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The words diversity and inclusion can mean a lot of different things depending upon the audience. This past month we had Equal Pay Day on April 10th which got me thinking of compensations role in workplace inclusion. Can we claim a diverse and inclusive workforce if our pay structures reflect biases, even if they are defensible?

At times it may feel as if we are belaboring the point. You may feel like, everyone knows there is a gender pay gap and we are tired of hearing about it, but studies show 49 percent of men and 17 percent of women believe the pay gap to be a thing of the past. Or we defend the gap pointing to negotiations, salary history, or employment gap due to leaving the workforce to care for children. All of these may be contributing factors, but they cannot explain why gaps still exist when all other factors are equal.

According to Pew Research conducted in 2016, gender and racial wage gaps still persist. We often see the figure that women make $0.80 on the $1 a White man makes, but Black and Latina women make even less than that. Additionally, the pay gap is not exclusive to women as Black and Hispanic (Latino) men also make less than a White male in the same position with the same level of education and years of experience.

Now I’ve read the Harvard study claiming the wage gap is nearly non-existent for women who work continuously versus those who leave the workforce to care for children, but “nearly non-existent” is still confirming the gap. Some industries have closer starting salaries, confirming the gap widens due to additional factors such as negotiating, but again, rarely is it confirmed that starting salaries for the same position are equal.

Taking into account the argument that men are more likely to ask for more than women, unfortunately studies also show that women are more likely to receive negative consequences (social cost) for negotiating, even if successful. In “6 Excuses for the Gender Pay Gap You Can Stop Using,” we are challenged to truly examine our justification and unconscious biases.

I can continue to bore you with facts, statistics, research studies, and analysis, but instead I will challenge you to look at your company and the message pay disparity is sending your employees. My call to action is to help close the gap in your company. Establish compensation structures using measurable factors and continue to pay according to position, education, experience, and performance. Create an equal playing field for negotiating, remove barriers and social costs, and reward those who may not have asked when they have the same accomplishments. Advocate for others. Stop making excuses to defend pay disparity. Examine unconscious biases and train your organization to do the same (particularly if they have a role in determining compensation) to shift focus on measurable factors.

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