5 Ways to Fix the Gender Pay Gap

Despite rules around equal pay for equal work, the wage gap persists. Here’s what companies can do to change it.
gender pay gap

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 guarantees employees make the same amount for equal work, regardless of sex. Despite this law, as of 2016, women still earn 79 cents to every dollar earned by a man, according to the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress.

Many complicated factors contribute to the gender pay gap, most of which are not intentionally discriminatory. Still, many women feel that a social injustice is at hand, which has sparked widespread protests such as the January 17 global Women’s March and the March 8 “A Day Without A Woman.” According to the Women’s March website, the March 8 event is “recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system — while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity.”

RELATED: Why Aren’t More Women in Venture Capital?

One major area of vulnerability for women is around company support once they start a family. Women tend to drop out of the labor force once they have children, creating more unemployed mothers than fathers. In 2013, the unemployment average for mothers with children under 18 was 7.3 percent, compared to 4.9 percent for fathers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Here are five ways business leaders can work toward mending the gender pay gap:

  1. Provide paid leave and subsidized or on-site childcare. Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia Inc. provides four months of paid leave to new mothers and three months to new fathers, according to Chris Mason, Patagonia’s senior director of talent. The Ventura, California-based company emphasizes both men and women in parenthood because “in order to support the women and help them get back into work, you also need to be just as strong on getting the fathers involved,” he said. Along with paid leave, the company has on-site childcare at its headquarters and another location in Reno, Nevada. The Ventura location has between 100 and 150 kids at any given time, and Reno receives about 30 to 40 kids. The oldest cutoff age for the two locations is around kindergarten age, but summer camp is also offered to elementary-age children. This offering allows parents to be with their children more, as well as allow for family to be part of Patagonia’s culture. Mason had a child in the program for about a year. “For the first time as a father, I didn’t feel disconnected from my kids in the traditional way I’ve been in my career,” he said. These benefits resulted in lower turnover for the company; only one woman in 10 years didn’t return from leave, which Mason said was unheard of in his previous corporate jobs.
  1. Improve the culture around flex work policies. Although many companies offer paid leave, workers are often hesitant to take advantage of it. Especially in occupations where long working hours are the norm, employees fear being penalized if there is perception that they are less loyal to their employer. “This becomes material levels of penalty, as well,” said Youngjoo Cha, associate professor of sociology and affiliate faculty for department of gender studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Those people who are working long hours tend to be more rewarded with plum assignments and promotions and better wage growth.” Flex policies are meant to retain workers and gain more top-tier talent, but it defeats the purpose if not many people take advantage of it, Cha said. Thus, high-level support is the No. 1 factor of why workers may or may not use the paid leave and flex work policies. “It’s really important to have this higher-level management endorsement about these policies that ‘these policies are there for all workers, and we really encourage you to use these policies,’ ” Cha said. Some managers do just that. Andee Harris, chief engagement officer at HighGround, an employee engagement software company based in Chicago, tells her workers when she leaves the office to spend time with her family. “I think it’s important for the people who work underneath me — both men and women — to know that I do take time off to be with my kids,” she said. “I think it’s important that managers set that example for the people who work for them so that they feel that then they can own it.”

