It’s Equal Pay Day—the day that represents the average number of days women in the United States have to work to make the equivalent salary of a white male counterpart. Since white women on average make $0.80 for every dollar that their male coworkers make, we find ourselves in April. The day moves further out into the year, however, if you’re a mom ($0.71) or a Black woman ($0.61), Native woman ($0.58), or Latinx woman ($0.53), according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Let’s be clear: Equal Pay Day is an anti-holiday. Its purpose is to remind us that even as things are changing in the world, we still have work to do to make sure women’s labor is equally valued.
So how do we solve for equal pay? When you look at the full picture of a woman’s career, the best solutions come from a partnership between the individual and the organization she works for. It’s also critical to understand that solving for equal pay means closing the underlying systemic gaps that perpetuate the problem. Here are five gaps that, when closed, can accelerate equal pay for everyone.
1. Close the care gap.
Providing paid family leave like the supportive work that the The Riveter is doing with other founders is one way to keep working mothers in the workforce. Helping reduce costs around creating a family and caregiving can help women bring more of their income into their bank account and make sure they come back to companies after they take family leave. Flexible work schedules can also help close the care gap. Gallup reported in 2016 that 43% of Americans work remotely, and that number will only grow. Being able to time-shift work is another great tactic to help working moms (and all parents) create meaningful work/life integration.
2. Close the leadership gap.
Part of why the pay gap has been stuck at 20 percent is women are not advancing within many organizations. To be meaningfully promoted into executive positions requires that employers make promotion schedules and metrics clear. Employers can empower staff to negotiate for opportunities to lead teams and take on management responsibilities, in addition to getting more pay. Doing so helps the employee and also can help grow the business.
3. Close the skill gap. Part of closing the pay gap happens when more women and moms embark on STEM careers. That might help enhance a current job, or help someone pivot into a higher paying career. Taking leadership classes or getting project management certification can also help accelerate promotion and help women into executive positions. On the employer side, companies can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free tuition reimbursement, so everyone wins.
4. Close the retirement and investment gap. A 2018 study by Merrill Lynch found that 61 percent of women would rather talk about death than talk about their retirement investments. This is a big problem, since women stand to lose up to a million dollars over a 35-year span when they don’t invest their money. The path to real wealth is found in creating financial assets. Not every employer can offer 401K contributions, but even offering investment classes or access to financial advisors can help employees close the investment gap.
5. Close the student debt gap – More women than men are going to college, which means women are more likely to shoulder an increased amount of student debt than in the past. One new trend for employers is to help employees pay down their student loans. While this is still income and subject to taxes, it’s proven to help alleviate the crushing burden of student loans while also helping retain great staff.
Tanya Tarr writes about negotiation, equal pay and the future of work for Forbes. Follow her on Twitter.