Blog Post

What is Equal Pay Day and Why is It so Important?

Cornerstone Editors

We build so much of our schedules around holidays and other important days of observance. These days’ predictable consistency is one of their best traits. But for Equal Pay Day, its inconsistent date is the point.

Each year, whatever day Equal Pay Day falls on represents how many more days US women need to work to earn the same amount as US men did in the previous year. This year, it's March 24, 2021. That's 82 extra days! The goal of Equal Pay Day is to eventually be on January 1 every year because that would mean pay for women and men is finally equal.

Like we did for International Women’s Day just a few weeks ago, we spoke to some thought leaders from around Cornerstone about Equal Pay Day. Steffani Frias, director, total rewards, and Jeremy Spake, senior principal, talked to us about Equal Pay Day's importance, why it's crucial in 2021, and what you can do to ensure pay fairness at your company. But first...

What is Equal Pay Day?

Started in 1996, Equal Pay Day is a variable holiday symbolizing the wage gap between women and men. The date is different each year and represents the number of days women need to work to make the same amount of money as men.

Why is Equal Pay Day so Important?

Equal Pay Day is important because women are important. Ensuring equity in people processes is critical for talent management professionals, and one of the most impactful ways to do this is to ensure people are compensated fairly.

Jeremy:

Given all other factors being equal, if a man earns $100k from January 1 to December 31, a US woman has to work, on average, all the way to March 24 of the following year to make the same amount. This is to say that women make $0.82 to every $1 a man makes. And that's just the average. When you add on the further intersections of race, the differences are even starker. Asian-American women are slightly above the average, with their Equal Pay Day being March 9 ($0.85/$1). While Black women's Equal Pay Day is August 3 ($0.63/$1), Native women's Equal Pay Day is September 8 ($0.60/$1), and for Latinx women, it is October 21 ($0.55/$1), so almost a full second year! Looking at this data highlights for us the deleterious effects of how unconscious bias often shows itself in compensation.

Steffani:

To Jeremy's points, today is really about raising awareness of gender pay gaps. Women and allies are all in this moment of real change. We have the opportunity to continue taking action towards ending an inequality that has persisted for centuries.

One of the things I like to draw attention to is the counter-argument that we don't directly compare men and women doing the same job when we measure the wage gap. That's a purposeful choice. It helps us capture the multitude of factors driving the gender pay imbalance that would get lost in just one-to-one comparisons. Factors like the differences in types of jobs, years of experience, and hours worked are drivers of the gender wage gap. Women are disproportionately impacted by the social norms that pigeonhole them as "caregivers" and other unpaid obligations. And then the skills these women honed — project management, financial management, people management, etc. — during all those hours of unpaid work aren’t seen as "professional" or "relevant experience."

These "norms" are societally perpetuated. Over and over again, women and men are funneled into these different industries and jobs based on antiquated gender definitions and expectations. And with Covid, we see these confining social norms impacting women even further.

The Impacts of the Pandemic

By now, most of us have seen statistics about the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on women in the workforce. And they're sobering.

Jeremy:

The pandemic has hit women especially hard. According to a study from McKinsey & Company, nearly 56 percent of workforce exits since the start of the pandemic have been women, and women previously made up 48 percent of the US workforce — almost half. Not just that, but McKinsey & Company also found that employment for women isn't projected to return to its pre-pandemic numbers until at least 2024. That's millions of women forced to struggle for years just to get back to making $0.82 for every dollar a man makes.

Steffani:

And as with most things, everything is worse for women of color.

And it's not like this started with the pandemic. There was a study from I think 2019 that showed that most white women [66 percent] agreed that women make less than men, but way fewer agreed [34 percent] that they made more than non-white women for doing the same work. Equal Pay Day shows us that is categorically false, and it's hard to be an ally when you don't see the problem.

To create more equity, leaders need to take action and address the biases that cause the wage gap and equity gaps. That's why there's no better time than this Equal Pay Day to introduce and ensure pay fairness at your organization.

How You Can Ensure Pay Fairness at Your Company

Gender is a social construct. We're the ones who set the "rules" for who can do what and for how much. And that means we can also change those rules. It will just take some work.

Steffani:

We see a lot of interest and engagement from leaders for a generally more diverse workforce. They're asking their talent teams to show them where they can do better. "Show us where we stand and the things we can actively act on." When leaders are invested and employees feel valued, people are more satisfied and invested in their work.

To do that, you definitely have to ground your comp programs in fairness. Check to see that if you're reviewing at a set baseline determined by market data. Regardless of gender, age, race, etc., is this fair? These are not things we always see happening, but we do see a lot of intentionality and evaluation to try and affirm what's fair.

Jeremy:

To add to what Steffani said, the market data piece is absolutely integral and critical, but also, before it comes to rewarding performance, how are you rating performance? That's another point where unconscious bias shows up in talent management programs. And that's why calibration processes are the best practice.

