TIME’S UP for the Pay Gap: Why We Won’t Wait Another 200 Years to Achieve True Pay Equity

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TIME’S UP, an advocacy organization “working to create solutions that cross culture, companies, and laws to increase women’s safety, equity, and power at work” hosted a closed-door session last month in New York City to brainstorm ways to push for more equitable public policy and coach businesses on addressing pay equity.

This convention brought together a diverse set of leaders from across the pay equity space, including Natasha Lamb from Arjuna Capital, an activist investor whose fund presses companies to be transparent about pay issues. Because my business, Syndio, licenses software to analyze and resolve pay disparities, TIME’S UP invited us to participate as well. We were able to share best practices from Syndio customers who are leading the charge in pay equity today, including Adobe, Match Group, Nordstrom, and many others.

Pay equity advocates currently face a dark picture of the future, with the World Economic Forum predicting the global pay gap will stick around for the next 200 years. Yes, you read that right: 200 years. Those in attendance at TIME’S UP’s event were focused on proving that prediction false by providing a roadmap for action in both the private and public arenas.

Identifying the Root of the Problem

The event began with real-world stories from very powerful women across industries who have endured everything from sexual harassment to pay discrimination and responded with hard-hitting action and a fight for change. It was a great reminder that, as women, we must continue to support one another in standing up and owning our voices. Stories like these must be told to inspire lasting change.

TIME’S UP also led sessions where participants could share and discuss concrete steps for achieving gender pay equality. One of the main topics of conversation centered on the communication of pay policies and practices within companies.

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Because accountability requires transparency, it is critical that employees push their employers toward more fair and transparent pay processes. In doing so, more companies will become accountable to ongoing pay analyses, ensuring gender parity. We know that this push toward transparency is reflective of the movement, as PayScale recently released a report showing that a fair and transparent pay process has five times the impact on employee satisfaction as actual pay itself.

For HR professionals, this is extremely powerful research. An employee who knows that she is paid fairly relative to coworkers will be more engaged than one who is told how she fares against the external market. This makes sense: If a tech worker is told that she is paid better than all of her external competitors but learns that similarly situated male coworkers earn more, how would she feel? Pay transparency could move companies toward pay equity and ensure that top talent remains for the long haul. Wouldn’t that be a win-win?

Other topics of discussion touched on cultural factors that contribute to the pay gap, including occupational segregation and gender bias. There were suggestions on how to change the narrative for young women to provide them with a broader range of opportunities across many different career choices. A recent study found that Google searches of various career choices served up stereotypical images, such as female nurses and male CEOs. Given this reality, how do we talk to our daughters about career options, vocations, and the balance of work and family? These topics hit especially close to home for me, as a mom to four daughters (and two boys).

Lastly, participants discussed public policy and possible solutions at the local, state, and federal levels to address pay equity. Most of the discussion focused on better paid family leave, childcare options, and other support for families.

The 3 Key Takeaways

Given everything we learned from the discussions outlined above, here are our key takeaways that both employees and employers all over the world can use to advance their efforts to solve the pay gap once and for all:

  1. Acknowledge that each woman’s journey is both unique and meaningful. It’s important that we keep providing opportunities for women to tell their stories. This is how we connect with one another, learn from one another, and keep the movement both human and real.
  2. Understand the difference between pay equity and the pay gap — and why companies need to address both. Solutions to address both pay equity and the pay gap are important. Pay equity measures equal pay for equal work to ensure that women and minorities are not paid less for the same jobs due to gender or race. The pay gap is the difference in the average salary for men and women, which speaks more to the distribution of gender across an organization. To close the pay gap, companies need to focus on providing fair opportunities for movement, promotion, and hiring that are not influenced by personal attributes like gender or race.
  3. Be more cognizant of how we talk about women’s roles in society today. As we raise our children, we must be more aware of the cultural messages society is sending. If we don’t like what we hear, we need to collectively change the dialogue.

All in all, the TIME’S UP event had one important objective: to discuss solutions to tackle a problem that is 100 percent solvable. Now, we must take the responsibility seriously and eradicate pay disparities long before 200 years elapse. We have the innovations and tools at our fingertips to make it a reality.

Maria Colacurcio is the CEO of Syndio and cofounder of Smartsheet.

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Maria Colacurcio is the CEO of Syndio, a company committed to eradicating pay disparities in the workplace, and cofounder of Smartsheet (NYSE: SMAR). She is also a former Starbucks Corporation director, where she focused on enterprise-wide operations in finance, and a mother of four daughters and two sons.