In June, the White House announced the Equal Pay Pledge during the United State of Women Summit. This week, President Obama said that 44 new companies have recently signed the pledge, promising to pay men and women equally for equal work. The total number of signatories is now 100 companies, and includes employers like Amazon, AT&T, eBay, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson, Yahoo, and Zillow Group.
The White House released a fact sheet on the pledge, saying:
Equal Pay has been an Administration priority since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law as his first piece of legislation. Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses to attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy.
What the Equal Pay Pledge Includes
Companies who sign the Equal Pay Pledge must:
- Commit to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations;
- Review hiring and promotion practices to reduce unconscious bias;
- Embed equal pay efforts in other equity initiatives across the company;
- Promote other best pay practices.
A few of the companies who signed the pledge in the past few months have noted that they already pay men and women equally, including Facebook and Amazon. However, equal pay for equal work doesn’t necessarily address one of the underlying reasons for the gender pay gap: the opportunity gap. For instance, at Facebook, only 32 percent of the company’s 12,000 workers are female, as are only 24 percent of Amazon’s managers.
That’s not to call out specific employers for censure — the tech industry as a whole has a problem with gender equity and opportunity. And tech is not an outlier: across industries, women are more likely to be individual contributors and less likely to be managers, directors, and executives.
PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, shows that 60.6 percent of working women aged 60 to 65 are individual contributors, compared to 44.5 percent of men. Only 3.3 percent of women in the same age group are executives, compared to 8.7 percent of men.
Why Initiatives Like the Equal Pay Pledge Matter
Initiatives like these are voluntary, and obviously carry no penalties for lack of enforcement. Further, you’ll always hear from a few critics who claim that the gender pay gap is a fiction, a misreading of data. (It’s not.) But calling attention to the fact that women are less likely to be executives than men is just as important as noting that they still earn less for doing the same work. In asking companies to commit to reviewing their hiring and promotion practices, the pledge reminds us that equal pay means equal opportunity.
One of the greatest obstacles to true pay equity and opportunity equity is unconscious bias. By committing to the Equal Pay Pledge, companies are promising to shine a light on their own practices. In effect, they’re pledging to pay attention and to notice when women are paid less or are underrepresented in upper management. And, that’s an important step toward real pay equity.
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