The Gender Penalty: Addressing Workplace Inequity

BY Wanly Chen | April 08, 2024

Studies show that despite recent movements for equal pay, no significant gender pay gap has been made in the last two decades. Women are still earning less than men, with some variance as high as 22%.

But the discrimination extends far beyond just the pay gap: from childbirth to menopause, women are also discriminated against for their life choices and in some cases, life stages, with  42% of working women reporting facing gender discrimination at their workplace.

In a From Day One webinar, Lydia Dishman, senior editor of growth and engagement at Fast Company, moderated a discussion among women in roles of leadership on how to achieve equality in the workplace.

Studies show that women are 41% more likely to experience toxic workplace culture than men, underlining the need for a culture revamp in companies.

According to recent research, one in three working parents stated they lacked access to a reliable workplace lactation location. The disparity shows that offering solutions is far more than checking off boxes, Teresa Hopke, CEO of Talking Talent said.

“Having a pumping room is a checkbox. So even if we check the box and we get the right rooms and accommodations for people, that’s not going to move the needle in the way that we need to in terms of the systemic change that needs to take place,” Hopke said.

For change, both workers and leaders need to be actively working to create the shift that they need, Hopke says.

Speakers from Talking Talent and KPMG joined moderated Lydia Dishman in a discussion about the role of gender in the workplace (photo by From Day One)

“There is some hard work that organizations need to do to create the right culture with the right mindsets, behaviors, conditions, and structures that will support women as they advance through their careers,” Hopke said. “There is also work that women need to do to articulate their needs and not suffer in silence when the load gets too hard.”

When asked about allyship, seventy-seven percent of white employees consider themselves allies to women of color. However, far fewer replied to actively participating in allyship, with only 39 percent stating they confront discrimination when they see it, and 21 percent stating they advocate for new opportunities for women of color.

“If you are not taking any of those ally actions regularly, you’re not moving things forward in a positive way,” Marcee Harris Schwartz, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at KPMG, said. “We have to think about how we activate allyship whether that’s taking someone under your wing who comes from a different background or experiences so that it has an impact.”

When asked about biases at work, 83% of employees stated that the biases they experienced were subtle and indirect. In one work case, Renu Sachdeva, head of client solutions at Talking Talent, found this to be true.

“We asked leaders to pick people to actively sponsor who belonged to these identity groups. And when the results came back in, we found a majority of them had selected white women, the next most selected group was men of color, and the least selected group was women of color,” Sachdeva said.

The findings weren’t surprising, Sachdeva says. Research has found that white people demonstrate a clear bias for other white people, affecting workplace processes from hiring to promotion. Challenging biases is key to moving allyship in the right direction, Sachdeva said.

“If you’re talking about the majority, corporate America is usually white men in most organizations, so the highest level of comfort tends to be with white women because there’s a relational aspect to it,” Sachdeva said. “But with intentionality, we need to consciously choose to connect with [different] people to mentor, sponsor or be an ally to because that’s usually the group that gets the most overlooked and left behind.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Talking Talent, for sponsoring this webinar.

Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.


RELATED STORIES

Optimizing Tech and Data to Recruit Top Candidates

With every new wave of tech, there comes the fear that it will make some workers obsolete, but when it comes to artificial intelligence eclipsing recruiters, they needn’t worry, said Steve Bartel, CEO and co-founder of AI-powered recruiting platform Gem. “AI is nowhere close to completely replacing jobs. I think for a long time, maybe forever, AI is going to be more of a co-pilot. My read is that AI is going to really speed us up.”Bartel, whom I spoke to during a From Day One webinar on how employers are using the latest in AI to make hiring more effective and efficient, says there are two reasons AI will help rather than hinder talent acquisition.First, companies are drowning in applications. “Thirty percent of our customers are seeing 1,000-plus applicants for a [single] job,” he said. Second, at the same time applications are flowing in by the thousands, talent acquisition teams are being asked to do more with less. “They’re being asked to backfill tons of critical roles. As hiring starts to pick up, a lot of recruiting teams are left under-resourced and under-budgeted.”For overloaded teams, well-deployed AI can be like a rocket booster for recruiting programs, letting humans do what they do best. Artificial intelligence will automate the most manual and painfully tedious parts of the job: for instance, writing the first draft of an outreach email and even personalizing that copy. It can conceive and deliver candidate nurture campaigns that support long-term client relationships. But it can’t fly alone, nor should it. Ultimately, only people can recruit employees into companies.“A lot of us got into recruiting because we really care about bringing great people into the organization, we really care about forging amazing relationships with candidates,” he said. “AI is not going to be able to replace the human touch. In fact, it’s going to free us up to provide a better candidate experience.”Journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza interviewed Steve Bartel of Gem during the From Day One webinar about recruiting top candidates (photo by From Day One)According to Gem’s own research, 73% of companies today are exploring investment in AI for recruitment automation. A few years ago, the share of employers with such plans was a fraction of that. Directives are coming down from the C-suite, and the imperative is to start using AI–but many still aren’t clear on the use cases or where it’s most beneficial.At the mercy of vague orders, talent acquisition teams are moving quickly to comply, and they risk making mistakes. The first mistake Bartel sees is not fully vetting a vendor or tech platform; one way to do that is to look under the hood at the information feeding it and the tech powering it.“A lot of AI demos really well, but when you actually use it in practice, that’s where you run into making pretty silly mistakes, quite honestly,” Bartel said. “Try to run a real trial based on your own data and use cases. Talk to customers to validate that it actually works once you deploy.”A good recruiting platform also works with your current tech stack. If it doesn’t, recruiters risk cold-contacting current candidates, recent event attendees, or runners-up for interviews. You may end up spamming your existing talent pool, and ultimately damaging your employer brand.Further, some platforms may be running on outdated information. “A lot of vendors are still on these legacy AI stacks that they’ve invested 10 years into building, but that are suddenly obsolete,” he said.But recruiters don’t have the time to be bogged down with stale information. “My number-one theory continues to be that recruiting teams are being asked to do more with less and that they’re overworked,” said Bartel. Tech should take a load off the shoulders of recruiting teams. The standard is now a customer-grade candidate experience, and unless talent acquisition is given the room to provide it, recruiting will suffer.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Gem, for sponsoring this webinar. Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 20, 2024

