Dear Leaders, Employees Want You to Talk About the Gender Pay Gap Even if You Can’t Fix It

Over the past few years — as the #MeToo movement takes hold and more women rise to powerful corporate and government posts — there has been a marked increase in awareness of the gender pay gap.

In fact, a survey — conducted by compensation management software provider Beqom in partnership with Microsoft and released this week — found that a large majority of “enterprise employees” are aware now of the gender pay gap, with those in the United Kingdom (77%) slightly outpacing those in the United States (73%) in awareness. (Beqom defines “enterprise employees as those working for organizations with 250 or more staffers.)

Still, even with heightened awareness as well as some progressive steps, the gap has persisted — albeit much smaller than it was six decades ago — evidencing that there is much work to be done. (The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same company.)

Case in point: This year, women’s losses to the gender pay gap translate to a yearly pay difference of $10,169, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which also estimates that women employed full time in the United States will lose nearly $900 billion to the wage gap this year. And while the gap has shrunk more dramatically in previous decades, in recent years, the ratio of women’s earnings to men’s has mostly hovered around 80 cents to a dollar.

Meanwhile, Beqom found that despite the surge in focus among employers and legislators on gender pay issues, half of the 1,600 respondents it surveyed said that the gender pay gap at their company has not changed in the last 12-18 months. What’s more, 26% of respondents said the gap has actually increased.

It goes without saying that employers will have to do their own share of introspection regarding any pay inequities that may exist at their respective firms as well as create effective strategies to achieve gender pay parity — a process that could take significant time and investment to yield results. However, Beqom’s researchers found that, when it comes to employee satisfaction, one short-term step could be even more worthwhile for companies — perhaps more so than actually ending the pay gap: Communication.

“Because pay equity perceptions have such a strong influence on retention and employee morale, it’s incumbent upon organizations to be more transparent and communicative with employees about their pay gaps and what they are doing to close them,” the researchers wrote. “When employees perceive a pay gap, regardless of whether their perceptions are correct, this has a direct, negative effect on employee retention resulting in a 16% decrease in intent to stay, [which is] 50% worse than the typical impact of a pay freeze.”

In that same vein, almost two-thirds (63%) of the workers polled said they would be more willing to work at a company that discloses its gender pay gap figures each year. The sentiment is felt more strongly by women (70%) than men (53%) and among more workers in the U.S. (65%) than in the U.K. (60%).

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