Is There a Gender-Pay Inequity Disconnect?

Many HR leaders report it's not an issue at their organization.
By: | June 15, 2018 • 2 min read
chalk board writing pay #metoo represents gender-pay inequity

Despite widespread agreement that gender-pay inequity is a common problem, many HR executives seem to believe it’s not an issue at their organization.

That’s according to a new pulse survey of 317 HR executives by i4cp, a human-capital research firm based in Seattle.

Asked if gender-pay inequity is an issue at their organization, about half responded no, while only 29 percent said they didn’t know. Around two in 10 (22 percent), meanwhile, admitted it was an issue.

Lorrie Lykins, vice president of research for i4cp, speculates that the lack of transparency around pay may have something to do with the disconnect.

“Pay isn’t a topic that’s commonly discussed,” Lykins says. “For the most part, people don’t feel comfortable talking about money. It’s just not a fun conversation to have.”

This lack of transparency is supported by the i4cp survey, which found that about 20 percent of the respondents reported pay was transparent at their organizations, compared to 77 percent who said their pay was not transparent. Of those in the latter camp, 12 percent said they are taking steps to make their pay practices more visible, while the rest either have no plans to do so or aren’t sure if transparency exists.

Perhaps not coincidentally, roughly 45 percent indicated their organizations have conducted a pay audit to determine if men and women are being paid equally for comparable work, compared to 14 percent who said they didn’t conduct such an audit but planned to do so and 16 percent who said they didn’t do one and have no immediately plans to. (Interestingly, 25 percent indicated they were in the dark on what their organizations did or didn’t do.)

On the audit question, Lykins suggests that concern over the ramifications of uncovering a “glaring, insurmountable gap” in pay could be a factor in holding companies back from doing an audit.

Lykins points to Salesforce as an example of a company that signed then President Barack Obama’s Equal Pay Pledge back in 2015 and is taking pay equity more seriously.

In 2015 and 2016, she says, Salesforce found gaps and spent $3 million each year doing pay adjustments. Then, last year, the company spent another $2.7 million. (Globally, roughly 6 percent of its employees required adjustments in 2017.)

As Salesforce’s Chief People Officer Cindy Robbins points out in a recent blog post, there’s no finish line in pay equity.

“Every time we conduct these assessments, we learn more about the numerous factors that contribute to pay inequality—including legacy industry practices, acquiring companies and external changes in the job market—all of which we are proactively working to address,” she says.

“As we continue to grow rapidly—we plan to hire 8,000 employees next year —we’re looking at ways to create a system that will standardize the process for setting salaries, so new hires will be brought to parity from day one,” she adds.

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]

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