RELATED: How to Reduce Unconscious Bias

  1. Improve performance reviews and feedback. Cha said unconscious bias is rampant in the workplace, particularly when it comes to performance reviews, as men and women’s performance sometimes receives different types of evaluation. “It’s not that everyone has a sexist mind, but in some ways these biases are operated at the unconscious level,” she said. An effective strategy is to increase accountability in performance evaluations by setting up criteria upfront and having a third party monitor the process. More specifically, women tend to receive vague feedback, without specific actions they did of value or how their accomplishments impacted the business, according to Harvard Business Review’s “Research: Vague Feedback Is Holding Women Back.” Such vague feedback correlates to lower performance ratings for women. “If reviewers do not specifically call out where women excel, where they need to build skills, and which technical projects they should target next, women are at a subtle disadvantage for promotion,” the article said.
  1. Use transparency around pay as a tactic for pay equity. At data analytics company SumAll, transparency around pay helps remove the question of gender-influenced pay, according to Fast Company’s “A Definitive Strategy To Eliminate the Gender Pay Gap.” And the company’s CEO said that no employees have expressed concern around their wages being public. Buffer, a company specializing in social sharing, took this a step further by publishing both salaries and the formula used to reach them. The company says this leads to pay equity and removes salary negotiations from the table. Negotiations are a tricky topic, as research found that women ask for negotiations less frequently than men to (7 percent, compared to 57 percent), according to “Lean Out: The Dangers for Women Who Negotiate,” from The New Yorker. Furthermore, studies found that women would be penalized for attempting to do so, thus contributing further to the pay gap. “Often, leaning in has an even worse effect than saying nothing,” the article said.
  1. Evaluate recruiting practices. These efforts for pay equity can start before the employee even gets to the company in the form of how its job descriptions are worded. Certain words imply a more masculine or feminine role, which impacts who applies, said Harris. Also, it helps to evaluate what is really needed for the job. If a company posts that a job is 80 percent travel, that will deter people with families from applying, particularly women. Harris suggested questioning how much travel is actually needed. If the job really requires closer to 50 percent travel, that will open the role to many more women. These practices help retain talent and reduce turnover. Also, if business leaders signal that the company cares about employees of all groups, it’s a good talent acquisition tool, Cha said. “To get the best people out there, you need to have something that is attractive to that workforce,” she said.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email editor@talenteconomy.io.

  • Vasile Andrei

    1. force women to work EXACTLY AS MUCH AS MEN DO, if they fail instantly FIRE THEM on the spot
    that will surely fix the issue in less than 1 year

    2. everyone must work EXACTLY THE SAME HOURS and in EXACTLY THE SAME CONDITIONS, if a company has 25 men as garbage collectors and 10 women in office work then fire 5 women from office, and 12.5 men from the garbage collectors, then hire the rest based on A STRICT GENDER QUOTA

    3. no time offs, no maternity leave, no slacking, no flirting, everything EXCEPT FULL TIME WORK is banned

    4. if a man works overtime, punish him by cutting his pay off until it becomes EQUAL with the rest

    5, if a woman demands more free time for her children or healthcare, fire her!

    Equality demands sacrifices, we cannot “close the gap” without proper “incentives”.
    Having flexible hours, maternity leave and extra hours drives inequality, and must be erased!

    • Anna

      First off, you’re mostly targeting women. Your first and second “rule” on the list is saying that if women don’t work as much as men, fire them, and they will fix their issue. You see, usually, men are the head of companies, they generally discriminate women and don’t give them as many hours to work as equally as men. Secondly, women’s bodies aren’t equally “strong” as men’s. The 3rd “rule” states, “no time offs, no maternity leave, no slacking, no flirting, everything except full-time work is banned.” Okay, women as for a maternity leave because they are about to give birth or need to take care of the baby. Women don’t just get pregnant out of thin air, men help with that. If you’ve never been pregnant don’t say that they can’t ask for a maternity leave because you don’t understand what women go through. Plus, there is a US labor law that gives women a right to ask for a leave. The “no time off, no slacking, and no flirting” part seems like a typical complaint from men towards women, but men do it too so it’s just based on a person to person issue. Don’t generalize a whole gender group. Now the 4th “rule”, you can’t punish a man to stop working over time, they have their reasons to work more based on their financial situation or personal reasons. Lastly, the 5th “rule”, you can’t fire a woman for asking more time to spend with her children. Woman are mother’s as well, you can’t stop her from caring for her kids.

      • Vasile Andrei

        I am not targeting “women” as women are not even a thing… is just your imagination, genders are not real…:D
        enough with sarcasm, leftists are not known for their love of irony and sarcasm and they may call you Hitler…

        the false feminist “wage gap” is actually a median EARNINGS gap
        it was calculated by taking ALL wages of ALL workers of ALL ages on ALL types of jobs

        it does not take into account:
        – SENIORITY
        women take breaks during pregnancy, men don’t, when women return they slow down because they had a baby, men don’t
        men continue to improve and grow, women lose the “race” (yes, thanks feminism for making it a gender race)

        also, men are FORCED to work more due to… guess it… pension age gap!
        yes, men work couple of seniority years more, those years are payed better and they screw the MEDIAN EARNINGS of the male gender

        what else the “gender wage gap” actually MEDIAN EARNINGS GAP forgets about?
        – EXTRA HOURS
        men work in average 17% more extra hours than women
        extra hours pays better
        if you exclude the extra hours bonuses, guess what, THE MEDIAN EARNINGS GAP aka the false “wage gap” diminishes considerabily

        but wait… there is MORE!!