In an ideal world, you've got continuous performance management happening, so you're collecting data about someone's performance over the course of a year, not just at the end of it. Then when you're making these kinds of overarching performance decisions, you've got all this data and all these other people in the room to calibrate ratings. You can now compare and contrast how one manager rates a person compared to how other managers rate their people. "Does a four-out-of-five-star employee look the same to you and to me?"

Calibration is critical to making sure everyone understands the performance baseline and what success looks like in your organization - and then that market data baseline Steffani is talking about is used to establish rates for specific roles in specific geographies or industry sectors. That fairness component comes into play when you're evaluating people's performance during calibration, and then the market data piece adds on to that. Those two things have to work in tandem together.

Steffani:

100 percent, Jeremy.

Ensuring pay fairness is such an important topic that we felt we wouldn't do it justice if we didn't give it its own, detailed, how-to blog post. Stay tuned for that later this month.

Continuing the Conversation

Thank you, Steffani and Jeremy, for taking the time to talk to us. If you want more information on how you can start or improve your organization's equal pay initiatives, be sure to listen to our recent HR Labs podcast episode. Activist and pay equity icon Lily Ledbetter talks to us about how to negotiate salary, equal pay for equal work, how companies can make swift, effective change, and so much more.

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Workplace Diversity: ’The Era of Colorblindness is Over’

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Workplace Diversity: ’The Era of Colorblindness is Over’

Workplace diversity is a pressing topic among HR pros. It's heavily scrutinized in blogs, at conferences and during training sessions. That attention often focuses on how diversity affects the company — but what about how minorities' experiences affect people personally and professionally? Google employee Erica Baker addressed that question recently on Medium with a first-person account of her experiences as a minority in the tech industry. Here, Dr. Kecia Thomas, a professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Georgia, explains how individual workers' experiences can reverberate throughout an organization: How do the experiences of minority workers affect the entire company? The concerns of under-represented workers often represent the concerns of other workers, as well. The issues that minority workers might experience are not all that different from the experiences of people who were the first generation to go to college in their families, or people who might come from a lower economic class. Attending to diversity actually helps to improve the workforce overall. Some of the challenges for ethnic minority workers, for example, are that they often find themselves as one-of-a-kind in their workplace. I’m talking about high-level professionals, people with graduate degrees and above. There are implicit biases that might hinder their access to informal networks, to mentoring or to professional development opportunities that could subsequently impair their performance and career development. I think there are also experiences that newcomers face in regard to feeling invisible and voiceless. How do these biases affect people in the majority? It’s not a stretch to say that the lack of exposure for many white colleagues can also be a source of anxiety that can inhibit their opportunity for authentic interactions with a new colleague who is different, ethnically or culturally. Any time we have those barriers to communication or to establishing authentic relationships, it’s a potential barrier to our performance and our ability to work together productively. Whose role is it to consider these issues within a company — and to take steps to address them? When it comes to any type of organizational change, it always begins at the top. Leaders have to understand demographic shifts in their labor force, how those shifts might be reflected — and the needs and priorities of their workers. When leaders are committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace, HR is empowered to put in place the strategies that are equally effective across a diversity of workers. There’s also a culture of the organization that has to be addressed to make sure that people are held accountable if they violate non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Too often, companies don’t have clear policies, or they're not communicated effectively. And even if they’re communicated effectively, they’re not always followed. We are at a critical point as a nation in regard to how we address diversity. We are seeing a lot of blatant forms of discrimination and violence occur, but we’re also seeing a younger generation that is so multicultural and inclusive. We’re seeing an increasing number of states embrace same-sex marriage. So there’s kind of a tidal wave of issues going on that reflect our differences. We have an opportunity to do this well and see this as a way to promote innovation, creativity and greater collaboration. A lot of the research I’ve done with Vicky Plaut [professor of law and social science at the University of California, Berkeley] suggests that we need to embrace multiculturalism and that the era of colorblindness is over. In fact, colorblindness is a signal to members of ethnic and racial minority groups that they are now vulnerable to discrimination. Photo: Can Stock

