HR’s Role in Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap

The U.S. Equal Pay Act of 1963 mandated that women and men in workplaces be paid equally for equal work. Despite this mandate, 53 years later women are still only making an average of 80 cents for every dollar made by men in the workplace. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the pay gap will not close until 2059 if the same pace is kept.

While the reasons for this continued inequality are complex, HR stands at the heart of addressing the matter and making changes that will help to attain equality in pay sooner. The following are a few ways that HR can work to eliminate pay gaps in each workplace, eventually making a larger impact on the workforce as a whole.

Basing Salary on Qualifications

One issue that has been identified as helping to carry over inequities in pay is the common practice of asking employee applicants how much they were paid at a previous job. Most companies will only offer a salary that is equal to or slightly higher than the most recent job. If gender discrimination played a role in the salary of a prior position, the discrimination will carry over through this practice.

Massachusetts took action to prevent this occurrence by making it illegal for employers to ask how much candidates were paid at their previous jobs. Workplaces can take similar actions ahead of time. By taking initiative to eliminate questions about prior salary from applications, HR can work to create a culture that bases pay on qualifications.

Eliminating Biases in Recruiting

Biases in recruiting are tough to address and overcome, especially because many biases are subconscious and begin the moment a recruiter sees a candidate’s name. Due to these roadblocks, it may take unconventional methods to eliminate biases from recruiting.

One way that was found to be effective was to temporarily hide identifying information like names from applications until the applicants reached a certain point in the hiring process. By forcing recruiters to look only at qualifications, it becomes virtually impossible to discriminate when it comes to deciding position or pay.

Creatively Mitigating Career Interruptions

Many women take time off from work to give birth, raise children, or care for relatives with health problems or disabilities. The percentage of women that experience these career interruptions is disproportionate to the number of men and often adversely affects career opportunities, raises, and promotions.

HR can help to mitigate career interruptions, but it may take some creativity. Paid leave can help to prevent women from quitting a job to care for a child or other relative. Flexible scheduling or expanded telecommuting options may help women to keep a job while still being able to meet other obligations.

Using Analytics to Identify Inequities

Analytics can be very helpful in identifying inequalities that should be addressed in the workplace. Reports can show HR professionals at a glance how many women work in executive positions within the company, starting salaries for men versus women, and other areas that may reveal discriminatory practices. By increasing awareness, HR may figure out exactly how to best address issues that contribute to the pay gap.

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