        here is a list of things that the false feminist male hating “wage gap” forgot to mention:
        – in average women take more health breaks than men, losing more WORKING HOURS… all of them add up to the difference!
        – in average women CHOOSE more non-financial benefits like BETTER HEALTHCARE COVERAGE, or FLEXIBLE HOURS, while men preference is for MORE MONEY…. in the sectors where you can CHOOSE men tend to CHOOSE MONEY OVER PREMIUM HEALTHCARE … women choose premium healthcare and flexible hours far more…. again this adds up to the difference

        extra hours, more years, no health breaks, and a focus on money no health coverage or flexible hours….
        could it be MORE?
        sure it is… and feminists will NEVER EVER tell you this:

        as I stated before the “wage gap” is a BROAD MEDIAN EARNINGS COMPARISON, not a real “wage on wage” comparison
        therefore, if you work OUTDOOR, or in a highly DANGEROUS job, you get better pay

        how dangerous you may ask?
        does these filthy men really deserve the extra 0.6% increase?
        well… 98% of all WORK RELATED DEATHS are MEN
        and 94.7% of all WORK RELATED INJURIES are MEN
        does that count?

        let’s add them up:
        1. men work more years due to pension age gap, taking fewer breaks and attaining seniority for more years
        2. men work more extra hours
        3. men choose not to get better health coverage or more flexible hours instead opting for a higher payment
        4. men work far more dangerous jobs

        but wait…
        here is one for you young socialists out there:
        if men get a higher pay… that means that they also… PAY MORE TAXES!
        oh yes…

        in average a man pays 60% more taxes than a woman
        because all those good paying top jobs are taxed more!
        while low paying jobs are not taxed!

        what this means?
        well… it means that MEN ALREADY PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE as they SHARE their income with THE STATE

        who is the number ONE recipient of welfare?
        women and minorities
        who is the number ONE taxed group?
        working men
        the redistribution of income ALREADY TAKES PLACE

        there is even more stats like:
        for each child a woman desire to return to work drops by 23.2%
        for each child a man’s desire to get an extra job or aim for a promotion grows by 31%
        as all men contribute to the family’s budget
        and they also contribute to the social security budget, outside the family

        I will be happy to talk with you more about the wage gap fraud.

        here is another one for you:
        if a woman work just as much as a man, for less
        why don’t companies FIRE all men and instantly get a substantial cost reduction?
        they sure are willing to LEAVE THE COUNTRY and find cheaper workforce… for sure they could simply REPLACE ALL MEN WITH WOMEN and get an instant 27% PROFIT INCREASE

        guess they know the truth
        men and women don’t share the same hours, risks, dangers, years, experience and assurance options
        they do share the same social system that is sponsored by men
        and some share the same family that gets all the men’s money

        so no, this is not a big conspiracy to “keep women down”
        the wage gap is a feminist lie and a very VERY good propaganda tool

        • Chris Springer

          Finally there is somebody else out there who actually has the wherewithal to tell is how it is.

        • Jessica

          I disagree with you point of view. First of all ,we are talking about gender pay gap in the same position. There is research show that in 2016 that women earn 76 cent for every 1 dollar men earn. This is unfair for the women since they have the same position. Some jobs give employee break and both men and women have the same amount of days and it is their decision to use it .It’s also the men decision to work extra hours but women also work extra hours but that not the point of the argument. Most places women and men have the exact same position and same amount of time but still women get less pay. You also say that men pay 60% more tax then women however the amount of tax people pay is base on how much your income is. They pay the same percentage of taxes so it doesn’t really matter.

