right journeyLast week, we posted the first two parts of this series, titled There’s a Belief Gap about the Wage Gap. In Part 1, we took a look at common misconceptions like different fields of study, motherhood as a cause and educational differences. In Part 2, we examined cultural confusions like negotiation tactics and the so-called “danger premium”. We also referenced studies that controlled for all of the above factors to bring the a little wage gap closer to reality than the “77 cents to a dollar” argument that causes so much dissension.

Now, here in Part 3, it’s time to take a look at what’s going RIGHT in the journey to wage equality.

For starters, more recent studies like the GOA have begun controlling for various issues so that data stands up to vigorous scrutiny. This is important in not only how the issue is dealt with at the governmental level, but also in how the media handles this issue. And while many senators voted down basic revisions to the 1964 Equal Pay Act because they felt the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Act offered sufficient protection, educated journalists and analysts are highly focused on ensuring that erroneous claims like that are proven false. In fact, Forbes Writer Bryce Covert states that lawsuits have decreased since the Act was passed and courts have become increasingly hostile toward pay discrimination cases:

the number of pay discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission actually fell after the Lilly Ledbetter Act was signed, dropping from 2,268 to 2,191 last year. Even under current laws, women have found themselves with decreasing legal support when they file a complaint. As Irin Carmon reported, recent analysis found that courts have become more hostile over the past decade – not more accommodating or sympathetic, as the Republicans seem to fear – to equal pay claims. The authors found that from 2000 to 2009, those who filed claims were only successful 35 percent of the time, compared to a 55 percent success rate from 1990 to 1999. They also found that, as Carmon explains, “courts have generally been reluctant to intervene in a company’s decision to pay someone less, operating on the assumption that the market is working.”

A keen eye on the actual facts surrounding gender discrimination and current studies, only serve to bolster the case for equal pay and run parallel to the “whining feminist” dismissals of late.

We can look to other countries to gauge our own progress. While the UK still struggles with pay disparity between men and women (current research set the average gap between 14.9-17%), they are making strides forward. By watching their journey from equal rights to equal pay, we are able to see avenues that may be of use in identifying our strategic path forward:

“The gender pay gap is complex and its causes are multi-faceted. Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and reforming the parental leave system have the potential to make a huge difference to employer practices and women’s opportunities in the workplace; requiring businesses that employ more than 250 people monitor and publicise their pay gap is also key.

There is one area in which women are making more money… at the top! Although women make up only 4% of F500 CEOs, they make more than their male counterparts (when using median pay versus average pay). While there is still much to be done for women who are perched on other rungs on the corporate ladder, top executive pay graphs show a bright spot in the otherwise bleak landscape of wage chasms:

Median compensation is a more accurate indicator of the pay of a “typical” CEO than average compensation because extreme outliers can skew averages and create misleading results. The average compensation for CEO men, $12.9 million, exceeded the average compensation for CEO women, $11.7 million. However, this does not indicate that a typical male CEO earned more than a typical female. Two extreme male outliers, whose earnings were each more than ten times the median earnings, brought up the average compensation for men by over a million dollars.

While research regarding how colleagues perceive women is indeed discouraging, we may be at a turning point. Men are starting to talk like us in order to get more accomplished at work:

Traditionally, in the business world, the male model of authority was considered superior to the female model of collaboration. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that effective communicators are fluent with both styles. The key to success lies not only in recognizing and understanding the difference between the two styles of communication, but focusing on and creating for one’s self a style that encompasses the best of both worlds.

Of course, these are small victories. The most impactful is perhaps the fact that women are opting out of a system in which they aren’t represented properly and created their own micro-economy:

Women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the last 20 years and tend to create home-based micro (less than 5 employees) and small businesses. Women will create over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018 and more and more are doing this from home offices across the country. It’s a surprising statistic, especially considering that women-owned businesses only created 16 percent of total U.S. jobs that existed in 2010.

But a Kellogg School of Management study may have found that even that doesn’t work in women’s favor. Because of our so-called “American Choice Factor” many women believe that leaving the workforce is a personal choice, thus perpetuating the myth that the corporate world is a level playing field:

“Choice has short-term personal benefits on well-being, but perhaps long-term detriments for women’s advancement in the workplace collectively. In general, as a society we need to raise awareness and increase attention for the gender barriers that still exist. By taking these barriers into account, the discussion about women’s workplace departure could be reframed to recognize that many women do not freely choose to leave the workplace, but instead are pushed out by persistent workplace barriers such as limited workplace flexibility, unaffordable childcare, and negative stereotypes about working mothers.”

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