An Honest Look at Closing the Gender and Racial Gap

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It’s time to get real about the data behind the gender and racial gap in salaries. While the gender gap is upwards of 20 cents on the dollar, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, when we talk about women engineers earning 83 cents compared with a man’s dollar, we are looking only at white and Asian women and white and Asian men. For LGBTQ women, there is a 3 percent difference compared with what their male counterparts earn, and for black women, there is an 11 percent difference compared with their white, male coworkers.

“This is a critical piece of the puzzle: closing the gender gap can’t happen if we don’t work to close the racial gap.

Filling in that gap for white women is not the end of the story — the gap isn’t fully closed until it is closed for all women. So how do we work toward overcoming this formidable obstacle? One obvious solution is to encourage transparency in the discussion of salaries in the workplace. But what can really make a difference in closing the racial pay gap is to revise the approach to data collection on wages. A recent report showed that most companies do not take race into account when comparing salaries, focusing mostly on gender. The report also found that ethnic minority women not only earn less than their white male counterparts, but also earn less than men of the same ethnicity, putting them at a double disadvantage. We need to be honest about the numbers — the pay gap must be an intersectional discussion that includes both race and gender The real gender gap needs to be based on the lowest-earning women. That is the only way to get to the core of this issue.

What Girls in Tech has been doing

Our educational programs and resources are created to support inclusivity. This is our core aim. By offering a diverse community of women equal access to a plethora of opportunities in the tech world, we want to help women from any background, from anywhere in the world realize that a career in tech is very much within their reach. As we increase the diversity and number of women in tech, the racial and gender gap will continue to be filled in.

We make this happen with a wide array of events for women at all levels in their career, including: bootcamps and workshops for those seeking to refine their skills, career fairs and a job board dedicated to helping women find their place in the tech world, an industry-leading and FREE mentorship program and a global conference that includes inspiring lectures from successful women in tech from around the world.

We are doing our part to close the racial and gender gap. But what can companies do? What can individuals do? Because everyone needs to do their part to take action and make a difference — and the opportunities to help are virtually limitless.

What companies can do

Companies must realize that closing the gap is the right thing to do — and it’s also good employees and for business. When your female employees are paid and treated as equals, when their talents and skills are acknowledged, they will feel more appreciated, which leads to higher productivity and less turnover.

Although certain states and countries have policies against using a new hire’s salary history and against workplace discrimination, human bias tends to creep in. To counter that, companies can provide unconscious-bias training to their staff. Another option: update your system for payroll management by using automated software. One major step that some companies have taken is to conduct a pay audit every year to compare how male and female employees, of all backgrounds, are being paid and promoted — and then correct any disparities.

Aside from taking these important steps in HR, work culture also needs to be adjusted to create an atmosphere of transparency when it comes to discussions of salary — something that is currently highly taboo. The company’s female employees, of all backgrounds, must feel encouraged to negotiate their salaries, instead of intimidated or dissuaded from it, due to the fear of hurting their chances for a promotion.

How individuals can make a difference

The simplest way for individuals to take action is to start locally. Join an organization to support women interested in tech, which helps diverse women forge ahead with confidence. Vote for local and state leaders who are in support of bills that help close the gap. Or if your workplace has a culture that supports the racial and gender gap, bring this up with your manager or with HR. Be sure you are prepared for the conversation: find out how your salary compares to others in your company doing a similar job, and read up on state and federal laws regarding equal pay, like the Equal Pay Act in the US.

Together we are stronger, and together we can erase the racial gap to create a truly equitable and inclusive future.


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