This Equal Pay Day on March 24, Know Your Value is celebrating the past efforts that have brought us closer to closing the gender pay gap, and more importantly, taking a closer look at just how much further we have to go.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women’s annual earnings were 82.3 percent of men’s—and the gap was even wider for women of color. Black women were paid 63 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2019, according to the U.S. Census. In other words, it takes the typical Black woman 19 months to earn what the average white man takes home in 12 months.
There’s no question the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women. According to the Center for American Progress, women have lost some 5.4 million jobs during the pandemic, which is nearly 1 million more job losses than men. Due to the need to accommodate remote-learning and often having kids home full-time, many mothers have shouldered most of the extra responsibilities.
In fact, the pandemic led to a sharp reversal in gains that women made in the labor force over decades. According to a Gallup analysis, significantly more out-of-work mothers than out-of-work fathers say they stopped working due to childcare demands stemming from school closures. More than 2.3 million female employees have dropped out of the labor force during the pandemic, compared with 1.8 million men.
“Not only are women overrepresented in industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, they have also carried the burden of overwhelming responsibilities on the home front,” said Lexy Martin, head of research at Visier, a company that specializes in analytics.
“To get to a state of equal pay in America, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on women in the workforce, simply replicating past efforts won’t get us there, especially in the shadow of the Covid-19 crisis,” Martin said. “To close the wage gap, organizations need to improve equity of representation, particularly in leadership roles, and improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) more holistically.”
Visier’s Gender Equity and Manager Divide research found that organizations are getting women back to work after maternity leave and on a manager track at a faster rate. “Women may also be feeling the need to come back to work faster to not miss out on the opportunities the manager track can present,” Martin said.
Alyssa Schaefer, chief experience officer at digital lending platform Laurel Road, added that women can make a difference in closing the pay gap. For starters, women must be able to set financial goals and feel empowered to achieve them.
“Ultimately, women have the know-how and the skill to drive forward their financial goals, but that’s only half the battle: they must also feel empowered to take on these subjects, dig in, and know their financial health is within their grasp,” Schaefer said.
It pays to speak up and ask for a raise. One of the biggest barriers to asking for a raise is confidence, Shaefer explained. “The more we encourage women to build their financial literacy and take control of their financial goals, the more empowered they feel in having conversations about getting a raise, and the closer we can come to closing the gender pay gap,” she said.
It’s also helpful to strengthen your network. “Be proactive in getting your own coach, mentor, champion, and supporters,” Martin suggested. “While some organizations work to provide one or more of these roles to support underrepresented individuals, ultimately, it falls on you to ensure you get the help you need to progress in your career.”
These mentors and supporters can help you navigate tricky career moves and difficult discussions, like negotiating a raise or promotion, and can be a cheerleader and advocate outside of your immediate friends, family, and team that you can confide in as you make the move up the corporate ladder, Martin explained.
“I also believe strongly in holding yourself accountable for breaking barriers, and advocating for yourself and your fellow female employees within your organization,” Martin said. “Women can succeed and need to believe in themselves. For every anecdote where we know this is true, those women have incredible personal confidence.”
“Believing you deserve the raise or promotion is the first step to successfully negotiating it,” Martin said.
So what lies ahead? A lot of hard work, and hopefully many individual and collective strides toward our wider goal of completely closing the gender pay gap in the future. Martin predicted that pay equity could be achieved by 2029, narrowly beating the goal set by the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) of pay equity by 2030.