5 Ways to Close the Gender Pay Gap on Equal Pay Day 2018

Equal Pay Day is on April 10 this year. The day marks how long into 2018 the average woman must work to earn what her male counterpart earned in 2017 alone. You can read about the gender pay gap in our blog Women Still Don’t See Equal Pay for Equal Work,” but here are five things that can help close the gender pay gap:

1. Stop asking salary history.

In 2016, Massachusetts became the first State to prohibit employers from asking about salary history in job interviews. Since women (and non-white males) are historically underpaid, many new employers use this too-low salary history to determine the employee’s new salary. This law now helps end that harmful trend. This year, Virginia had the opportunity to pass similar legislation with Delegate Boysko’s HB1089 bill. Unfortunately, the bill was killed by House Republicans on a party-line vote in a House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee.

2. Hire and promote more women; encourage more flexible work hours.

The gender wage gap is twice as bad for top earners—women in top management positions—largely due to the fact that women are seriously underrepresented in those jobs. When researchers control for education, they find that women are passed over for promotions more frequently. In fact, for every 100 women who are promoted to management, a greater number (130) men also advance. These missed opportunities have a compounding effect, leaving women seriously outnumbered in top management roles (that’s why less than 4% of CEOs are women).  

Studies show that when organizations add more women to their leadership teams, the effectiveness of that team increases. If companies want to close the gender pay gap and increase effectiveness, they should develop and promote more women internally.

We see the largest pay gaps in fields that demand long, often unconventional, set hours (likely because women are still the primary caretakers who can’t work those hours). If a woman is the primary caretaker for children in the home, it’s harder to make mandatory late night and weekend meetings and office time. Because women can still complete the same work as men, if employers simply allowed more flexibility in scheduling, women could easily fill these jobs and earn equal wages.

3. Raise the minimum wage.

Studies show that raising the minimum wage can reduce the gender gap. Women still make up the majority of workers who are paid minimum wage, including 44,000 women in Virginia who are making minimum (or below minimum) wage. In 2014, a White House report concluded that raising the minimum wage to just $10.10 an hour would close the gender pay gap by at least 5.5%. Unfortunately, that report has been deleted by the current administration. Nonetheless, the facts remain that depriving workers of a living wage is disproportionately hurting women.

4. Provide more paid family and medical leave.

The social reality in America is that working women continue to perform between two to three times as much housework as men and are still overwhelmingly primarily responsible for child rearing. Part of the problem is a cultural perception of familial obligations—the unfair assumption that starting a family will adversely impact work performance. This claim is best proven by the evidence that having children also impacts men’s wages (although not as significantly as it does for women).

Let’s move forward on how we view familial obligations on work performance. This year, Virginia lawmakers had a chance to make significant progress during the General Assembly session with Delegate Levine’s HB40 bill. That bill, however, was killed by a Republican party-line vote in a Commerce and Labor sub-committee.

5. Encourage salary transparency.

Shamefully, the Virginia 2018 General Assembly killed a bill which would have prohibited employers from punishing employees who share their salary with each other. Senator Wexton’s bill, SB419, passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor unanimously on February 9. Incredibly however, after Senator Wexton left the room, shady politics reared its ugly head when a Republican Senator asked for that same bill to be reconsidered. Eventually, the bill moved on to the Finance committee, where it was killed by Senate Republicans. If women knew what their male counterparts were making, they could advocate for fairer pay.

This #EqualPayDay, share these five actions with your friends and raise awareness on the gender pay gap.

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