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Why Communicating Gender Pay Equality Is Essential in Today’s Workplace

By Cathie Ericson | 3-min read


With the current spotlight on transparency in the workplace, companies can no longer hide issues such as a gender pay gap. The disparities are well documented: According to the advocacy group Equal Pay Today, women worked until April 10, 2018, to match what men made, given the current umbrella pay gap of 80 cents. Further complicating matters, there is even a gap in understanding the pay gap: In a study conducted by CNBC and LinkedIn, only a quarter of women think their employers pay them the same as men, while half the men believe their company has no gender pay gap.

A gender pay gap—either real or perceived—can hurt your recruiting: A survey by Glassdoor found that more than two-thirds of employees report they would not apply for jobs with an employer where they believe there is a pay gap.

That’s why the challenge is not only to bridge the gender pay gap, but to clearly communicate policy efforts and progress both internally and externally.

Companies on the Leading Edge

Seeing clearly at Glassdoor

This job and recruiting site practices what it preaches; in “How to Analyze Your Gender Pay Gap: An Employer’s Guide, it gives tips to other companies by sharing its own process for performing an internal gender pay audit.

“Our aim is to help more employers move beyond just raising awareness to actually taking action to address the gender pay gap. By doing so, we hope to encourage other employers to follow suit, and make an ongoing pledge and concrete action toward gender pay equity in the workplace,” said Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain in a company blog post, one of the key ways that it communicates with its employees.

Because “Everyone is Worth It” at L’Oréal 

“Because you’re worth it” might be skincare company L’Oréal’s famous tagline, but it also knows that its employees of both genders are worth equal pay. Widely regarded as a pioneer in this field since its first gender pay gap analysis in France in 2007, the company expanded the approach worldwide in 2018.

“Our company has had, for many years, a strong commitment to gender balance at all levels as well as to pay equity because we know that it is both good for society and good for business,” said Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of L’Oréal. By conducting audits and sharing results internally, the company makes sure its employees know this is a priority.

May the pay force be with them at Salesforce 

$2.7 million. That was the gender pay disparity that Salesforce identified as part of its annual assessment in 2017. But the company prides itself on continuous improvement; in fact, in the most recent assessment, the number of pay adjustments needed declined by 5 percent. Since 2015, Salesforce has spent over $8 million to address wage gaps pertaining to race and gender.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, CEO Marc Benioff said that he doesn’t believe you can be a decent CEO in 2018 and not be committed to gender equality, but he’s had to convince other male leaders of its importance, and sometimes fields questions about whether the well-documented pay gap even exists. The company shares its findings on its blog, communicating transparently with employees.

Communicating Your Pay Goals: Two Best Practices

Today it’s easier than ever for employees to use salary data to figure out the range for their position so it’s important for companies to communicate that they are keeping salaries competitive—and equitable. In fact, PayScale found that employee satisfaction rises when they feel the approach to pay is fair and transparent, a factor rated as more important even than how much people are actually paid.

1. Use internal communication and transparency to show efforts

They often say that “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” which means that the first step in addressing the gender pay gap is acknowledging it exists through open communication. According to a study released by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, nearly half of companies are reviewing their compensation policies to ensure gender pay equity (an additional 28 percent said they already pay workers equally).

The first communication effort, however, should revolve around getting employees on board with the importance of transparency. That’s because 80 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and UCLA said they would actually pay money to stop an email from being distributed with their salary information. One way that companies can combat this reticence is to strip personal details from any salary disclosure, and provide anonymity by focusing exclusively on the gender pay gap.

2. Conduct regular audits and share the results

The Challenger, Gray & Christmas study found that 90 percent of companies do not implement salary transparency, but an annual audit can help shine a spotlight the issue and help the company recalibrate salaries to fix it. Even if the first numbers are not where companies want them to be, an audit offers a starting point and future communications can focus on what the company is doing to bridge the gender pay gap. 

As companies compete to attract and retain talent, it’s crucial to recognize not only the benefits of diversity in the workplace, but how crucial open communication is with both current and potential employees.