Recent job data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) still shows a noticeable wage gap between men and women. 

Median weekly earnings of the nation's 117.2 million full-time workers were $887 in the third quarter of 2018. Of that, women had median weekly earnings of $796 compared to $973 for men. That puts the gender wage gap at roughly 81.8 percent. If you do the math, that means women would have to work an extra 47 days a year to match the earnings of their male counterparts. 

When you consider full-time workers in management, business, and financial operation occupations--the numbers get worse. The BLS data shows that women make 74.9 percent of their male colleagues. 

Although the news is alarming, it's not new. The world has been dealing with wage inequality for a long time. Although it's not happening fast enough, the good news is, the gap is narrowing. Especially in the 25 to 34 age bracket. In 1980, women earned 67 percent of men. In 2017, the disparity adjusted to 89 percent. 

To remedy the issue, we must continue to raise awareness. The more we talk about wage inequality, and the more we track it, the quicker we will close the gap. 

As awareness and education on the issue rise, the more capable we'll be of recognizing the biases and the actions that have led to gender wage discrimination. 

As it pertains to talent management, I have a few thoughts that can help the cause. 

1. Stop asking what people currently make. 

In recruiting, its commonplace to ask a prospective candidate what they currently make. Based on that figure, many organizations will offer an "x" percent increase. Unfortunately, if the practice is used universally, this method perpetuates the wage gap. In fact, for this reason, it is now prohibited to ask this question in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. 

Instead, organizations should use market data and internal equity to pay people fairly. 

For those who are already in the system, companies can use the same information to make market adjustments during performance and merit review periods. 

2. Objectify performance. 

To help eliminate bias and grade performances adequately, organizations need to objectify their review processes. In other words, create a uniform and systematic approach to evaluating employee output. If not, a lack of structure during employee evaluations can lead to subjectivity, and, ultimately, unfounded determinations of performance. 

Best in class performance management systems use tools such as uniform rating scales, structured goal setting, and performance calibration sessions to reward employees equitably. 

3. Use structured interviews. 

Lastly, organizations need to make hiring decisions based on consistent, predetermined qualifications (for example, a candidate's performance against predefined questions). Google was one of the first organizations to advocate for objective interviews. It describes structured interviews as, "using the same interviewing methods to assess candidates applying for the same job." 

When you format interviews this way, you prevent subjectivity and biases from creeping into the hiring process. We've all heard the term "cultural fit" -- it gets used quite a bit in the hiring process. However, if you were to ask your employees what "cultural fit" meant, you would get different answers from everyone. For that reason, it's best to structure interviews and predetermine what outstanding performance and "good fit" actually looks like before assessing candidates. 

For the wage gap to be addressed, every organization needs to consider the data and question their decisions. Small tweaks made consistently will accumulate and close the gender wage gap permanently.  

Published on: Oct 24, 2018
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