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Earning Power!: A Wage Gap Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Wage Gap Christmas Carol

Scrooge noticed that business was slow toward the end of the year. Holiday vacations, big deals already closed, and the plants shut down for two weeks meant he had a longer moment than usual to pause and consider a resolution to have a change of heart of his own.

You see, he picked up an article directed to the Fortune 500 and other business owners with female employees and learned two statistics that hadn't really settled with him before. First, that the pay gap was the number one concern of working women surveyed nationwide. Second, that by just raising women's pay 17 cents per dollar,that the nation's poverty levels could be cut in half.

He knew he could be paying women around 25% less than men, but he didn't want to think of himself as a Scrooge, or especially accused of one by his female employees. And yet he felt convicted and resolved that minute to make a change.

Scrooge learned that unlike the larger problems of discrimination and harassment that seemed so unyieldingly complicated, the wage gap was quantifiable and measurable. He liked that. And according to actions taken by the State of Minnesota, it took less than 4% of the cost of payroll to correct the gap for their female employees.

He knew his own payroll totals, and had never considered it would be such a low number of his own to do his part in correcting what seemed such a large national percentage. In fact, he didn't really know enough about it to be certain how making changes to his own payroll would change his company. But he thought, what I do matters, and it is the right thing to do.

Scrooge was able to take five easy steps to solve the problem immediately.

1) He realized the change must take place top down. He assigned a top sponsor in his organization the responsibility to solve the problem.
2) He understood that people might be confused by the proactive measure, but he stated the clear goal that the organization was only aiming to fix one thing, equal pay for equal performance to hard working women werecompensated the same as hard working men in those positions.
3) The sponsor he assigned went to and learned howto get an assessment. Quickly they audited with a free system available, and confirmed it with some consultants so they could have the correct information for the board and employees. Wow! There was a gap as Scrooge knew in his gut, but was to afraid to encounter.
4) Fear aside, the team corrected the results and payroll informed the affected women that they would get a raise. Rather than an angry reaction that they had been mistreated in the past, the women were amazed to be taken care of appropriately.
5) Finally, everyone decided that this deserved some publicity, andScooge's employees, male and female, enjoyed the upside of public congratulations in the form of additional sales.

Indeed, what an upside it was! Scrooge was a hero, and that felt good. Letters poured in from other companies, asking him how he did it. He proudly answered, "It was easy. I just evaluated, planned, deployed andcompleted it as a project with the help of a few key team members."

Scrooge's value to his peers was raised tremendously. They thought of him as the action-oriented guy to go who made things happen.

But the uspside continued in ways Scrooge hadn't considered. His company got a stronger competitive edge through increased diversity, it attractedand retained top talent longer, they got more access to resources, and decreased turnover.

In fact, what they'd been doing for years was illegal, and though they'd gotten away with it, they no longer had to hide from lawsuits and concern themselves with risk mitigation regarding equal pay.

Barriers between team members were removed and men and women in the company began to work more efficiently, with less suspicion and resentment. In short, the cooperation led to better time to market, increased profits and decreased capital outlay.

Scrooge was truly rich.

At that same time of year, little Tiny Tim sat at home ill when suddenly his mom came home with holiday presents galore. The news was that she would be earning $700,000 more over the course of her career because a man like Scrooge finally stood up for what was right. Tim had a working mother, who had seen her salary drop 2.5% for each child she had, just like U.S. Labor Bureau statistics show. Until Scrooge had measured that her productivity and reviews were outstanding, she thought maybe getting paid less was her fault somehow. Maybe she wasn't "playing the game" with the boys. She was overly self-critical and read a lot of advice books.

But now, she, Tiny Tim and his siblings could afford a down payment on ahouse that increased 30% in equity over the following year. She bought a reliable car for work and impressing clients, immediately increased her sales, and used the additional money to take care of Tim's healthcare, child care and educational needs.

With her worries aside, she radiated self-confidence and leadership at work. Having these things cared for increased Tim's mom's work-life balance and made her even more productive and loyal.

Thank you Scrooge, for looking into it. You're a good guy after all.

Happy Holidays. God Bless Us All, Every One.


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