Do you pay your employees equitably, no matter their sex? Few people set out to deliberately discriminate--but the numbers tell a grim story.

American women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to Pew, and women in general are doing far worse at some big multinational companies, which pay them as little as half of what they pay men, according to recent disclosures forced by new British regulations.

Other big companies, including Starbucks and Salesforce, have acknowledged gender pay gaps and have taken concrete steps to eliminate them. This has benefits beyond good PR: Companies that prioritize pay equity are seeing worker produc­tivity increase 19 percent above industry averages, according to Aptitude Research Partners, while employees who perceive a pay gap are 16 percent more likely to leave their companies, according to a 2017 CEB/Gartner survey.

So how do you make sure your company is paying all of its workers fairly?

1. Start with a pay audit.

This is the base of any pay equity effort. First, compile an organizational flow chart to make sure you're comparing "apples with apples," says Cheryl Swirnow, an HR consultant and the founder of CMS Consultants. "You may think two people are doing the same job, but when you sit down with the employee and the manager, they are not."

Examine not only your current salaries and benefits, but also what you have paid workers historically--and what promotions and raises have occurred. While some companies offer a structured review process for all hires, and rarely raise salaries outside of it, others are more ad hoc, offering employees wage increases when, for example, they receive an outside offer.

2. Always be transparent.

Pay gaps can often develop during periods of rapid growth, when you hire a lot of people at once. Studies have found men are both more likely to negotiate for salary offers and more likely to be successful--meaning that if you don't disclose salary ranges up front, you may wind up paying women less.

Take Skillcrush, an online digital education company that doubled in size over a short period: New hires negotiated their offers, and co-founder Adda Birnir found herself paying them more than some loyal, longtime employees. Now Skillcrush lists salary ranges for open positions, a strategy designed to ensure pay equity among all employees by sex, race, and tenure, as well as one that doesn't allow for hard negotiators to end up with more money.

Don't forget benefits: At RigUp, an online marketplace for energy industry contractors, a pay audit survey revealed that women were particularly interested in a 401(k) match and a $2,000 vacation or tenure stipend when an employee reached the three-year mark. So the company added them.

3. Check your promotions.

Make sure you're grooming a diverse pool of employees at every level. Carbon Five, a San Francisco-based digital product-development consultancy, paid similar salaries to men and women in similar positions--but found itself with few women to promote into its technical leadership ranks. This is so common there is a term for it: the position gap. As Courtney Hemphill, a partner and tech lead with Carbon Five, noted dryly, "Career progression is something clearly associated with pay." Starting at the end of 2017, Hemphill and her partners invested in new recruiting initiatives and trained Carbon Five's managers in how to avoid implicit bias, so they won't overlook women who might not have job histories or career progressions identical to those of previous male hires.

4. Do it again.

Achieving pay equity is not a one-time fix. You'll need to regularly monitor and address pay as you hire, promote, and try to retain your key employees. As Salesforce discovered: After spending $3 million in 2016 to close the gap between women and their male peers, Marc Benioff's software company committed another $3 million last year. "The need for another adjustment underscores the nature of pay equity," a Salesforce blog post acknowledged. "It is a moving target, especially for growing companies in competitive industries."

From the June 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine