Pay Equality: Are we “crazy” for striving to bridge the pay gap?

Author: Pamela Palpallatoc

Guest Editor: Brittany Torrence

March 11, 2019 1:31pm

Or are we “steely” for remaining composed while waiting for the gap to close on its own?

What is the current status of the pay gap?

The 2018 data compiled to calculate pay inequality showed that women earn 80 cents for every $1.00 paid to Caucasian males.  Latina/Hispanic women earn 54 cents per $1.00, Native American women earn 57 cents per $1.00, African American women earn 63 cents per $1.00, Caucasian women earn 79 cents per $1.00, and Asian American women earn 85 cents per $1.00.

Institutional pay discrimination, occupational segregation, wage theft and inadequate minimum wage, pay secrecy, and pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities are current challenges and factors prolonging the gap.

How can law and policy help bridge the gap at the hiring stage?

First, the following states and cities have enacted laws or policies to help eliminate historic pay discrimination: California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.  Several companies headquartered in the aforementioned states have banned inquiries into potential employees’ past salaries at the hiring stage: Amazon (Seattle, WA), American Express (New York, NY), Bank of America (Charlotte, NC), Cisco Systems (San Jose, CA), Facebook (Menlo Park, CA), Google (Mountain View, CA), Wells Fargo (San Francisco, CA).

Second, the recent updates to California’s pay equity laws, including the effects of California Assembly Bill 2282 (in effect January 1, 2019), clarifies the state law that bans salary history inquiries.  Therefore, there are laws and policies directly addressing pay discrimination on an institutional level at the hiring stage, but achieving sustainable pay equality requires more.

What practices can be implemented in workplace retention to help bridge the gap?

The insurance industry faces challenges in diversity and inclusivity, especially in executive and leadership roles. Thus, businesses such as Tyson & Mendes, have launched or implemented diversity and inclusion initiatives to help foster an inclusive workplace, which in turn supports retention of a diverse workforce.  Examples of successful components of initiatives include focus groups, mentorship programs, and employee resource groups. By raising awareness of the issues, and identifying and implementing best practices, progress can be achieved.

Challenge: What happens if we say or do nothing about interactions that perpetuate the gap?

A judge recently imposed a $500 sanction on a plaintiff’s trial attorney.  He commented on her “steely” composure as evidence of her intentionally failing to follow the court’s instructions during opening statements.  The judge said that the fact that she was “steely” while he interrupted her during openings, served as evidence that she knew she was violating his orders.  What if she piped up instead and challenged the judge during her opening statement?  Opening statements may have turned into opening debates, and surely, no judge would permit an opening debate between the bench and counsel to occur during the time allotted for opening statements.

The judge explained that the sanction would be imposed on her law firm. The sanction may directly affect this plaintiff attorney’s pay, depending on how her firm perceives the situation and whether the sanction will be a negative event in the evaluation of her performance.  The sanction surely would have directly affected her pay if she was a sole practitioner. Daily interpersonal and professional interactions underscoring gender-stereotyping can further support the gap.

Progress: What happens if we take action and advocate for pay equality?

We might be called crazy, dramatic, nuts, delusional, or unhinged. Or, we might become leaders of our industries, like Tricia Griffith, CEO of Progressive Insurance. Ms. Griffith began her career in insurance as a claims representative in 1988, moved up the ranks, and pushed for inclusion and diversity during her journey to become CEO.

A transcript of “Dream Crazier” – Nike, February 24, 2019 stated the following:

If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And, if we dream of equal opportunity, delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.  But, a woman running a marathon was crazy. A woman boxing was crazy. A woman dunking – crazy. Coaching an NBA team – crazy. A woman competing in a hijab, changing her sport, landing a double cork 1080, or winning 23 grand slams, having a baby, and then coming back for more – crazy crazy crazy crazy and crazy. So if they want to call you crazy, fine, show them what crazy can do.

Takeaway

  • Evaluate hiring practices. Cease salary inquiries that perpetuate historic pay discrimination. Monitor updates to state or local laws that require elimination of salary inquiry at hiring. Even without a law or policy in your jurisdiction, create fair, internal policies which support bridging the gap.
  • Foster workplace inclusivity to retain a diverse workforce by implementing best practices in encouraging mentorship, supporting employee resource groups, and being advocates in interpersonal interactions and professional appearances.
  • Participate in dialogue on pay equality and relevant topics. Tyson & Mendes Associate, Margarite Sullivan, recently addressed gender-based stereotyping in a Tyson & Mendes blog article. And, Associate Pamela Palpallatoc will be facilitating a continuous legal education panel on best practices in diversity and inclusion for business and law, which will include discussion on best practices for pay equality.

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