Companies Cannot Ignore the Gender Pay Gap Any Longer

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In the days after the 2017 Super Bowl, Audi generated a lot of buzz on the internet and around water coolers thanks to its commercial, “Daughter.” The commercial poses questions from the perspective of a father as he watches his daughter participate in a soapbox car race. He ponders whether or not he should tell her that “despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets.” Reactions to the commercial ranged from outrage to acceptance to exultation.

“Regardless of your opinion of the ad, it raised a question that many companies do not want to deal with. The question I’m often asked is: Is the pay gap in this country real?” says Jeffery Tobias Halter, corporate gender strategist and president of YWomen, a strategic consulting company. “In the 1980s, women made 60 cents to every dollar a man earned. The most recent analysis shows that the gender wage gap has narrowed with women making nearly 80 cents to the dollar. This is driven by a number of factors, each of which is not significant but collectively conspire to drive pay inequity.”

Some of those factors, according to Halter, are:

1. Six percent of women, versus 61 percent of men, negotiate either their starting salary or their salary during conversations regarding raises. If companies do not pay at job grade equitably, then they will lose women workers once those workers find out their male colleagues are compensated more than they are.

2. Performance management systems are often subject to micro-bias, especially in roles where quantifiable objectives may be tough. Research shows women get lower ratings than men for exactly the same performance.

3. When a woman goes on maternity leave, she may receive a lower rating because she didn’t work a complete year. Halter says this “may be reasonable, but it is not equitable.” In effect, it means a company is punishing its employee for having children. To combat this situation, many organizations now evaluate results for each employee’s time on the job.

To start addressing this pay gap, Halter says organizations need to first take the step of looking at their compensation for male and female workers – even if that notion sounds painful.

“Every CEO in this country can ask for a report on their workforce demographics and pay,” Halter says. “Reviewing this information will highlight gender inequities and other gaps in their company.”

BlossomsHalter suggests making the results of the report public – even if it turns out pay equity is a problem at your company. Doing so allows your organization to make a public commitment to reducing the pay gap – a commitment on which you must follow through, of course.

“Last year, many large Silicon Valley firms publicly stated that they are seeking to ensure greater diversity in their workforces and are revisiting their policies and procedures to attract and retain minority talent,” Halter says. “To date, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, and Apple announced that they have eliminated the gender pay gap.”

The Future Is Coming

Many companies aren’t ready to face the gender gap. However, that hasn’t stopped consumers from waking up to its reality. The Women’s March that brought five million people out to support gender equality accentuates this point.

“Companies need to be prepared to lead this conversation,” Halter says. “From a revenue standpoint, women control more than 85 percent of the [consumer] spending in this country. As recent headlines point out, women can use their purchasing power to send a message to companies.”

In addition, companies can no longer afford to ignore the pay gap when they require women to help fill the positions left by retiring baby boomers.

“There is a war for talent going on: 10,000 boomers a day, largely white men, are leaving the workforce,” says Halter. “This trend will continue into 2020. Eighty-five percent of new entries into the workforce are women and minorities, so the very representation of the workforce will look different in a very short time. These conversations on gender equity … are not going away, and organizations need to be ready to embrace the conversation or risk losing in the marketplace and the workplace.”

The Father of a Daughter Initiative

Halter relates very deeply to the message of the Audi commercial mentioned earlier. He is the founder of the Father of a Daughter Initiative, a voluntary program for fathers who want to advocate for women’s rights and give their daughters brighter futures.

“I believe up to 30 percent of men in the workplace want to help but don’t know what to do on a daily basis,” Halter says. “To help other fathers take meaningful action, I created the Father of a Daughter Initiative. It’s a simple opt-in program. Men commit to doing a minimum of one of 10 things – hopefully more – to advance women.”

Halter sees a disconnect between the fact that fathers support and encourage their daughters in every way they can and the fact that, when their daughters enter the workforce, they are not offered the same opportunities and compensation that men are. This is why he believes men “need to stand up today.” If they don’t, change will come slowly at best.

Business Woman“By and large, men run the companies,” Halter says. “Senior leadership in most companies is still 85 percent male. It is incumbent on men – not just fathers of daughters – to take an active role to create meaningful change for women in the workplace.”

To date, Halter reports, several companies have launched the Father of a Daughter Initiative in their workplaces.

“[It] gives me hope that the needle is moving to resolve workplace inequities for women and minorities,” he says.

Full Text of The Father of a Daughter Pledge:

As the Father of a Daughter, I pledge to do one or more of the following:

  1. Seek to Understand: Find a female coworker, someone I can have an honest conversation with, and listen to the experiences she is having as a woman in my company.
  2. Mentor and Sponsor: Mentor a female coworker. If applicable, become a sponsor for a woman.
  3. Create a Business Case: Write a brief business case for my department or area of responsibility for women regarding revenue, talent, or engagement and discuss it with my team once a month during the coming year.
  4. Set an Example to Correct Bias: Act to correct micro-bias, from simple things like always having a woman take notes to women being talked over in meetings or other actions that serve to exclude women from conversations and activities.
  5. Embrace Workplace Flexibility: Support and demonstrate workplace flexibility for all employees so that women don’t feel they are being singled out for special treatment.
  6. Offer Encouragement: I will encourage women to take more risks, volunteer for stretch projects, and discuss and support their developmental needs.
  7. Support Gender Pay Equity: Deepen my understanding of my company’s HR practices, specifically gender pay equity issues, and work to correct issues I discover.
  8. Encourage Qualified Women to Apply: Urge qualified women to interview for positions when they become available, and if I cannot find a qualified one, commit to developing a woman for the next opening.
  9. Engage Other Men: Engage other fathers of daughters in the discussion of advancing women.
  10. Be a Champion: Demonstrate my commitment by joining/attending a women’s resource group or event. Be a visible advocate.

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Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.