Tips For Addressing Pay Inequality

Though women comprise half the workforce and earn more college and graduate degrees than men, there is still a large discrepancy in pay between men and women. A 2017 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found women are being paid 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men.

And oftentimes, women who try and negotiate their salaries are viewed unfavorably and can be penalized, which also contributes to the lack of women in corporate leadership roles. Even in today’s modern world, unfortunately, pay inequality and a lack of women in leadership are common issues companies must face.

Today I want to share 5 steps your company can take to address pay inequality and bring change to the company’s leadership culture.

Step 1: Address pay inequality with the women you manage

There are four steps to addressing pay inequality: awareness, analysis, accuracy, and action.

  • Awareness - For each position in the company review and compare what women in your organization are being paid in comparison to men.

  • Analysis - Analyze the compensation data. Is there a discrepancy? If so, address it truthfully and with full transparency.

  • Accuracy - Ask yourself what can be done to correct the inequality now and how you can make sure it’s set up correctly in the future.

  • Action - Decide if you will adjust the women’s pay to match the compensation men receive or if you’ll make changes to the role that align with the current compensation being offered.

Step 2: Shift the company culture

A company culture shift requires establishing a new vision for how you want things to look in the future. Changing how things work going forward may mean:

  • Creating salary pay grades based on the position, not experience

  • Writing accurate job descriptions for each position to ensure men and women are doing what is within the scope of their job description

  • Providing clear, non-biased performance appraisals that focus on the unique skills and talents of each individual

It’s easy for companies to focus on their processes instead of on their employees. However, your team members are what make your processes work, so it’s essential to create an environment where everyone feels valued and equal. Shift the paradigm of your company to focus on equality first.  

Step 3: Respond appropriately when women ask for raises and bring pay gaps to your attention

Women fear backlash during the negotiation process, which is a contributing factor for why they don’t engage in negotiations as often as men do. If an employee comes to you feeling like they’re underpaid, let them know you’ll research the request and take steps to ensure they’re being paid what is appropriate for their position.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make your team members feel heard and acknowledge their concerns. Your employees should feel comfortable with safely discuss these concerns through open channels of communication without the fear of retaliation.

Step 4: Create a company culture that empowers women

Review task distribution

In general, women say “yes” more often than men do when it comes to taking on additional tasks. So while it may be unintentional, as a leader you may be asking women to take on additional work more often then you ask men to do so. But in order to create an empowering culture, it’s important to make sure tasks are distributed evenly. Employees should not be asked to do more work just because you assume they’ll say “yes.”

Encourage mentorship

Providing mentorship opportunities builds a culture that focuses on trust and gives women the opportunity to seek guidance and advice from someone they respect. Use these mentors to develop the women who have a desire to grow or those who may be considered high potential employees.

Create accountability

Establish an advisory board of women from both inside and outside the company to look into the current company culture. Ask them to provide insight into what changes could be made to empower more women in the company.

Implement key performance indicators (KPIs) for the talent composition of your company. Take time to determine what the workforce should look like and dive into questions like:

  • How many women do you want in the organization?

  • In leadership roles?

  • At the C-Suite level?

Once you have your KPI's established, develop a timeline and create a list of tangible action steps to make it a reality.

Step 5: Educate and take ownership

Review your anti-discrimination policies

Past policies may not be relevant today, so be sure to periodically review the policies to verify they’re still applicable. In your anti-discrimination policy, make sure you include the company’s intent to have a diverse workforce and eliminate inequality. A public statement helps add an additional layer of company accountability.

Be aware of unconscious biases

Though it’s not always recognizable or blatant, each one of us has unconscious biases that play into the decisions we make. Unfortunately, these subconscious factors can affect the decisions we make so they aren’t always made strictly based on the facts. It’s important to be conscious of these biases and make every effort to provide equal standards for all employees.

Whether you’re stepping into a formal leadership role or leading a group of your peers, having someone provide an outside perspective can be invaluable. Through my Executive Coaching program, we’ll dive into how you can create a culture that supports your employees and uncover how you can drive organizational change.


Ren Burgett