Perhaps there can be policies that would support that too, which brings us to ...
Give women flexible work, better maternity-leave policies, and free childcare.
Will that get us to equality?
Data shows that the wage gap is the smallest for young women. According to an estimate by Pew, women ages 25 to 34 have closed the gap to 93 cents to the dollar. This is consistent with research that while young women are catching up to their male peers in early career, it’s mid-to-late-career women for whom the pay gap is much larger. Here’s another statistic: Women who never married earn 94 percent of their male counterparts, while married women earn only 78 percent.
This is what’s often referred to as the motherhood penalty, which happens later in a woman’s career. Women who have children often report that they take time off, reduce hours, and sometimes quit work in order to take care of their children. One study found that while men’s earnings increase by 6 percent when they have children, women with children saw their earnings decrease by 4 percent for each child.
There are two ways to go about fixing this huge part of the gender wage gap. The first is for companies or the government to implement policies that enable women to be both moms and workers, such as paid family leave and supported childcare. But there’s also a cultural shift that needs to happen: The assumption that mothers are not as good at their jobs, not deserving of promotions, or won’t work as hard is discrimination. Employers need to do their part in seeing women who are mothers as valued as employees.
And until then, women are just going to have to ask for more money, which can often backfire.
Okay, so maybe we should end negotiation. Women are bad at it and it’s widening the wage gap.
Does banning negotiation guarantee equality?
This is the approach that Ellen Pao enacted when she was the interim chief executive of Reddit. Pao argued that negotiation was always going to be a man’s game, and that instead of asking women to behave like men, just ban the practice. The problem with this approach is that it puts an awful lot of power in the employer’s hands: If nobody negotiates, companies can still offer men more, and women have no recourse.
So this doesn’t work without pay transparency, which is actually a pretty good solution to the whole problem. For many employers, even just the process of collecting and providing the data can lead to a reckoning. The company Salesforce did just that: An internal audit showed that female employees were paid less, and the company spent $3 million on adjustments to ensure pay equality.
One of the biggest questions remaining is what will happen the Obama administration’s new equal-pay rules go into effect in 2017? These rules will require companies with more than 100 employees to report their employees’ compensation, broken down by race, ethnicity, and gender, to the federal government.
Another question is what will be the impact of the efforts to raise the minimum wage, since minimum-wage earners are disproportionately female?
And finally, there’s the question of whether more companies will simply see it as in their interests—whether because of internal outcry or public pressure—to pay their women more. Salesforce did it. Maybe other places will follow suit.
Maybe there’s an answer we haven’t considered yet. Drop your thoughts into an email to email@example.com.