The gender pay gap in the U.S. is alive and well, but that doesn't mean that you need to accept it.
According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn roughly 78 cents for every dollar men earn. So to earn the equivalent of what their male counterparts would have made in 2014, women would have had to work the full year and then some.
The National Committee on Pay Equity selected today, April 14, as Equal Pay Day and the symbolic date by which women finally catch up to annual pay men earn. Fortunately, many businesses are beginning to up the ante, taking visible measures to shrink the gender and also the overall U.S. pay gap. Here are three steps you might consider taking at your company:
1. Encourage women to speak up.
While it's on women to ask for what they want (and deserve) in the workplace, as the owner of your business you're in a unique position to facilitate these conversations.
The women's professional network Levo, for instance, launched its annual #Ask4More campaign last week, opening with comments from high-profile leaders such as Chelsea Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg on the importance of demanding equal pay and equality generally. Levo did the math and found that--from a sample of roughly 200 women between the ages of 19 and 57--a staggering 63 percent accepted job offers without negotiating terms. Another 66 percent didn't know how to approach the subject, although 83 percent agreed that negotiating was important.
While salary negotiation isn't the only place where gender discrimination may come into play, recent studies indicate that men are more successful at it, thus worsening the pay gap over time.
What can you be doing to ensure that women in your company are comfortable asking for more?
2. Do away with salary negotiations altogether.
In a markedly different move, the social networking site Reddit has done away with salary negotiations altogether, its interim CEO Ellen Pao told the The Wall Street Journal last week. (The interview came on the heels of Pao's high-profile court loss to her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, for alleged gender discrimination.)
Pao explained that she sees the negotiation process as inherently gender biased: "Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate," she told the Journal, although she noted that Reddit's job applicants are permitted to negotiate other aspects of their contracts, such as converting cash to equity.
While Reddit's move is controversial--skeptics point out that salaries may be based on an applicant's previous pay, which may or may not have been fair--it's nonetheless a concerted effort to lessen the disparity, and one that seems to be raising awareness for the issue at large.
3. Raise the minimum wage for your employees--even if it means taking a cut yourself.
The pay gap isn't just between men and women: Overall, top executives in the U.S. earn roughly 300 times more than the average worker, according to The New York Times. But many businesses are going to great lengths to change that.
When Seattle hiked its minimum wage to $15 an hour from the state's mandated $9.32, for instance, at least one small-business owner was pleased: Makini Howell, who owns the nine-year-old vegan restaurant chain Plum Restaurants. She told Inc. she would begin to gradually implement the change for all 52 of her employees in July, which was months ahead of the law's taking full effect this spring, and in spite of the fact that businesses with fewer than 500 employees are given seven years to fully comply.
Even juggernauts like McDonald's are making changes: The fast-food chain announced that it would raise its entry-level minimum wage this month, ceding to the pressure from labor organizers as well as from an increasingly strong economy. The hike, which will begin to take effect on July 1, nods to President Obama's agenda to make the federal minimum wage $10.10.
In the most recent display of committing to pay equity, Dan Price, who owns the private credit card processor Gravity Payments, announced on Monday that all employees would make a minimum of $70,000 a year by 2018, The New York Times reports. Price intends to pay for the hike by slashing his own salary of roughly $1 million annually, as well as by dipping into 75 to 80 percent of the company's expected 2015 revenue.
While this might not be entirely feasible for your business, consider upping the minimum wage that you pay your workers today. Still not convinced? It's not just smart business--it may become crucial to retaining your top talent, say some economists.