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  • Writer's pictureHolly Corbett

Equal Pay Day 2021: Pandemic Impact And How To Close The Wage Gap

Today, March 23, 2021, is Equal Pay Day, which signifies how far into the new year the average woman must work to be paid what the average white man was paid the previous year.

This year’s Equal Pay Day is especially important, as the pandemic may be sending us backwards when it comes to gender equality.

We know that women have left the workforce at a rate four times higher than men during the pandemic, with Black women and women of color leaving at higher rates.

We know the fact that the majority of the caregiving responsibilities continuing to fall on women’s shoulders is a huge factor underlying women being pushed out of the workplace.

We know that women and people of color make up the majority of the frontline workers.

Here is what the research shows about why we’re having this Equal Pay conversation in 2021: Women on average make 82 cents on the dollar for what a white, non-Hispanic man makes. However, the wage gap widens based on race and parental status. Many women need to work even longer to catch up to men’s earnings.

Asian American and Pacific Islander women make 85 cents

  • White women make 79 cents

  • Mothers are paid 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers

  • Black women are paid 63 cents

  • Native American women are paid 60 cents

  • Latinx women are paid 55 cents

At the rate we’re going, it will take more than 250 years to close the wage gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. This is not only a social issue, but also an economic issue: Closing the wage gap could add $2.1 trillion to the U.S. economy, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

I spoke to a number of women leaders to talk about the pandemic’s impact on gender equality, and what needs to happen to close the gap.

Gender Equality Is Good For Business

“From an organizational standpoint, there's research that shows organizations with higher numbers of women in executive positions financially outperform their counterparts. If we think about the trajectory of the future, and what's going to set the highest organizations apart in terms of not only financial benefit, but also in terms of top talent and sustainability, the numbers speak for themselves. It seems absolutely ludicrous for anyone to say, ‘Oh, we don't need to focus on [gender equality].’”

~Maria Morukian, President of MSM Global Consulting

Crunch The Numbers And Do The Right Thing

“Oftentimes companies are so worried about the immediate reaction of discovering and unpacking that disastrous pay gap, that they're afraid to even look. It is so important for leaders to detach ourselves from the shame and pain. [Analyze salaries], acknowledge what you find, and then take responsibility to do something about it. We have to move past the fear that people are going to be angry at us and quit, and know that the long-term impact you'll have is going to be much bigger than the immediate reaction.”

~Mandy Bynum Mc Laughlin, CEO and co-founder of the Race Equ(al)ity Project

The Pandemic May Amplify The Motherhood Penalty

“I do worry that we will see an amplification of the stereotyping of caregivers, with employers making all sorts of assumptions about women who have caregiving needs. These stereotypes may impact women’s ability to get hired in the first place, get promoted, or get an opportunity that makes the difference between moving up or not, based on nothing except biases and perceptions that mothers do less. That perception already existed before the pandemic. This last year, with our care infrastructure crumbling, may make this bias all the more potent.”

~Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women's Law Center

Flexible Schedules Must Also Be Predictable

“We often talk about [caregivers needing] flexibility, but I actually think predictability is the true justice issue. If you think about the frontline workers, the majority of which are women of color, they need not only flexibility but also predictability of schedules. That has been missing for a really long time. Lacking predictability doesn't allow people to have any psychological safety. It doesn't allow people to make money when you are getting penalized for [not being able to work at any time]. Caregivers need predictability, because you have to know when you're going to be working if you're also going to be taking care of children. It's really important that leaders think about predictability and flexibility as a workplace issue that's available to everyone.”

~Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play

From The Ideal Worker To The Ideal Workplace

“The wage gap gets created over time. It starts when you get hired at a lower wage from the beginning of your career, because the hiring practices are wrong. It grows when you are unable to meet the expectations of the ideal worker, because you have demands at home, don’t have paid leave and you lack predictable scheduling. It grows even wider when you get to the top of the scale, because you've been unable to meet the ideal worker expectations [that were not created for women, but for men]. So you don't get promoted. Let's shift the paradigm, and start talking about ideal workplaces. How do we want our workplaces to be structured so we'll get the most out of all of our employees and help everybody to be productive? I hope we are at a moment where companies and public policy makers will start to make the transformational changes we need to really have a 21st century workplace.”

~Tina Tchen, President and CEO of TIME'S UP Now and the TIME'S UP Foundation

Article originally published in Forbes.


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