Diversity & Inclusion

July 18, 2022

Could Data Win the Fight for Equal Pay?

Many people, especially men, misconstrue the fight for equal pay as a women’s issue. And yes – today, women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. And yes, the starkest demonstration of pay inequality always comes down to men versus women.

But the details are important, and when you drill down into the data, it becomes clear that equity affects everyone.

Men; if you’re married to a woman who works, it affects you. If you grew up in a single parent household with your mother, it affected you.

If you’re in a non-white ethnic minority group, or a Disabled person – then it’s more than probably affecting you directly, right now. And even if it doesn't affect you directly, it will almost certainly have an indirect impact.

The truth is that Black, Hispanic and Native American workers, at all levels, earn less than their white counterparts. Sometimes far less.

For instance – Black women in America earn 20% less than white women, and a shocking 36% less than white men. Black women earn less, even in the same job; and that gap gets wider and wider the more educated a Black woman is.

Depressed wages. Devalued work. Devalued human beings, earning less for the exact same work.

Why is this happening, in the largest economy in the world?

And how can we stop it?

Bias; the enemy of equity?

The roots of the gender and racial pay gaps run so deep into society, that finding their source has become difficult, to say the least.

For all the advances humans have made over the centuries, old ideologies and values still have their hold on us, rising to the surface as conscious and unconscious biases.

Here’s something to think about; what kind of work is a woman best suited for?

Even if you don't want it to, your mind invariably goes to vocations like nursing, teaching, or clerical and admin roles.

Carer, secretary, assistant.

What about lead programmer, architect, CEO, scientist, or Antarctic explorer? Are these solely titles we associate with men?

Read more – how to overcome bias with HR data.

These gender norms, instilled from birth with the toys we give our daughters and the games we unconsciously encourage them to play, can funnel women into lower-level and lower-paid positions.

These are still, in this day and age, society’s expectations of women in work.

And this is even before we hit the most widely cited excuse (and that’s all it really is) for paying women less: the motherhood penalty.

The motherhood penalty

One of the strongest biases is firmly rooted in the myth that all women will become mothers, and in doing so, will lose all interest in work. While that’s certainly not reality, the penalty for motherhood is.

Motherhood costs women $16,000 a year in lost wages.

Research suggests that having a child (even just having the potential to bear children) is the primary (perhaps the sole) cause for the gender wage gap. Women who return to work after having children are shown to incur a wage penalty.

There’s no equivalent penalty for fathers. Even the most devoted. Some men are even paid more after having children.

Parenthood is hard. It can be gruelling, exhausting, painful, emotional – for mothers and for fathers, and for parents who adopt: but it doesn't define a person. They will always be more than “just a mom”.

For a lot of people, the drive to work, achieve, and become financially empowered can grow even stronger after becoming a parent.

But while the bias remains, we’ll always have the motherhood penalty to contend with.

Using pay data to combat pay discrimination

So, we’ve seen the data on pay gaps, and we know it’s a real issue. In fact, we’ve known about it, and have been fighting against it, for more than a hundred years. Here’s the historic data to show it.

But how can we use data to combat it?

Pay is complicated, and sometimes hard to talk about. With a robust starting point of good, clean data, we can begin to set goals for what we want to achieve.

HR professionals want to compensate everyone fairly – based on their performance, merit, and value they bring to the company. The ideal goal? Equal pay for equal roles. Let’s lay out a basic roadmap of how to get there.

  1. Overview of company pay

The first thing we need to know is how pay works right now, to get an overview – before drilling down into demographics and ethnicity data. What’s the average? How does it compare with the rest of the industry?

  1. Look for discrepancies

This is where differences can start to be noticed in the data. Splitting by gender alone, there may be signs of pay disparity and inequity.

What happens to pay after parental leave – and who’s impacted more? Are women generally making less, even at similar levels or in similar roles?

Apply the same mindset while looking at pay segmented by your workers’ age bands, ethnicities and specified religions. What’s becoming obvious to you?

  1. Set goals for equal pay

Only when you know what your pay equity landscape looks like (even if it’s not looking good) can you begin to plan a solution that works financially for the company, and effectively for the team at large.

It’s no good raising pay for one member of the team if another has to sacrifice a raise that they justly and rightly deserve.

Planning how this works will take a deep collaboration between finance, leadership, and HR. It may also require a phased approach that raises pay to equal levels over a defined period.

To do this, you need a goal-tracking system that’s been designed for HR and HCM.

eqtble offers users a best-in-class solution for setting and tracking organizational goals, which gives meaningful insight on how to achieve each stage in your plan.

It’s one of the most powerful tools of its kind for understanding your people – and with the right data and approach, equal pay can be achieved at your company.

Want to know more? Click here to request access.

This is the way to equal pay

Win the fight for equal pay with eqtble – and unlock the power of people analytics data. Collect, track and set goals with your pay data, to achieve equal pay in your company.