Future Look |

Looking Toward the Future with Pay Equity

If you’re a member or regular reader of WorldatWork, then you’re well aware the organization has designated October as “Pay Equity Month.” To support that initiative, Workspan Daily has produced a bevy of pay equity content over the past four weeks.


Seeing as though this is the final Friday of October — meaning the final Future Look of the month — it feels appropriate to examine the future of pay equity.

While there’s still work to be done in the pay equity space overall, the topic has emerged as a significant issue for most organizations. WorldatWork’s “Pay Equity Practices and Priorities Survey” from earlier this month found that organizations are making strides in analyzing and ultimately remediating their pay inequities.

Of the 352 WorldatWork members that responded to the survey, 79% said gender pay gap analysis is becoming standard practice at their organization, and 71% said broad equity analysis is becoming standard practice. Additionally, 55% said remediation strategy execution and remediation option evaluation (52%) isn’t far behind. Only 9% of organizations said gender pay gap analysis is not on their radar.

A tidbit from the research that particularly stood out was that despite many of these organizations taking proactive measures to evaluate and remediate pay inequities that might exist, one-third (32%) of organizations were not applying this to their performance management practices.

“This is intriguing because those programs tend to be subjective,” said Scott Cawood, president and CEO at WorldatWork. “How do you keep bias from creeping in? In the future, performance management programs will have to adhere to new frameworks in order to be bias-free. We know, anecdotally, that organizations that do look at performance management in the pay equity context are experimenting with removing practices like merit pay to prevent bias or the perception of bias.” 

Coinciding with WorldatWork’s pay equity research was the WorldatWork Pay Equity Symposium in Philadelphia. There, consultants, practitioners and legal counsel convened to share their expert insights and analysis on the subject. A central theme of the symposium was the concept of drilling down into the numbers and looking beyond the surface.

For instance, the statistic that tends to circulate in the news is that women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. While this is technically accurate, it forms an incomplete picture because of how you arrive at it. In their presentation, “Pay Equity — Moving Past the Numbers,” Carrie Belter and Malinda Riley of Korn Ferry, asserted that in order to arm your organization with the best tools to achieve true pay equity, you must dig deeper into the data and then go beyond it.

While Korn Ferry’s research showed a 23% difference in pay between males and females across organizations, but that decreases to 8% when comparing at the same job level. When comparing salaries for men and women at the same job level in the same company, it drops to 3%. Further, when comparing average salaries for men and women at the same job level in the same company and in the same function, the difference is 1%.

By doing this kind of analysis, organizations can put the correct measures in place to solve for inequities. And, this is a process that will take time and will be full of mistakes along the way, Belter said.

“No organization that I’m aware of gets it right the first time,” Belter said. “So those feedback loops within the organization are critical for when you need to pivot.”

The content at the symposium and other perspectives concerning pay equity that have been published throughout the month on this site provided a detailed and mostly optimistic outlook for where this is headed in the future. However, when it comes to the overall gender pay gap, other research paints a less enthusiastic picture.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index estimated that it will take the United States another 208 years to reach full gender equality. When confronted with that startling statistical projection, it’s best to take the advice of U.S soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who was the keynote at the symposium.

“Sometimes it’s hard, because you just want to have pay equity,” Rapinoe said. “But it doesn’t work that way, so I constantly have to try and remind myself and my teammates that it doesn’t just look like one thing and it’s not going to just appear one day out of nowhere. You just have to remain positive and focus on the small victories while understanding that we’re working toward it.”



Framing the Issue

To guide people on the various nuances of the pay equity conversation, WorldatWork framed the issue in the October edition of Workspan. As noted in the article, if unexplained differences in pay do exist, it’s often not the result of a failed compensation program or unethical choices made by an individual or organization. Rather, it’s often the result of legitimate business-driven decisions that can have a disparate and unintended negative impact against on or more protected classes.

Addressing the Gap with Improved Technology

Technological disruption will bring many opportunities and benefits at global, national and organizational levels, but technology alone won’t be the cure-all, writes Ruth Thomas in part one of her two-part series for Workspan Daily. In part two, Thomas delves into the common misconception that career choices are the main reason for differences in pay between men and women.

Challenging, but Essential

The most important thing an organization can do to solve pay inequities is to manage the problem internally by making sure that your company has the most fair and equal pay possible, but this is harder than it looks, writes Josh Bersin in an article for Workspan Daily.

Pay Equity and Your Talent Equation

Pay equity and equal pay for equal work seem like no-brainers. But it’s not easy to change the themes of inequality so heavily entrenched in our culture, writes Linda Sharkey in part one of her two-part series for Workspan Daily. In part two, Sharkey explains how pay equity will affect an employer’s ability to hire and retain talent and in a tight labor market with a globally mobile workforce, they’ll need to see this issue not just as a compensation issue but as a survival issue.

Accountability in a #MeToo World

The #MeToo and TIME’S UP movements have forced organizations to be more accountable when it comes to harassment and discrimination claims, but it all starts with building the right culture, writes Neta Meidav in an article for the October edition of Workspan.

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.

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