It’s 2016 and women are still paid 79 cents on the dollar. Women have not been havin’ it for awhile—we know we are not worth less. But, now, more and more American companies are not havin’ it. They recognize that gender pay disparities may exist in their workforce—whether intentional or not—that lead to decreased employee productivity and performance and increased legal liability—all things that hurt their bottom line. As a result, companies from SalesForce to Gap, Inc. to Glassdoor have been analyzing their pay data to see whether the women in their workforce are being valued less. And they’ve been sharing how they did it and what they found.
Last week, Apple joined this growing movement, announcing that it had reviewed its pay data and that it has no gender wage gap. We are glad to see that Apple is speaking up on this critical issue and studying its pay data.
It is critical that companies undertake this sort of analysis. If a company wants to pay their women employees fairly (which I sure hope most companies do!), it has to look at pay patterns within its workforce to check for gendered pay disparities. Even with the most well intentioned employer, implicit gender biases or seemingly neutral pay practices, like relying on prior salary history to set pay, can cause women to be undervalued in the workplace. Looking at pay patterns is essential to identifying and remedying pay disparities—and ignorance of wage disparities is no defense to a pay discrimination claim under the Equal Pay Act.
But just looking at what salary men and women make for the same job does not tell the whole wage gap story. Before a company can declare it does not have a gender wage gap, it needs to consider the following in analyzing its pay data:
- Has the company analyzed the pay of employees in comparable jobs, not just jobs with the exact same title or specific role?
- Has the company accounted for different types of compensation (e.g. bonuses, commissions, stock options) in addition to the base salary in measuring pay?
- Has the company considered both race and gender together in its analysis to determine whether women of color face different or larger wage gaps within the organization than women overall?
- And has the company considered where within its workforce women are employed? If the company has a gender wage gap overall, is it because women are overrepresented in lower-paying roles within the organization and underrepresented in higher-paying roles? Is there a need to strengthen ladders of opportunity to higher-paid positions for women in the company?
While Apple’s announcement didn’t contain details explaining the analysis it performed to conclude that it does not have a gender wage gap, we hope it took each of the factors above into consideration or will do so in further pay analyses—after all, closing the wage gap requires regularly evaluating pay data and taking steps to address gaps this evaluation uncovers. It also requires regularly evaluating the practices the company employs to set pay to ensure that those practices are not allowing gender pay disparities to seep in or magnify over time. The next important step for Apple and other companies announcing the results of their equal pay analyses is to share how they are conducting their studies—so that their employees, the public, and other companies looking to follow their lead can be confident that when they say “equal,” they mean “equal.”
We applaud Apple for speaking up on this issue and hope many more companies will follow suit and conduct their own equal pay audits. Strong public policies and robust enforcement of equal pay laws has gotten us so far, but it will take employers’ commitment and innovation to make equal pay a reality.