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Organizations need a more integrated approach

By Alison Grenier

Oprah Winfrey. Meryl Streep. Charlize Theron. These are just a few of many prominent women trying to raise awareness of the gender-pay gap in society. And initiatives like HeForShe have created a platform for men, as well as women, to speak on issues including the pay gap on a global platform.

Although it is undeniable that strides have been made in closing the gap, a recent article in The Guardian suggests it will take 217 years for disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women to end. This is significantly longer than the 170 years that researchers previously calculated.

So why have we, as a society, been unable to crack this problem when “equal pay for equal work” legislation has been in place in Canada for almost 50 years? Could it be that we’re focusing on the wrong things?

Recent research by Great Place to Work® (GPTW) suggests that while transparent tracking and wage adjustments are necessary to close the gap, organizations can’t stop there. What’s needed is a more integrated approach to creating a level playing field for all employees, regardless of job role or personal characteristics – in other words, a commitment to creating a great place to work for all.

Reaching full potential more important than work-life balance

Recognizing that women are still primary caregivers at home, many organizations now offer family-friendly benefits such as flex time, family care days and maternity top-ups. There is no doubt these programs help women with caregiving responsibilities bring their best to work. However, GPTW’s most recent research shows that for female job candidates, working for an organization that helps them maximize their potential is more important than simply offering parental benefits or work-life balance.

When women feel they make a difference at their organizations, they are 27 times more likely to say they are employed at a great place to work and six times more likely to stay with their companies for a long time.

Wage adjustments just a start

While everyone agrees that the current wage gap of 10 to 20 per cent in Canada needs to be addressed with wage adjustments, an organizational focus on re-adjusting wages doesn’t address the root cause of unjust differences in pay between men and women. To prevent the gender pay gap from widening, organizations need to put in place provisions that institutionalize fair and timely promotions leading to representative leadership.

For female job candidates, working for an organization that helps them maximize their potential is more important than simply offering parental benefits or work-life balance.

“We’re erasing our gender pay gap – again,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.

Salesforce, recently named to the U.S. Best Workplaces™ for Women list, is an example of an organization truly committed to fairness, inclusion and opportunity for women at all levels.

According to a recent blog posted by Salesforce, the need for yet another adjustment underscores the nature of pay equality – it is a moving target that must be consistently monitored and addressed. Though Salesforce is committed to reviewing employee compensation on an ongoing basis, that is just part of their overall strategy to create equity for women.

What’s good for the gander is good for the goose

Organizations that are great for women are great for men, too. Organizations named to the Best Workplaces™ for Women list have reduced inequality across personal and employment characteristics, and this includes men. Men working at the Best Workplaces™ for Women experienced a better culture than their counterparts at organizations with a larger gender gap. We know from our research that female colleagues place a high value on input, decision-making and being treated as a full member of the team to have an impact on its goals. These traits appeal to talented job candidates of any gender or background.

Best workplaces for women coming soon!

Want to learn how the Best Workplaces™ for Women reduce inequality by creating a culture of trust? The 2018 list of Best Workplaces™ for Women comes out on March 6, 2018. Follow GPTW on LinkedIn to receive this announcement first. 

Alison Grenier is the head of culture and research at Great Place to Work® Canada.

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