In 1963 the Equal Pay Act was enacted and other bills followed like the Equality Bill to address gender pay gaps. Given the decades of attention this issue has received, why is the salary gap still alive and well in all industries to include Microsoft Dynamics. I was reminded of this issue when I read an article yesterday on MSDynamicsworld.com.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with and understand the concept of ‘rivers run deep’. When it comes to cultural and social issues as related to gender wage inequality, this analogy holds true. These issues run very deep and the root cause is not only cultural and generational but also complex. There is no ‘one reason’ and there are mountains of research papers, statistics, books and articles written annually on the subject.
Although I believe that a couple of theories mentioned in the MSDynamicsworld article are contributors to the wage gap, with Trish Boccuti’s comments regarding negotiating being one that is founded on research and fact, I think others such as family vs. career are not as carefully thought through, don’t hold up under the light of research and unfortunately serve to blame women and create complacency; “well, it is what it is, therefore I must accept that this is a result of my choice” rather than encourage true and lasting change.
Although I am a supporter of and contributor to MSDynamicsworld, I was disappointed with them for not taking more time to develop the article, call in some experts and post information that debunks the myths and brings to light some of the true causes and solutions regarding this subject. The article falls flat and unfortunately does more harm than good so I hope that MSDynamicsworld regroups and take another run at it.
While we are waiting for that, I thought I would take a few minutes to share my thoughts on the subject. First, the disclaimer. I am not an expert in the field and do not position myself as one. I have three daughters, one granddaughter and one goddaughter. I have many other women in my life that I care deeply about and am invested in seeing them excel. I am also heavily invested from a coaching, mentoring and support perspective when it comes to helping women and men excel on their path and am always encouraging and recruiting women for the Technology field. The thoughts I share are gleaned from personal experience, my work in coaching and mentoring women and studying issues like the gender pay gap.
I know there are major contributors to the gender pay gap that are not related to the choice of motherhood and family. I also know that you can have motherhood, family and a successful career. I can show you many, many women who do it and do it well. My daughter Cassie lives this everyday as a female entrepreneur and coaches other women in business to do the same.
Myth number one debunked: You can’t have a healthy, happy family and a successful career life at the same time. Why not? Who says so? Lots of women do it. If that statement were true why is it that a man can walk away from a job, serve time in the military or reserves, come back to their job at the same pay and go forward like he was never absent. Men have frequently and consistently been able to take time away from their careers to meet military obligations, deal with medical issues or care for family and return to work at the same pay and with the same opportunity as when the left or they close the salary gap significantly faster than women.
So why is this happening for men and not women. It is because companies, employers and cultural values support the concept of men taking time off for military duty and family related issues but do not support the same for women (taking time off or working part time to care for the family). The blame should not lie at the feet of women and women should not be made to think they must choose or get their house in order or any other similar concept. Instead we need to affect change with regard to societal values, deep seated gender biases and must empower women to expect more and not settle.
Women bring incredible value to the workplace. Their attention to detail, intuitive and creative talents, ability to multi-task while keeping things moving forward in an organized manner, achieving objectives, etc. are sometimes unmatched by their male counterparts. We must help women to be aware of the value they bring and empower them to negotiate from a position of strength.
I believe women have to stop thinking of the salary gap in relationship to a choice between family and work in order to begin effectively addressing the issue and making a change for themselves, current and future generations. Given that, what are some of the social and cultural issues that contribute to pay inequality (same pay for same work and skillset).
Traditionally and generally speaking, men learn from the early years on that life is a team sport. You support your team while excelling in the position you’ve been designated. Women on the other hand, traditionally and generally speaking, learn to compete against other each other, vie for attention, etc. Team sports for women, really just started taking hold in the last generation or two and it will take many centuries to catch up to the levels men have achieved. Team sport for men has been around for centuries. In business many of the analogies used in the board room, meetings etc., come from the world of sports (hit a home run on that deal, knocked it out of the park….). In addition to sports men are trained to look out for one another on the battlefield. Traditionally speaking, men are the ones who go off to war and have to look out for each other in the field. Things like, look out for your fellow soldier, wing man, etc., are common concepts drilled into men and terms we hear used frequently in society and business.
To add to the societal and cultural challenges, technology is a male dominated vocation. Therefore, a high percentage of those in a position to make hiring decisions are men. Men often hire men for a variety of reasons. They speak the same language, have common interests, don’t have to be as concerned about what they say and how they say it, have learned to look out for each other, etc.
I understand that wage discrimination remains a battle that we must fight. Today I was reminded that in order to win the battle, we must educate and train women to think about, understand, and address the root cause of the issue as well as give them the tools needed to effectuate change for current and future generations of women. We must work tirelessly to debunk the myths and support women in business. In the end, it is going to be women supporting women and the work of people who want equal pay for their mothers, daughters, sisters, granddaughters, aunts, and nieces that will bring an end to the gender wage gap issue.
While we are working to bring an end to this illegal practice, lets not lose sight of what we are dealing with and the impact we can have on others. There are a significant number of single parent households in the United States (not to mention the world), and of those, the custodial parent is a woman more than 80% of the time. There are multiple millions of children living in these households. These women do not have the luxury of choice when it comes to work. They must work to provide for their family and they deserve equal pay for equal work. That 10, 15 or 20% difference in the paycheck means more to these households than one can imagine. We owe it to these women and children as well as all women to eliminate this life impacting issue in our generation.
I ask those of us who care about this issue to stop blaming the victim and blame the perpetrator. In the end, companies know what they are doing when they perpetuate this life impacting inequality. We must use all the resources within our reach to empower women to negotiate competitive salaries, hold companies to higher standards, expose the practice of gender pay inequality, fine the perpetrators, and eliminate the practice in this generation. Our children and children’s children deserve it. We must fully embrace equal pay for equal skill. If I am generating as much or more good work than my male counterpart, I deserve to be paid as much or more, period.
At the end of the day, women, in all company roles (entrepreneurs, Human Resources, Customer Facing, etc.) must go above and beyond when it comes to supporting women in the workplace. All women who are in a position to mentor women, coach women on salary and benefit negotiation, share salary information that they have, etc., must step out of their comfort zone and take the initiative to help each woman that crosses her path. Men must also do the same because in the end this will benefit the women you care about in your life and the generations that follow.
I encourage each of us to to ask those we’ve helped to find at least one or more women who they can encourage, coach and mentor. Let’s get this ball rolling and gain enough momentum to make it impossible to stop.
Women are strong. We must celebrate, share and display our strength. We must embrace and understand that empowered women who openly display and share their strength are inspiring. We must continue to encourage, recruit and mentor more women into the Technology field, pay it forward and bring the insidious, gender wage gap to an end in this generation.