More Than a Pay Gap: The Wider Problem of Gender Inequality at Work

The gender pay gap exposes age-old structural deficiencies that organizations must now address

What does the gender pay gap really mean for forward-thinking organizations?

Whether it’s Hollywood stars speaking out against flagrant inequality or new legislation requiring UK companies to report the difference between what they pay their female and male employees, the gender pay gap is at long last getting the attention it deserves—from the media, politicians, organizations and ordinary people all over the globe.

While, in public debate, gender pay tends to be treated as a single topic, there are in reality two separate issues at play here. One is pay equity: that is, the extent to which women are paid less than men for doing the same job. The other is the gender pay gap: that is, the difference between the average pay for women and men across an organization.

The first issue is the most obvious and, arguably, the easiest fix. The second presents organizations with a more systemic challenge because, while differences in average pay may be due in part to pay inequality, they are more typically a product of female underrepresentation in the higher paid industries and functions, and in leadership roles.

Viewed in this way, the gender gap is a symptom of deeper structural problems and not just an issue that needs addressing in and of itself. If your organization has a lack of gender balance in the workforce, either because it is failing to advance women to the top or because it has a disproportionate number of women at the bottom, then women are not the only group of people it is likely to be failing.

In the future, the most successful companies will be those that manage to attract, retain, and harness the potential of everyone who has the talent they are looking for, and not just those who fi t the traditional template of what an ideal employee should be.

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