Stagnant Pay Gap Data Reminds Us of Steps We Can Take

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Stagnant Pay Gap Data Reminds Us of Steps We Can Take

Equal Pay Day is upon us once again on April 10. Have you thought about what your company is doing to help crack the gender pay gap? If you’re a male leader, are you using the power of your position to help influence others on the leadership team to create hiring policies that support pay equity? Or if you’re a female executive, do you know what holds you back from asking for a higher salary that’s commensurate with what your male peers are receiving for the same work?

These are critical questions to ask right now, as preliminary findings show the needle still hasn’t moved in closing the gender pay gap. A just-released report from Hired on The State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace highlights 2018 data that essentially mirrors what we’ve seen in past years:

  • At the same job and same company, women earn less than men. In the U.S., employers offer men higher salaries than women for the identical role within the organization 63 percent of the time.
  • Some firms offer women significantly less than male counterparts. In the study, the worst offenders offered women up to 45 percent less than men for the same work. On average, U.S. companies offer women 4 percent less.
  • Many companies still only interview men. Hired discovered that nearly half (46 percent) of the time, organizations interviewed only men for a given role. Women were underrepresented in the candidate pool 16 percent of the time.

Who is responsible for making changes that will close the pay gap? Close to half of those that Hired surveyed said they believe this must be a collaborative effort, with stakeholders including companies, government, and women all playing a role. SHAMBAUGH has long promoted this type of Integrated Leadership model, emphasizing that men also need to be part of this equation.

In the work we do with Fortune 500 companies, we help executives and leadership teams disrupt the type of traditional mindsets and bias-filled practices that keep gender inequities alive, replacing them with Power of One principles that facilitate collective intelligence and inclusion. We help develop high-performing leaders who support all voices and talent, transforming workplace cultures so that everyone can thrive in an environment that supports gender equality. This provides a stepping stone on the path to equal pay for equal work.

Here are some shifts that women, men, and companies can each make to move us all toward our collective goal of gender equity:

Women: Recognize that not asking for what you want can be a Sticky Floor. When researching my book It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, I discovered that a few common thought patterns hold many women back from asking for the salary that they want and deserve. These include fear of hearing a “no,” discomfort with asking for something that feels like a personal favor/special treatment, or feeling overly grateful for the salary we already have.

By adopting these mindsets, though, women can limit themselves from opportunities to receive higher compensation. As I shared in my book: “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” And remember, just because you don’t hear “yes” the first time you make a request doesn’t mean you never will. I interviewed Gary Budzinski for the book as well, who at the time was a VP at Hewlett Packard and today is president at Jitasa. Gary told me that his strategy for getting to his goal is to always have a backup plan. Never go into a negotiations with just one ask. Have three options you would be willing to live with. This only increases your chances to walk out with a yes!

One of SHAMBAUGH’s clients, Ashley, who attended our Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) program, discovered this firsthand. Ashley learned that since people can’t read minds, it’s incumbent on each of us to champion those asks that are important, including when it comes to salary. She also learned and applied strategies from WILL—such as doing her homework to create a solid business case, taking stock of her value, and knowing her worth—to how she communicated so that she could do so with more confidence. All of these strategies helped Ashley to strengthen her power base, and she got over her fear of rejection. She asked for the salary she wanted in a series of negotiations. She didn’t give up after the first attempt, and eventually prevailed in receiving the pay she deserved.

Men: Be aware of the pay gap in your industry, and make changes at the leadership level. The Hired report examined pay practices in different industries, and found that certain sectors fare better than others. In the finance and health industries, for example, women earn 7 percent less than men, while at education technology companies, they earn 10 percent less. Senior-level men can arm themselves with data like this about their own industry, and raise the issue of fair pay with fellow managers. Men who serve on the leadership team—particularly at the C-level—are in the perfect position to sway policy changes for more equitable hiring and pay practices.

Companies: Use blind hiring practices to eliminate bias. Research has proven that many elements of the hiring practice are tainted by bias and gender-based inequities. Studies show that one solution to combat unconscious sexism and other forms of discrimination in the job market is to use blind interviews and blind resume reviews. This helps to level the playing field by forcing hiring managers to focus only on a candidate’s true qualifications, rather than on surface characteristics or demographics. By taking this action to eliminate bias, companies that embrace this tactic have created greater opportunities for women and other minorities.

What if all companies started using a “blind” systematic approach when it comes to hiring, succession planning, promotions, and other steps related to career advancement—including salary determinations? Some of SHAMBAUGH’s clients have begun to take this route, which has revealed that their previous systems indeed suffered from gender bias, including in the area of equal pay.

Instead of feeling demoralized by this month’s news of the stubbornly persistent pay gap, I challenge each of my readers to use this intelligence to put some new practices like the ones above into play, going head-on against gender wage inequities. No matter your title or gender, unequal pay practices hurt everyone—including the organization that perpetuates them. For women, men, and companies alike, it’s time to try something different. Remember: if nothing changes, nothing changes. I’d love to hear your answers to the questions in the first paragraph—you can reach me at

Rebecca Shambaugh is the Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results

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