Despite the tremendous milestones that women have reached in the fight for equal rights, pay equity remains a persistent problem that continues to stifle women’s career advancement and growth. Women earn about 80 cents for every dollar a white man makes, while black women earn only 63 cents. Last month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor addressed the pay disparity while speaking to students at Brown University, stating, “women doing the same work still earn less than men. You can’t fight the facts. Pay equality is one of the biggest issues our nation faces.”
During a panel at the 2018 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, four esteemed professional women of color discussed both the fight and solutions to end the gender pay gap. The panel, which was sponsored by Accenture and titled “Enough is (Not) Enough: Yes, We Can Close The Pay Gap,” befittingly took place on International Women’s Day. Here are four strategies that were shared to accelerate fair pay for women workers.
Push For Transparency
According to panelist Theodora Lee, a senior partner and shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C., female employees should push companies to adopt open pay practices to ensure equity among their staff.
“Transparency is key to overcoming this gap,” said the trial lawyer. “When people know what they’re making compared to those doing similar jobs, and they know why they’re making what they’re making, [then] they can do something about it.”
Women should also take advantage of the cultural shift toward greater pay transparency sparked by tech companies that publicly release internal data on gender- and race-based pay statistics in recent years. As a result, this has pressured businesses in other industries to follow suit and increased the demand for pay equity from shareholders and employees. Lee suggested that employees initiate this change in their own companies by starting with a conversation with their human resources department. “You need to advocate, educate, and encourage transparency in the workplace.”
Create a Culture of Equity
“We treat women the way we pay women,” said panelist Teresa C. Younger, the president and CEO of Ms. Foundation for Women. However, one way business leaders can overcome discriminatory practices toward women is by building a foundation of equity that “helps unlock human potential” and “creates an environment in which men and women can thrive,” said panelist Tracey Patterson, the managing director or Operations at Accenture, referring to a newly released Accenture report. She went on to touch on three principles that foster workplace equality, which are detailed in the report When She Rises, We All Rise as follows:
A diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly.
Policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people.
AN EMPOWERING ENVIRONMENT
One that trusts employees, respects individuals and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly.
“Be Your Own Advocate”
Star Jones, a media personality, attorney, and president of the Professional Diversity Network Inc., encouraged the audience of women to boldly speak out against discrimination. “In your career, you have to be your own advocate. Lean in for yourself and take your rightful place.”
Likewise, panelist Younger stressed the need for women to establish a strong presence at work to ensure that they’re not overlooked. “You’ve got a voice, use it in every aspect in what you are doing. Show up and be present and be seen,” she said.
If you haven’t found a seat at the table, Lee recommended that women develop strategic relationships with those who are already there and can advocate on your behalf. “Go out and find you a white man to champion you because they’re at the table,” she said candidly. “Advocate for yourself. Stand up and be your authentic self and don’t take anything less than what you deserve,” she added.
Get Politically Active
Another thing Lee touched upon during the panel was The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would extend federal protection for women by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and preventing employers from retaliating against workers who disclose their salaries. “Right now it’s sitting dormant until Congress acts,” said Lee. However, workers can call, petition, and email their elected officials to pass the bill.
A number of cities, including New York City and San Francisco, have enacted legislation to prevent employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history. Take matters into your own hands by demanding local legislators in your city do the same.
Watch the Enough is (NOT) Enough: Yes, We Can Close the Pay Gap! panel hosted by Accenture below.