What Will End the Need for an Equal Pay Day?

iStock_000009393502SmallApril 8, 2014 is Equal Pay Day. It’s not a holiday as in “Happy Equal Pay Day” but it is a day that should be marked by both men and women. It represents the time the typical American woman needs to work beyond the previous year to equal the pay a man earned in the previous year. Last year, Equal Pay Day was April 9th.   Progress is slow. Women are still earning 77 cents to men’s dollar.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has proposed one fix to the problem. In her research paper entitled A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter she writes,“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and who worked particular hours.” Another way to think of this is to reward results not face time. I completely agree that such changes would be a huge step in moving the needle beyond 77 cents on the dollar.

Employers and employees would need to look at contributions in a different light for this to truly be effective.   The impact of work would overshadow the effort. I find this is easier said than done, based on my experience with clients and workshop attendees. We love to talk about the experience and effort of our work because that is what is most tangible to us. Impact beyond our own desk is much harder for employees to grasp and to communicate. The ability to communicate such impact would increase pay if I understand Goldin’s proposal correctly.

Let me share one example from a workshop attendee. She submitted her company for an industry award and the company won. She knew this was important but she was not sure how to quantify the importance. As readers of my blog know, I recommend putting a dollar figure on your best accomplishments to truly impact your pay. She was unable to put a dollar figure on this.   The company had never even applied for industry awards in the past so this truly was her initiating and implementing the idea.

Typically, employees would talk about the effort to get all the right information for the award submission from various departments in the company and making the deadline. That is more of a face time description, which is what Dr. Goldin, suggest (and I agree) we abandon. The impact of the award is much greater than the woman who did it imagine. Here is where there was impact:

Advertising: A press release was distributed and picked up by multiple media

$ Impact: Savings of placing advertisements in each of the media that picked up the story.

Marketing: Leads came in from people who read about the industry award.

$ Impact: Most companies know their cost per lead (CPL). This award just saved the company the CPL for each lead it received.

Sales:  Some of those leads turned into actual customers for the company.

$ Impact: Added revenue of the sales that came in as a direct result of the award won.

Sales: The industry award was added as part of the pitch to potential clients. The award would bolster credibility of the company and minimizes addressing such concerns from prospects.

$ Impact: Increased revenue from any increase in the percentage of closed leads or cost savings if the time to close shortened since the award was won.

The impact was quite impressive and extended beyond the desk and department of the woman who made it happen. It would be difficult for a non-sales professional to even think about increase in percentage of closed leads. It would e difficult for the non-marketer to think of cost per lead. It would be difficult for the non-advertiser to think of the costs of getting coverage in certain media. Yet, that is what I ask of my clients and workshop attendees and what Dr. Goldin is implicitly recommending in her paper. This requires each of us to look at our work beyond our handoff to the next department. One way to do this is to get friendly with such departments to truly understand the impact you make now and to see where there is room for further improvement.

One more point regarding Dr. Goldin’s recommendation about face time. It will take a great cultural change. Just this past week a professional baseball player, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, took 2 days off to be with his wife while she gave birth and to spend time with his new child. We call this paid paternity leave which only 14% of US companies offer. The backlash was swift and loud and speaks volumes of the obstacles we as a country still face in embracing equality in pay for women and equal support in family matters for men. Here’s to the day when both is reached.