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Just 82 cents. That’s what the average woman makes for every $1 earned by a man in the United States in 2022. It’s a shocking but not surprising statistic as women have been given increasingly more responsibilities and influence in the business world but have never received the same compensation.
In my diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultancy, which is made up of more than 90% women, it’s unthinkable to pay them any less for their genius just because they didn’t ask or because of their gender. Yet, traditional male-dominated businesses may not see it that way.
The pay gap has become an insidious and invisible barrier between upward mobility, equity and inclusion for women. As Equal Pay Day and International Women’s Day are both recognized during the month of March, there seems to be no better time to analyze the facts about how women’s contributions are undervalued in business and why paying them the same as men would help — not hurt — businesses in the short and long term.
Pay women for the unique skill set that they bring
Every gender brings something unique to the table. But one important distinction is that women offer qualities that build trust in businesses. For example, one survey found that people believe women are more ethical than men when it comes to their business dealings. In a nutshell, people perceive women as making more ethical choices that do less harm and create more good. That’s a skill set that helps, not hurts, businesses.
The same survey also touts that women are perceived as more likely to be mentors than men. Women who lend a hand to other employees to help them gain the skills, mindset, and abilities to level up at work are an asset, not a burden. Shouldn’t offering mentorship and being present for new workers be qualities worth paying extra for?
In the same survey, women were also thought to offer better pay and benefits. In my consultancy, I’m proud to offer generous paid time off, complete remote-working capabilities, and competitive pay. It’s not because I’m a woman that I offer these benefits and perks. It’s because I have an understanding of how work-life balance (or work-life blend as I call it) promotes greater well-being, longer retention and higher quality of work. To me, it’s a no-brainer to pay women exceptionally well for their unique contributions.
Beyond perception, what is the actual outcome of paying women more in male-dominated organizations? What would happen if women who didn’t ask for raises were given them in line with those received by their male colleagues in similar positions? The results may seem idealistic, but I believe equal pay for women would absolutely and definitively change the internal and external dynamics of your business.
Paying women more helps them stay longer in your organization
As part of the great Great Resignation of 2021, thousands of women were leaving their jobs at higher rates than in years prior. That was partly because of a lack of upward mobility where for every 100 men promoted, only 87 women were promoted. But it was also related to pay. It’s no secret that people are more likely to get a pay raise if they leave a job than if they stay. In recent years, job switchers made up to 8.5% more money when they left a job for something new. If your business employs high-performing women but you don’t pay them the same wages as you give their male counterparts, it’s likely that they’re going to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Choosing to turn a blind eye to the pay gap between men and women is causing businesses to lose essential talent that could have been retained with fair and competitive wages.
Paying women more promotes higher confidence at work
Confident women lead, show up and perform better. And the link between higher pay and confidence is apparent. A study published in the National Academy of Sciences showed there was a correlation between higher pay and confidence amongst women in STEM fields. The higher the women were paid, the more “self-efficacy” or confidence they possessed. Women who know they are paid equally to their male counterparts seem to be more self-actualized at work than women who aren’t paid equally and know it. The result can often be better work performance, a stronger presence in important meetings, and more self-confidence that they’ll get the results that their organization is looking for.
Paying women more promotes mutual respect between the genders
While some men are offended by women who make the same amount of money they do, other men may have more respect and see women as equals when they know they’re receiving similar compensation. It’s no secret that wealthier and more powerful individuals may not always treat less well-paid individuals with courtesy and high regard. There’s a destructive power dynamic that a pay gap can create, especially when it’s a large pay gap. But equal pay in the workplace can minimize the power dynamic of the haves vs. the have-nots and promote more respect between the genders. Mutual respect in the workplace has been shown to reduce stress, improve productivity and create a fairer workplace environment for all.
Paying women more promotes pay transparency and workplace morale
Employees want to be in workplaces where they can trust the leadership and management. Pay transparency has been shown to have positive effects not just on women but on all employees. A Harvard Business Review article found that pay transparency not only benefits employees who realize they aren’t getting enough, but it also boosts the perception of trust, fairness, and task performance for everyone at the company. Opening the door for women to ask for more, especially if they’re in positions equal to men in the organization, can build a more positive workplace culture that pays dividends in terms of retention, productivity and morale.
Most businesses operate on a don’t ask, don’t tell system with regard to pay. The unspoken mentality is “what I pay you is our little secret.” However, when women don’t ask for raises and advancement, the pay gap widens. Paying women what they deserve for their unique skill set and contributions to companies is an investment, not an expense. Women who are in similar positions to men and who are carrying similar responsibilities should not earn less money simply because they’re less likely to ask for it. Peeling back the curtain on pay transparency and exposing the financial, cultural, and business development reasons behind paying women more can put your company in a unique and competitive position–one where paying women equal wages boosts the business not hinders it. This Women’s History Month, consider the benefits of paying women employees an equal wage and make an offer to match their salary to those of men in similar positions. From there, assess how equalizing pay positively influences the businesses’ bottom line and workplace culture.