Dennis BeaverMarch 18, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver 

“Many employers see The Great Resignation as a chance to give their companies an enormous boost in employee morale and wellbeing by establishing true gender equity,” observes Christine Spadafor, Harvard educated lawyer, BBC commentator, and board of directors member of major public and private companies.

She is described as a “driving force to achieve gender equality” – getting reluctant business owners to pay their women employees the same as they pay men for the same job.

I spoke with her about the challenges facing employees seeking to be treated equally, what a failure to do so means for business, large and small, and how The Great Resignation could be the moment that results in real pay equity on the job.

Simply the Right Thing to Do

“Many employers have not evolved, failing to recognize that equal pay is simply the fair, just and right thing to do. Those business owners miss an opportunity to show respect for and demonstrate the value of women’s contributions in the workplace. Often, they have a harder time recruiting and retaining women for that reason.

“I was on the receiving end of this unfairness as well, for too long, by not asking about being paid the same amount as a man doing the same job as I was hired for,” she candidly acknowledges.

I asked Christine to list where management is failing, the consequences, and how to remedy the situation. She gave me a by-the-numbers don’t do list:

(1) Refuse to disclose pay scales – Fail to be transparent, so when a woman applies for position – as a promotion or recruited from outside the organization – she will not know what a man would be paid for the same job.

Consequences: In today’s turbulent environment, it is more difficult to recruit and retain employees. Employers must demonstrate ethical behavior, proving their culture supports employee morale, wellbeing, and respect by treating all employees fairly in terms of equal pay for the same job. Those who do will be rewarded for their transparency.

(2) Insist upon requiring a salary and benefit history from job applicants.

Consequences: When women take a pause from the work force – for child rearing, to care for family members, or any reason – their salary history can become the baseline in the eyes of a company for what she will be paid for the new job.

However, it is likely that she was already being paid far less than a man for the same position, as women earn 82 cents for every $1 a man makes – and even less for women of color. So, when she re-engages in the work force, if compensation is based on her prior salary from months or years ago, she starts out underpaid, and that doesn’t even factor in the cost of living which, as we all know, is skyrocketing.

The remedy: Salary should be based on the company’s value of the position applied for. It has nothing to do with a woman’s salary history.

Thirty seven states, cities and counties now have banned asking applicants about their salary history.

(3) Prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing pay with each other. Threaten them with disciplinary action for discussing how much they earn.

Consequences: If a business owner wants to inject fear into employees, then threaten them with disciplinary action – including being fired – for discussing their compensation. As of 2021, 17 states have outlawed this archaic prohibition.

In reality, employers benefit from transparency. In a healthy corporate culture, employers should have no issue and should not fear their employees discussing what they are being paid.

(4) Fail to see equal pay for equal work as part of your employees’ over-all well-being (financial, physical, mental health and social.) Refuse to see the employee as a whole person, as opposed to “the woman on the assembly line.”

Consequences: Employees in this environment of The Great Resignation are more empowered now than ever before. They are demanding work environments where they feel their work has purpose and meaning, that their good work is acknowledged and rewarded, and how it contributes to the goals of the company.

Employees want to be “seen” and deserve to be seen. Without them, there is no company.

Where both management and employees have shared values, a culture of support, meaning and purpose, that foundation will propel them all, successfully and sustainably into the future. Pay equity is a sign management “walks the talk.”

(5) Fail to recognize gender bias in your promotion criteria. Cling to the bias that women have lower leadership potential. Remain part of those firms where most first management promotions go to men. Promote your male employees based on potential, but women on performance.

Consequences: When a qualified woman is not promoted – based on biased promotion criteria – she is behind in salary from the start and it will take her much longer to catch up, if ever, and harder to retain.

Christine concluded our interview with these final observations:

“Business today has a unique opportunity to show present and new hires that fairness and care for their overall wellbeing is what we practice.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.