The idea that two people who perform the same exact job should earn the same exact amount of money, regardless of race, gender, or other factors, has been part of the American conversation for more than 100 years and it's still a hotly debated topic today.
Since 1883, when workers for Western Union Telegraph Company went on strike to unsuccessfully demand "equal pay for equal work" for all employees — both male and female — the demand for fair pay for women has loomed large for companies large and small.
Does your company strive for pay equity?
If you're wondering whether you work at a company that ensures pay equity, you should be able to get a straight answer from your human resources department. After all, actively seeking and enforcing pay equity is essential for a company that is trying to formally close the gender pay gap within its ranks.
In one high-profile example, Salesforce made a promise: The company would not only conduct a salary audit to ensure its employees were being paid fairly across the board but it would do it annually and spend however much it took to rectify any discrepancies it found to bring all salaries up to a fair and equal wage.
The company conducted the first audit in 2015, using factors like job level and location as determinants of equity. That year, the company found that about 6% of its then 17,000 employees — both male and female — weren't being paid fairly. To bring everyone up to a fair level of pay, the company spent $3 million that year on raises.
In 2021, after completing its sixth-annual equal pay assessment of the company's now 57,000 employees, the results showed that its mission to achieve salary equity was still a work in progress. Even with its five previous assessments, the 2021 analysis found that "3.5% of our global employees required adjustments. Of those, 81% were based on gender, and 19% were based on race or ethnicity. As a result, we spent $3.8 million to address any unexplained differences in pay, a total of more than $16 million to date."
Pay equity matters for all employees
Pay equity has obvious benefits for employees: Everyone is being compensated fairly, not just for their work but also compared to each other. But pay equity also improves the company as a whole by helping employees feel equally valued by their employer and making the company more attractive to new hires.
Instituting a formal process to address pay equity can help give companies a public platform to help recruit top talent and even receive higher Glassdoor reviews, as shown in a study conducted by Aptitude Research Partners. Internally, pay equity leads to a positive workplace culture in which employee morale, turnover and retention rates, and performance can all improve.
How can you leverage pay equity for higher total compensation?
Because companies are now paying attention to pay gaps, you can leverage pay equity policies to receive higher compensation. This is possible to achieve whether you are looking for a new role or if you suspect that you may be being underpaid in your current position.
Here are some steps to take to ensure that you are being paid fairly:
- Do your research. Which companies within your industry care about, and actively address pay equity? What skills, responsibilities, and effort are required for good job performance for the position to which you are applying? How much do similar jobs in other companies pay? What are the ancillary benefits you should get?
- Assess your own skills. In order to ensure that you are being compensated fairly, come armed with information about the job you are doing. Consider factors that may increase your pay (for example, if you have a specific skill that the company may need but doesn't currently have, make sure you bring that up as an asset unique to you).
- Be your own cheerleader. When applying for the job or negotiating salary with your current employer, raise awareness about how your skills and performance compare specifically to other similar positions within the organization.
Does your job lean toward one gender? It could affect your pay.
Pay-Equity.org suggests also considering whether your job has been traditionally held by women (i.e., secretarial or administrative jobs, assistant work, etc.), by men (where average salary levels might be higher), or is equitably distributed between genders. How does your job compare in skill, effort, and performance with positions traditionally held by men? Are people of color represented in your workplace? How do the work requirements and salary hash up with other comparable jobs?
Ultimately, addressing pay equity boils down to comparing your compensation with similar positions, doing your research, and having a conversation with your supervisor about your performance and pay.