Gender Pay Equity: More than just Equal Pay for Equal Work

April 2nd, 2019 is Equal Pay Day in the US. This public awareness event symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report, at the current pace of improvement, we’ll reach economic parity between genders in the workplace in 200 years. There is much work to be done and achieving equality is a complex matter. We cannot look at solving the issue of “equal pay for equal work” as the sole measure of success.

In the US, women represent approximately 47 percent of the workforce, yet they occupy a disproportionately low percentage of management and leadership positions. To achieve true gender equality in the workplace, companies need to provide equitable leadership and growth opportunities, equal opportunities and representation in the C-suite, focus on hiring the best person for the job.

Closing the gender pay gap is an ongoing process — there is no one size fits all solution.


Gender pay disparity is not equal

While Equal Pay Day shines a spotlight on gender differences in pay, there’s one aspect of the discussion that’s often left out, and that’s the significant gaps between racial and ethnic groups.

The American Association of University Women reported in 2017 that women’s earnings as a percentage of White men’s earnings are:

  • 85 percent for Asian women
  • 77 percent for White (non-Hispanic) women
  • 61 percent for Black/African American women
  • 53 percent for Hispanic or Latina women.

This is clearly a complex issue that cuts to the core of racial bias and related issues like occupational segregation and access to education. To be equitable, we must look at Equal Pay Day in multiple installments throughout the year.

As we look at our role in advancing opportunities in the communication industry, investing time and resources in providing more access and tools to women of color is one step in closing these gaps. That’s one of many reasons why our CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin is serving on the board of ColorComm and our global chief operating officer and president of international, Kass Sells, is serving on The LAGRANT Foundation board. 


Where the rubber meets the road

At WE, 72 percent of our employees are women. We recognize that equal treatment of all genders and non-binary people must never be assumed — it’s something we must continually strive for.

One way we do this is through our policies and benefit programs, which include:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Paid parental leave — encouraging all employees to have the same opportunity to contribute to the care of a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Caregiver leave — to enable all employees paid time to tend to the medical needs of aging parents or ill family members
  • Our pay programs are designed to be externally competitive without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, veteran status, or disability, and to reward outstanding performance. 

Benefits like paid parental leave are incredibly important. But they’re not enough. Supporting equal opportunity also requires that we offer family support benefits for people who don’t have children and for those who find themselves in the “sandwich generation” as they care for their aging parents. Benefits like caregiver leave aren’t usually on anyone’s mind until there is a crisis. That’s why we make sure those benefits are there. In addition to structured family support benefits, we maintain a flexible schedules policy. We empower our leaders and every employee to responsibly discuss their need in the context of their own teams and work responsibilities.

As CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin recently shared in her International Women’s Day blog: “To be clear: we don’t do these things for the benefit of women alone. We do these things because we know that equality and inclusion benefit us all.”


True gender equality = stronger societies

According to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), developed by the UN Global Compact (on which WE is a signatory) and UN Women, “There is growing evidence that women’s empowerment and gender equality has a multiplier effect on families, communities, businesses and sustainable economies.” WEPs estimates that unleashing the full potential of women and girls could add more than $12 trillion dollars to the global gross domestic product (GDP). The benefits for individuals and society are far-reaching and extend beyond the gender debate.

We can all improve our companies and our communities if we look more deeply into the impact of representation, and act to address the challenges workers face. This calls for all of us to educate ourselves so we understand the true cost and impact of wage disparity, then engage in advocacy for programs and policies that support equal pay for all genders, races and ethnicities.