Should Your Company Sign the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge?

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Yesterday the White House held a summit on women’s issues that including talks, press announcements, a new final rule on discrimination against transgender people in the workplace, and the signing of an agreement by 28 major US companies, including Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and more, to work quickly to close the gender pay gap.

The Pay Gap Needs More than One Solution

The summit was hosted by the White House’s Council on Women and Girls, along with Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation, and hosted athletes, teachers, student activists and community and business leaders. It focused on six issue areas:

  • economic empowerment
  • violence against women
  • health and wellness
  • civic engagement
  • education
  • entrepreneurship

Announcements at the summit included a number of broad programs, from career readiness to media representation, aiming to attack the gender pay gap from different directions. The Pledge which builds on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, emphasizes that businesses themselves can and must to much to address the problem. In announcing the Pledge, the White House pointed to research that shows that closing the pay gap will “boost productivity and benefit our economy.”

The summit’s commitment to addressing the gender pay gap from multiple angles is crucial, because as we’ve written about before on B4J, it’s not so simple a problem as it might first seem. The pay gap persists not just because men are paid more than women for the same work, but also because women don’t have the same opportunities as men, from childhood to retirement. It’s also true that the gender pay gap affects different groups of women to varying extents. Women of colour and disabled and transgender women experience a much wider pay gap than do white women. In order to close the pay gap, we, as a society, will need to address it on every level with a whole host of programs. But companies can start with something simple.

The Equal Pay Pledge

The White House’s Equal Pay Pledge, which commits companies to taking immediate action to address the gender pay gap was signed by 28 companies: Accenture, Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, BCG, Buffer, Care.com, CEB, Cisco, Deloitte, the Dow Chemical Company, Expedia, Inc., Gap Inc., Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Jet.com, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal USA, PepsiCo, Pinterest, Popcorn Heaven, PwC, Rebecca Minkoff, Salesforce, Slack , Spotify, Staples, and Stella McCartney.

Specifically, the signatories have committed to “conduc[t] an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations, reviewing their hiring and promotion processes, embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives, and identifying and promoting other best practices that will help ensure wage fairness for all workers. ”

Because the Pledge focuses on studying and understanding the gender pay gap which exists in your own company, it does not specifically address how the gap must be addressed and why. That makes sense, because a one-size-fits-all solution wouldn’t work for the variety of companies already signed on to the Pledge, let alone companies considering it — PepsiCo, Slack and Stella McCarntney are three very different businesses. The obvious advantage for businesses is that it’s up to them to tailor any such programs to their business needs and abilities — each business can create the gender equality that works for them. And although there are obviously costs associated with an annual study, because the Pledge does not compel business to take any specific actions, it’s not prohibitive.

An annual review of this kind just gives you more data about how your organization is doing, and how effective your HR and management processes really are. It’s up to you and your organization to figure out how you can best act on it. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of advice in this area. The Pledge is an easy win. It’s good PR of course and following through on it nets you more valuable data about how your company is really doing. Acting on it, to really close the gender pay gap, can only benefit your organization even more.

The White House has issued an open invitation to American businesses to sign on. You can find out more about the specifics of the pledge and if it’s right for your organization (it is, it is) here.

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