These statistics come from data released by the National Partnership for Women and Families before Equal Pay Day, and concluded that women lose out on $500 billion annually, thanks to the gender wage gap. Not only do women generally make just 79 cents to every dollar paid to their male counterparts, but women belonging to minority groups make even less. Black and Hispanic women only earn 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to White men.
Discrimination and unconscious bias continue to affect women’s wages, despite equal pay being required by law. Part of the problem, however, is that women are still underrepresented in leadership positions and in high paying professions.
To combat the gender pay gap, the goal is to open the door and let women and minority groups compete for the same high paying jobs and leadership positions, which are often reserved for white males. So what can you do to help women and minorities break through the glass ceiling.
Allies are as important to the struggles of women and minority groups themselves, if not more so. We don’t need strong male saviors, but allies in co-workers and decision makers who understand the importance of gender equality, and will take the time to listen, notice and act.
Why should you be an ally? Because it’s in everyone’s interest to have equal representation of women and men in the workforce. When airbags were invented for cars, an all-male team designed them using the height and weight chart for men. Tragically, because they were not accounted for, many women and children were killed when those early airbags deployed. Similarly, early speech recognition devices were calibrated for male voices, and couldn’t register women’s higher pitches, a costly mistake given that their target customers were female secretarial teams.
Let’s take a look at a few success stories implemented thanks to powerful allies, along with a good intentioned but poorly executed initiatives:
Justin Trudeau, the feminist
Since the gender pay gap in the U.S. is 2.5 times the size of those of other industrialized countries, we might as well start by looking north, towards Canada and its beloved prime minister, Justin Trudeau. He openly calls himself a feminist, and says he’ll continue to do so until that simple statement stops making headlines in the press and media.
Last year Trudeau unveiled a cabinet with an equal number of ethnically diverse men and women “because it’s 2015,” as he told reporters after he was sworn in to become the country’s 23rd prime minister. A true ally of women and minorities, he continued to explain that, “It’s important to be here before you today to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
Anna Serner and women in film
When Anna Serner became CEO of the Swedish Film Institute in 2011, only 26% of the film funding was awarded to women. Since there was no shortage of women graduating from film schools, Serner made sure the industry knew the new goal was 50% female filmmakers, and threatened quotas if the goal wasn’t met by 2015. The goal was reached in 2014.
As a result, women won 69% oftrophies at Swedish film awards and 40% of the top international awards presented to Swedish filmmakers. Given that only 16% of all Oscar nominees ever have been women, Anna Serner’s model has been cheered around the world.
Serner’s explanation is “I just think that we’ve been longing for the female gaze, the female perspective. Right now it’s unique, which is a problem. Eventually, it should all balance out.”
Go Daddy near gender parity
An internal salary audit in September of 2015 revealed that GoDaddy’s female employees are paid 0.28% more than men. Female managers, however, are paid 3.58% less on average. Still, the near gender parity is far more equal than that of the average U.S. company, and a direct result of Blake Irving prioritizing gender equality when he became CEO of the company in 2013.
Up until then, the large percentage of male employees had fostered a macho culture, and the company’s sexist ads were criticized by many of their customers. GoDaddy caters to small business owners, and their customer base consists of about 50% women.
GoDaddy’s work continues, as they just hired the Center for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership, to help identify and address unconscious bias among management.
PayPal’s panel discussion on gender equality – by men
PayPal’s recent panel discussion Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace received ridicule in the media, when it turned out that they hadn’t invited a single woman to participate on the panel. Letting PayPal’s President of Unity respond to the critique, along with adding her as a female moderator of the panel discussion just made matters worse, as one tweet put it; “Yeah. I see you could find a woman when you needed someone to take the blame.” As this example shows, beware of “mansplaining” women’s issues!
It’s in everyone’s interest to have a workplace that reflects the outside world, with men, women and minorities represented in the full spectrum of low to high paying jobs, leadership positions, and of course earning the same salaries for doing the same jobs. Allies understand this – if you aren’t already, we encourage you to be an ally for women and minorities in the workplace.