Dear ReWorker: Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

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Dear ReWorker: Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Dear ReWorker, We recently had a sexual harassment complaint about an employee. Out of curiosity, I Googled this person and found several websites that list his name and include details about his inappropriate sexual activities and relationships. Aside from the internal complaint of sexual harassment in the workplace, the internet posts bother me very much. The situation certainly does not make the company look good and it tells me a lot about the employee's moral and ethical standards. Can I fire him for the complaint as well as what I found out on the Internet? Sincerely, Tempted to Terminate ___________________________________________________________________________________ Dear Tempted to Terminate, You are making this more difficult than it needs to be. If his offense at work was serious enough for termination, you fire him, regardless of his internet persona. It doesn't matter what he does outside of work or what he posts online—he misbehaved at work and should be punished. Now, this does become more complicated if his offense isn't necessarily fireable. Let's say someone complained that he made one dirty joke. That wouldn't (generally) be enough for a termination. If that's the case, here are a few other questions to consider. Is His Online Behavior Just Icky, or Is It Illegal? This is important because in some states or cities, you can't terminate someone for doing something controversial outside of work if it's legal. So, if you find his behavior objectionable but happen to live in one of these jurisdictions, you can't terminate him for that behavior. If you live outside these areas, employees don't have the right to do icky things and brag about them on the internet, even if it's outside of the workplace. There's no free speech in the workplace, and as long as his questionable behavior didn't include him starting a union, you can terminate him for outside activities. Are You Discriminating Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation? If a woman were saying the same things online as the employee in question, would you be okay with it? If your answer is yes, then you're discriminating illegally. If he were a different sexual orientation, would you be okay with it? If so, then you need to be extra cautious. The courts have reached mixed verdicts on whether you can legally discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation, but the reality is, even if your bias falls within the law, you shouldn't act on it. You should be judging people based on their work. Does the Behavior Reflect Badly on the Company? Assuming that his behavior at work wasn't serious enough for a termination, and assuming that it's not illegal to terminate him, should you still do it? Generally, managers should stay out of their employees' online lives. You wouldn't invite yourself over to dinner at their house, so why should you invite yourself onto their Facebook pages? With that said, you should take action if the employee's behavior reflects badly on the company. If there's nothing online linking him to your company, you should probably let it go. If it's easy to link him to your company, however, that's another story. Regardless of your decision you need to do two things: consult with your employment attorney and enforce the same standard across the board, regardless of age, gender, position or tenure. Your ReWorker, Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady Photo: Creative Commons

Why Starbucks' Unconscious Bias Training Probably Won't Change Much

Blog Post

Why Starbucks' Unconscious Bias Training Probably Won't Change Much

Starbucks made a splash recently by closing 8,000 stores to provide unconscious bias training for over 100,000 employees. The company decided on this widespread training after an employee stopped two black men from using their onsite restroom in a Philadelphia store. As a former Chief Learning Officer at multiple organizations, I don't think this training will change much. And, as a consultant, I can also guess what this training may have cost Starbucks. So why pay for something that likely won't stop this situation from happening in the future? The short answer is because it is easier to "train" people for a half day than to do the challenging work of creating an infrastructure of leadership and a culture of diversity and acceptance. The first of Starbucks' three stated values is "Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome." Sounds easy. After all, we all want to be welcoming to everyone, right? In practice, however, it's not that simple. As humans, we bring complexity, variability, and, sometimes, bias to the table whether we realize it or not, and four hours of training alone won't change that. To drive real change, organizations need leaders who understand their role in shaping behaviors, and it's up to these leaders to teach employees how to best represent the image of the organization in their work. Here are four practical ways leaders can shape culture and behavior on their teams: Don't Hide Behind the Scenes If you're a leader, your office is a great place to hole up and get work done, but that's not where the real leadership happens. The real work of an organization takes place where employees work—in front of customers, with the products. Being a leader means regularly listening, observing and, when appropriate, immediately intervening to acknowledge behavior that is exceptional, or reprimand behavior that must change. Make it part of your routine to be present and active, side-by-side with employees. Be Aware of the Situation Your presence alone isn't enough. Leaders must view the workplace and their employees through a critical lens—the values of the organization. That means being open to noticing, as in Starbucks' case, when that culture of belonging and warmth is violated. Using a values filter may not be second nature, particularly because this type of leadership is a time-consuming and all-encompassing work. It's critical for leaders to see beyond their point of view, embrace the organization's values and coach them, thereby shaping behaviors that represent the values. Match Worker Demographics to Customer Demographics Organizations are increasingly making an effort to hire a more diverse workforce, and there's a valid business reason for that—employees who share the culture and background of the customer base will be better able to meet the customer needs because they're more likely to have similar needs. An employee demographic that represents the customer demographic can also help ensure that products fit the culture of the local presence. Find Teachable Moments Leaders sometimes view coaching and feedback as something that's provided to employees only when they're doing something wrong. As a result, they are uncomfortable providing feedback regularly because they think it sends the wrong message to workers. But by adopting a teaching mentality, leaders can view feedback as a good thing—a learning or developmental opportunity rather than a corrective one. A mindset of continuous learning goes a long way for opening up a meaningful dialogue. Leaders who understand that shaping their culture is an ongoing process, and approach it from a long-term learning and engagement lens can generate excitement about their organization's value. And that excitement typically lasts a whole lot longer and is much more effective than a four hour training session. Photo: Unsplash

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