3 Simple Steps Every Company Can Take to Start Closing the Gender Wage Gap

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The gender wage gap isn’t new, but it continues to hold women back from reaching their full earning potential. In 2020, women’s annual earnings were just 82 percent of men’s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The wage gap is even more pronounced for women of color: Black women with advanced degrees earn 70 percent of what their white male counterparts make.

Large companies and small businesses alike can take steps to address the gender wage gap. Here are some ways they can begin to even the playing field and promote equity in the workplace:

1. Provide Equal Pay for Equal Work

A recent study revealed that, in some states, women account for more than 60 percent of college enrollment, and yet women with bachelor’s degrees or higher make only 76 percent of what men do. Making things right begins with employers recognizing the reality of compensation inequality in the first place, even if it may not be happening on a conscious level.

Creating a dedicated diversity, equity, and inclusion team can be a great first step in achieving that recognition. This internal group can perform annual audits to catch wage discrepancies, according to Sherry Sims, career strategist and founder of Black Career Women’s Network. Alternatively, you can look to your HR department to perform audits.

“Talent acquisition teams can also help by making sure that hiring managers are being fair about the offers they’re making with regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, and so forth,” says Sims.

2. Introduce Company Policies That Support Women

Closing the gender wage gap is also about embracing company policies that support female workers. Access to paid parental leave and flexible work, for example, could trigger a shift in the right direction. If a role you’re advertising qualifies for access to paid parental leave, flexible work, and/or programs to help employees pay off debt, make sure to highlight these benefits in your recruitment marketing campaign. These kinds of benefits can be a big draw for job candidates searching for female-friendly organizations.

“Don’t be afraid to share your policies around supporting women,” Sims recommends. “Be enthusiastic about how you encourage flexible work arrangements and how you understand and respect work/life balance. Share examples of how you’ve done it.”

Sims also suggests holding an annual inclusion training to help your team identify and tackle their own unconscious biases.

3. Rethink Resume Gaps

A Gallup report shared that roughly 493,000 more women than men have exited the labor force since the pandemic began. That means many women will have gaps in their resumes when they return to the workforce. That shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they bring less value to a company, Sims says. On the contrary, she recommends asking deeper questions about what happened during that gap.

How did the candidate spend their time away from work? How have they grown as a result? How did that experience prepare them for this role? Look for transferable work skills and soft skills that could indicate a good fit for the position and company, and then pay your new hire accordingly.

How Women Can Advocate for Themselves in the Job Market

If you’re a woman reentering the workforce following the pandemic, being your own advocate can help you make great strides to close the gender wage gap for yourself. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Ask about companywide diversity and equity initiatives: In what ways does the company support women? What does gender equality and inclusion mean to the organization? Your conversations can touch on everything from employee benefits like parental leave to education initiatives around sexism in the workplace.
  2. Own your resume: Whether you were laid off or made the choice to temporarily step out of the workforce to homeschool kids or care for a loved one, Sims says you should stand by your resume and explain it with honesty. It could be an opportunity to showcase your adaptability.
  3. Be ready to negotiate: Sims recommends researching the average pay in your area for the role you want, accounting for your education and experience. Use that as your benchmark and ask for what you deserve. “Sometimes you’re not going to get what you’re worth unless you ask for it,” Sims says. It may not be legal for an employer to inquire about your previous salary, but they may ask how you hope to be compensated for the opportunity. Lean in and remember what you’re bringing to the table.

Closing the gender wage gap won’t happen overnight, but progress is still progress. The more companies begin shifting their practices, the closer we’ll be to a truly fair and equitable workforce.

Marianne Hayes is a longtime freelance writer and content marketing specialist.

By Marianne Hayes