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Equal pay for women could take 9 years

It may take women nine years to achieve equal pay with men, but the momentum is happening slightly faster for younger women, according to a new study.

An analysis of workforce data from 4,000 firms found that pay for women has improved 6 cents in three years. It also found that women are still paid less than men, earning 83 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a study by Visier Inc.

The Visier study estimated that at this rate, equal pay for women may be about nine years away.

Visier, a people and workforce analytics firm, used anonymized client data representing more than 9 million employee records and compared the pay progress of 700,000 U.S. employees from 2017 to 2020. Its study covers all industries, as well as hourly and salary workers.

"There are organizations that are doing the right thing," said Lexy Martin, head of research and customer value at Visier, a firm based in Vancouver, B.C. But "we need to improve," she said.

Martin said it will still take time to reach a point for equal pay for women. While pay raises are happening for women, they aren't issued in bulk. But Visier's research shows that younger women ages 25 to 30 are seeing the most wage gains. "It's easier to make that pay increase for people coming into the workforce or at lower wages," she said.

Martin said broader social trends, including the #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter protests, are helping propel equal pay forward. Firms are "paying a lot of attention to correcting inequity," she said.

We need to improve.
Lexy MartinHead of research and customer value, Visier

Visier analysis isn't an outlier

Other studies back up Visier's findings. For instance, in a report last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said that women earn 82.3% of what men earn, "and the gap is even wider for many women of color." It found, for example, that Black women with advanced degrees earn 70% of what white male counterparts earn.

The Labor Department's report also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected hurdles for women. Layoffs and lack of child care have forced many women out of the workforce.

"There's clearly a lot of work to be done, but it is possible to level the playing field for working women by increasing transparency around wages across the board, disrupting occupational segregation, expanding access to paid leave and child and elder care, and creating more good union jobs," said Janelle Jones, the chief economist for the Dept. of Labor, in the report.

In California, one step toward leveling the playing field is the "California Equal Pay Pledge," which launched in 2019 and asks companies to commit to conducting an annual gender pay analysis, as well as reviewing hiring and promotional practices. On Wednesday, eight more firms signed on, including Adobe and Twitter, bringing the total number of firms that have taken the pledge to 65.

California said women earn 88 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to U.S. data it cites from 2017.

Patrick Thibodeau covers human capital management and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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