Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. The date changes each year because it symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. The exact day differs by year and by country, but what the day fails to represent is the huge wage gap for women of color.
Let’s be clear, it is deplorable that it takes more than 3 months into the next year for women to earn what men earned the prior year, based upon a $0.20 difference in earnings, but for woman of color, our deficit is far greater. Equal pay day for African American women is in August and for Latina women it doesn’t come until November. Women represent nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce so with increasing numbers of families relying on women's paychecks for their livelihood, we must acknowledge and address the wage gap for the sake of our financial stability.
So, how can we begin to address the wage gap?
Employers can do the most obvious thing and audit wages. Follow the lead of Salesforce and update salaries as necessary. Far better to pay employees what they’re worth now than pay settlements in wage discrimination law suits later.
Stop asking for salary history when recruiting. Massachusetts became the first state to enact a law prohibiting employers from asking candidates for their salary history. Congress was even considering enacting a similar bill that would make it illegal across the United States. And just because this progressive momentum may get wiped out by our current administration does not mean individual states will not proceed down this path.
Stop using the excuse that women leave the workforce or reduce their working hours after having children. Not every woman has children and why are you justifying paying someone a lower salary today based upon something they may or may not do in the future? It’s absurd.
Candidates on the receiving end of a job offer can help address the wage gap by doing their research. Know what the job is worth and ask for it. Employers who value their employees will get the memo. Women must stand up for equal pay and for themselves. If a prospective employer does not have a reputation for compensating women and men equally for the job you're seeking, it makes sense to look elsewhere. Positive signs include a hiring process that seeks diversity, written pay and benefit policies, and non-biased job descriptions and evaluation procedures.