Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of the struggle for women’s rights that has been with us in one form or another since 1909. Nowadays, the U.N. designates themes for International Women’s Day, such as “Women Uniting for Peace” (2000) and “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All” (2010). Today’s theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The UN’s agenda specifies goals including ensuring access to free, quality primary and secondary education, and ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. It’s a tall order, and one that will take concerted effort by the international community to achieve. But, there is something you can do right now to help reach the goal of equality by 2030: help end the gender pay gap in your workplace and home.
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PayScale’s report, The Gender Pay Gap Is Real, shows that pay inequality is not as simple as women being paid 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. The uncontrolled gender pay gap – meaning the comparison of all working women’s wages to all working men’s – is close to that figure, at 74 cents on the dollar. But, when we control the data for similar job titles, education, and hours worked, the gap narrows to 97 cents on the dollar.
Good news, right? Not really. PayScale’s research also found that men are more likely than women to have higher paying jobs, whether it’s by industry or job title. Women also experience a penalty for marrying that men don’t have, even if they don’t have kids. The highest pay gap is for married women with kids, who earn 4.2 percent less than married men with kids, even when controlling for job title, experience, etc.
It’s not necessarily that women are putting family first, either. Twenty-eight percent of men told PayScale that they prioritized family over work once or twice per month, compared with 25 percent of women. However, when women chose family over work, they paid a higher price: the largest gender pay gap (-4.4 percent) was between married mothers and married fathers who prioritized family at least once a year.
So what can you do to help break this pattern and achieve equality and pay equity by 2030? Start with these:
1. If you’re a man with a female partner, take on half the housework.
The old adage “a women’s work is never done” has an unspoken corollary: “it’s also never paid, and it’s generally pretty hard.”
In the Gates Foundation’s annual letter, Melinda Gates addresses this unpaid labor, both in the developing world and in developed nations like the U.S., and its costs for individual women and the global economy:
Unpaid work is what it says it is: It’s work, not play, and you don’t get any money for doing it. But every society needs it to function. You can think of unpaid work as falling into three main categories: cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly. Who packs your lunch? Who fishes the sweaty socks out of your gym bag? Who hassles the nursing home to make sure your grandparents are getting what they need?
Now, this work has to be done by somebody. But it’s overwhelmingly women who are expected to do it, for free, whether they want to or not.
This isn’t just unfair – in an era when most families need two paychecks to survive, it’s also next to impossible.
Bottom line, if you’re a man whose partner is a woman, and you both work outside the home, don’t “help” her with the chores. Split them down the middle, because that unpaid work is the foundation of a functioning life outside of work – and that’s everyone’s job.
2. If you’re a manager, ask for a name-blind resume process.
Take the names off candidates’ profiles, and what do you have? Just their skills and abilities, with no chance for your own unconscious bias to seep through. Studies have shown that name-blind resume review fights racism as well as sexism in the hiring process.
3. If you’ve got some clout, ask for a salary equity review.
Does your company pay everyone fairly, regardless of sex, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and so on? Don’t assume the answer is yes until you’ve looked at the data.
4. Support candidates who support families.
The U.S. is a hard place to raise a family. It’s one of the few countries without mandated paid maternity leave, and childcare is astronomically expensive. Regardless of which side of the aisle you align yourself with, consider whether your chosen candidates for national and local elections are committed to making life easier or harder for families.
5. Understand that unconscious bias isn’t the same as conscious prejudice.
No one likes to feel like a bad person, which is one reason why it’s so hard to root out unconscious bias in the first place: it’s hard to feel good about yourself if you’ve made a decision based on prejudice, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.
To combat that, rely on data to guide your decisions and be prepared to change how you do things, in order to give everyone a fair shot. Whether it’s taking on the laundry or moving to a name-blind resume review process, seemingly small changes can have a big impact. They could even help close the gender pay gap once and for all.
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