Fact: National Women’s Equality Day is August 26th.
Fact: August 27th is National Rock Paper Scissors Day.
Truth: I resist trying to make people care about causes with a National Day, Week, or Month.
I’d much rather challenge us all to do something proactive and to celebrate the leaders who do. This article will tell you a great leader story, give you 3 actions you can take, and introduce you to a HUGE move #GirlsClub is taking to help this day (and the need for it to) go away.
A few years ago my friend Brian took over as Vice President of an inside sales team in Tempe, AZ. There were over 100 reps, about 10 managers, and 4 directors on his team. One director was a woman. We’ll call her “Jane”. Within a few weeks, Brian pegged Jane as his highest-potential sales leader.
Then he learned she was earning 20% less than her male colleagues.
There is no law requiring Brian to fix this. The 1963 Equal Pay Act officially makes it illegal, but it only gives Jane the right to sue – it does not compel Brian to act, or even assess.
In fact, this 60-year old law also doesn’t compel the Department of Labor nor the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to assess or correct. It doesn’t require employers to give reasons for pay inequity, and it doesn’t protect women who come together to sue.
There have been laws proposed to close these gaps, but each has failed – most recently the Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked in June 2021.
So what did Brian do?
He fixed it.
He picked up the phone and called HR and told them to give Jane a 20% raise. And then he went back and paid the gap retroactively for the past 6 months. The move cost him $10-20K up front and double that for the year. He added it to the sales budget and covered it with two deals.
I’d like you to imagine for a moment what happened when Brian called Jane into his office to hand her a check and explain what had happened. Was she surprised? Was she elated? Did she ever feel angry? What did she know? What did she think the meeting was about?
We won’t ever know what she said exactly at that moment, nor how she felt. We won’t know what she said to her husband that night and her girlfriend that weekend. But we can imagine. And what we imagine tells us all we need to know about our own bias and assumptions and the history of pay inequity in America.
I heard this story from Jane 2 years after it happened. I know that she was grateful. That isn’t a stretch is it? Grateful for a fat check and the leader who made it happen? I wondered if she resented the former leader. Or the recruiter. Or the company.
What I can tell you is that she still works for Brian; she says she always will. I can tell you that I would, too. I can tell you Brian says it was just the right thing to do. I can tell you I’ve waited years to hear another Brian story.
I can also tell you Brian would have paid the same amount to a recruiter to replace Jane when she found out about her pay gap and left the company. I can tell you I did when I found out.
Join me in celebrating Brian and the other companies who aren’t waiting for the government to tell them 83 cents on the dollar isn’t fair. We celebrate Starbucks for their 10-year effort to achieve 100% pay equity. GM is ranked number 5 worldwide for gender parity and sustains an average unadjusted pay gap of less than 3% across top, middle, and bottom salary bands. L’Oreal, PayPal, and Salesforce have all made internal efforts to close the gap as well. Thank you.
So, how did they do it?
Well, like many issues it is multi-layered with many root causes – making it difficult to solve with a single approach. Each industry and company and leader can, and should, approach it differently, but none of us have to wait for the Senate to force us.
Here are some recommended actions these pioneers have taken. Which can you try?
- Do a voluntary salary audit and budget to close it next year.
- Set expectations with HR and hiring managers to set equal base salaries.
- Actively recruit and encourage women to apply for management positions.*
- Don’t ask about salary history – pay what the job is worth.
- Consider bias training for leaders.
- Encourage women to take negotiation training and to negotiate their salaries.
* #GirlsClub was created to help with this root cause – fewer women in higher-paying leadership positions makes it hard to balance pay.
If nothing changes, experts say the gap will close around 2060. Unfortunately, these stats were published before the COVID pandemic when millions of women left the workforce to care for families.
Here are 3 actions you can take:
- I encourage you to send this article to an ally at your organization and ask for action. Although I have experienced pay inequity, it is also my experience that it is usually an oversight rather than malicious. Most of your current executives probably inherited their staff with their current salary trajectories.
- Investigate where you stand. This issue will take pressure from both sides. It can be scary to talk about what you’re paid and equity, so #GirlsClub’s got your back:
Now for the incredible announcement …
We’re excited to share our brand new 2022 #GirlsClub Salary Survey. Please take this today and send it to ALL your sales friends. This anonymous survey will help us assess and take action. Results will be leaked at our RiseUp Conference October 27-28 in Dallas.
Join me in celebrating the Brians of the world. If you have a company of Brians then nominate your company for our 2022 Top 25 Companies Where Women Want to Work List.
I can’t wait to see what we’ve learned by August 26, 2023.