Every year on September 18th, International Equal Pay Day is celebrated as a reminder of the continued gender pay gap that exists worldwide in the workforce. While progress has been made in recent years, women still earn, on average, only 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts (less for women of color). As leaders in our organizations and in the legal industry, it’s our responsibility to take action to create pay equity. In this blog, we’ll explore what pay equity is, why it matters, and what to do if you find your firm falling short.
What is pay equity?
Pay equity refers to the principle that all team members should receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics. I’ve spoken with firm leaders who hear this and think it means that every paralegal should make the exact same amount. Of course, there is room for nuance, and that’s where pay ranges come in. A pay range allows you some flexibility to account for differences in things like education level, years of experience, and stellar performance reviews. Pay equity does not mean every person in the same job receives the exact same pay. Pay equity does mean that those doing the same job or jobs requiring similar skills all fall into the range set for that position. When we create pay equity in our organizations, we are ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and with respect.
Why does pay equity matter?
Creating pay equity in your firm is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. When we pay all employees fairly, we increase employee morale and engagement, boost productivity, and decrease turnover. Additionally, organizations that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion are more likely to both attract and retain top talent. By creating a workplace where everyone is valued and treated fairly, we also contribute to a more just and equitable society.
The employment landscape has been the wild, wild west since COVID-19 began. It’s still considered an employee market, and younger generations have shed the fear and secrecy surrounding discussions of pay. Your team members are likely much more comfortable openly discussing their pay and actively seek organizations with pay equity. Employment laws protect them in having these open discussions. That’s right: It’s both perfectly legal and healthy for your team members to discuss their pay. Your team members are talking, and you’d be wise to create a culture of pay transparency if you want to continue to attract and retain the best people.
As a leader of people, there have been times in my career where I’ve had access to payroll and seen firsthand how a well-meaning organization can end up with serious and disheartening pay disparities. It happens innocently enough. We ask candidates about their past salary history and base their current pay on that, leaving women and people of color in an impossibly deep hole and inheriting the inequities they’ve likely experienced throughout their careers. That’s why it’s critical to pay by the job and not by the candidate! We capitulate to people asking for a raise that puts them outside their pay range because we are scared to lose them. We cave to threats and end up on the losing end of negotiations, giving a squeaky wheel all the grease while dedicated and excellent team members continue to work hard and hope their efforts will be rewarded when the time is right. That’s not leadership, and it’s certainly not smart business. We get too busy to keep up with market trends. We see the insurance renewal numbers, we know how much the team-building activities cost, and we speak with other firms who don’t provide the work environment we do. We get jaded and think our people should be grateful and should know our grass is the greenest. We feel personally hurt when they ask for a raise or a salary review. This “pay by default and feeling” strategy is hurting our businesses and creating pay disparities. There is a better way.
How to conduct a pay audit
Instead of operating on one-sided negotiations, past pay, feelings, and possibly deep-seated unintentional bias, conduct a pay audit of your organization. This is a crucial step in creating pay equity. A pay audit involves analyzing your organization’s pay practices to identify any discrepancies and ensure all employees are being paid fairly for their work. Here are some steps to follow when conducting a pay audit:
Creating pay equity in our organizations is both a moral and business imperative. By committing to this principle, we can create a workplace where everyone is valued and treated fairly and which attracts and retains top talent. Pay equity isn’t just about compliance; it’s about doing what’s right and ensuring every single member of your team is on an equal playing field. We work in the legal industry, where you and your firm fight daily to ensure justice – Let’s commit to creating a more equal and just legal industry by prioritizing pay equity in our organizations.