          • Vasile Andrei

            mate, even feminists now say that the gap is 7%… google it
            you are far FAR behind with this fake feminist lie

            today the new feminist gender fake gap stands anywhere between 7% and 4%… they could not hold the former fake gap at 24/27% when real world data started to pile on

            so they instead moved the poles to a more “reasonable” still FALSE assumption of 7-4%

            the former 20+ assumption was so much debunked and now the law in UK shows that EACH WORKER IS PAYED EQUAL on an hourly based system

            the only problem is that some workers work LESS HOURS, less overtime, less years and so on

            google for yourself about the BBC feminism wage gap melodrama and see how this lie played out in real world, hint, feminists lost money to men because in real world they have to adjust the pay of women and men, yet men were getting LESS money for the work

            even if as TOTALS the pay was bigger for men, so it was the NUMBER OF WORKED HOURS, therefore, after the audit, a bit more men than women got a rise

            the pay gap was and it still is a feminist lie
            same as the “1 in 3,4,5 women in campus is raped”

          • Mary

            Look, you obviously do not know the struggles women all have to go through. You think you have it tough, having to, what, support a family? Yourself? If your single, I can see why. Your straight out RUDE. If you think that women don’t work hard, you are wrong. A woman GAVE BIRTH TO YOU. A woman named Harriet Tubman helped to save hundreds of lives and end slavory. A woman named Malala Yousafzi was SHOT IN THE HEAD and is now speaking out against sexual discrimination, something you obviously can’t seem to understand. Women all over the world are fighting for rights that MEN are too scared to give them, because they are worried of the impact we will make on the world amd society. Don’t you DARE to say that we do not work hard. We take care of you. Now you need to let us make an impact. I bet you wouldn’t say somethimg like that to a man, so don’t say it to a woman.

          • Vasile Andrei

            I did hear you
            women are like men
            I am a “woke” feminist… please bark at another tree…

            apparently you did not understand sarcasm, read again all that I wrote, this time in a SARCASTIC IRONIC way
            all I wrote is what FEMINISTS demand from women, not me

            men, never EVER demanded such things
            but we got the blame for all the “gender pay gap”

            therefore, we should start demand… because is either you women WORK MORE, or we get payed LESS

            the feminists demand it from us…
            we must demand it from YOU…

            sorry, if you don’t agree with those demands, fight the MAINSTREAM FEMINISM not me

            and btw… THE LAWS will be changed so that “equality” will be ENFORCED….and YOU, women, will have to WORK MORE HOURS as the corporate feminists DEMAND

            is either you work more hours
            or we get a pay cut to be “equal”
            and we have FAMILIES TO SUPPORT… btw

          • Mary

            Oh you have a family? So do I. I was a little taken aback that someone would actually want to be with you being that you’re a TOTAL MORON. And BY THE WAY, MEN AREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE TO SUPPORT A FAMILY!! Think of all the ingle moms who work multiple jobs to make ends meet and PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR KIDS. So YOU better “please bark at another tree”. And also, we already work the same amout of hours as men and STILL get payed 73 cents to every dollar a man makes. I DO NOT think you are a “woke” feminist. You completely disrespect womem and it is not okay.

          • Vasile Andrei

            women and men DO NOT WORK THE SAME AMOUNT OF HOURS
            for hell sake, google it

            men work in average more hours per week
            they work extra hours that are payed MORE because they are extra

            men also take FEWER BREAKS… in average per year
            men also COMMUTE MORE… so they get BETTER JOBS as they are willing to SACRIFICE MORE TIME DAILY

            when you compare the same jobs, the same hours… THE GAP IS ZERO

            and no one has an hourly pay discrimination!

            the feminists USED the media EARNINGS gap to create A FALSE NARRATIVE… by labeling it “WAGE GAP”

            do a search for hell sake
            here is the dirrect quote:

            “At EU level, the gender pay gap is defined as the relative difference in the average gross hourly earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole.”


            it does not take into account:
            hours worked
            years worked
            pension age gap
            extra time worked
            job qualifications
            commuting time
            no payed bonuses like premium health-care
            maternity/paternity leave

            and in some statistics they don’t even make the distinction on full time – part time jobs

            it all started 6 years ago when the TAX commission released the data than MEN AS A GROUP pay 27% more WORK tax than women as a group

            the feminists spin media started to work and they created the idea that THE WAGES… not EARNINGS… wages… are different

            there are no differences on HOURLY PAY
            there are differences on HOURS WORKED

            go inform yourself
            my wife works more than me, she gets more money
            yearly she has HIGHER EARNINGS than me
            we have a GENDER PAY GAP….
            but we all know that in that year she worked MORE therefore… more earnings…

            is not rocket science
            but feminists MANIPULATED WOMEN into believing that they are VICTIMS of sexism

            if you WORK LESS you get LESS MONEY
            is not sexism is math!