years, with very little evidence that anything meaningful is happening. Some countries have it better than others—Slovenia leads the world in pay parity between genders, and Iceland continues to excel at gender equality in all areas.
Research suggests that pay equality could have concrete benefits for economies. Even small changes in closing the pay gap have proven to yield increases in GDP. Fixing the pay gap doesn’t just involve ensuring that men and women are paid equally for the same job; it also involves ensuring that women are given due consideration for promotions, particularly when it comes to prominent leadership roles.
Companies can do this by conducting an equal pay audit for existing employees—there’s no reason to just continue because compensation has been a certain way for a while. It’s difficult finding a way to start, but all employees in comparable roles should have their salaries compared. It’s never quite so uniform; factors such as tenure, location, and job function should all be accounted for before determining areas of inequality.
The next thing to remember is the fact that these audits are not a one-time solution. For most companies, particularly those expanding and changing, more audits may be necessary to ensure that pay is kept at parity. Don’t do it just to check a box—make equality an inherent part of your company’s values.
As it stands at current rates of pay, it would take over two centuries to achieve equality. Of course, we as a society cannot wait that long, particularly if the pay gap inadvertently denies companies top talent and new perspectives. As with any movement, it comes down to change starting at a smaller level—I believe that companies accelerating this change will spur others to do the same.