Elevate Employee Engagement: Smart Strategies for Thriving Teams on a Budget

Employees crave meaningful experiences. But with limited time and budgets, how can companies build more purpose into the work experience? Fifteen minutes at a time, says Ben Sampson.Sampson is chief evangelist of social impact and employee engagement at WizeHive, which offers software platforms for managing scholarships and workplace giving, as well as immersive volunteer experiences via WeHero. At a From Day One’s webinar, Sampson spoke to the idea of how turnkey volunteering can increase employee engagement on a budget. Kelly Bourdet of Apparata Media interviewed.Coming from a volunteer background, Sampson knew how engaging it can be to help others.  One thing led to another, and he eventually co-founded WeHero to help facilitate opportunities for employees to engage in volunteering experiences through their workplace. “We're constantly looking at what employees need,” he said. More and more, he’s learned that employees want to work for a company with purpose. They want to go to work and feel like it makes a good social impact. Some potential employees even ask about those opportunities during hiring. On the flip side, employees are also extremely conscious of their time. “How can we be time sensitive to get employees engaged in our companies, and give them a good experience of continuously engaging over and over again?” Sampson asked. In the past, companies would typically ask employees to go out and find their own volunteer opportunities, then spend time out of the office. While employees love giving back, putting the burden of doing all the legwork doesn’t fit within time constraints or even company budgets. The key, Sampson and his team have learned, is meeting the company and the employees where they are and giving back their most valuable resource: their time.Journalist Kelly Bourdet interviewed Ben Sampson of WizeHive during the From Day One webinar (photo by From Day One)Companies big or small, hybrid or in-office, local or global, all can better engage through impact experiences. Having WizeHive take care of the burden of logistics allows employees to enjoy the process of volunteering without a lot of extra time while maximizing their impact. “Bite size volunteer opportunities make a lot of impact,” Sampson said. “Maybe that's building a water filter for 15 minutes out of your workday, maybe that is answering a video call from someone that’s visually disabled that needs help finding the bus stop. Volunteering can be a great way for engaging employees in a low-cost mechanism.”At one company with an office and a warehouse, Sampson says the warehouse personnel generally didn’t have the time to participate in volunteer projects. So they set up a station where all employees could put together backpacks with supplies for kids during lunch or a break. Warehouse employees felt more included and engaged.“They even got to see the kids picking up the backpacks, so that was really special,” Sampson said. Even though the project took very little time and employees didn’t even need to leave the workplace to do it, the project still had a big impact on the community.One thing to focus on when rolling out opportunities is showing the clear path to impact. What will be the result of putting in their time? Virtual events are especially popular, Sampson says, as more people can participate in them and they fit most budgets. Sampson’s team can also help match people with specific skills to volunteer opportunities. Doing transcription work for the Smithsonian or Ancestry are just two examples of something people can do that have a clear path of impact—saving pieces of history and helping people connect with ancestors. Leadership buy-in is crucial for success, Sampson says. Companies where leadership is engaged and participating in impact projects correlate highly with employee participation and engagement as well. Mercedes is one company where the CEO works alongside employees during their volunteer experiences, connecting employees with leadership and allowing them to see each other outside the typical work setting.But sometimes getting that leadership buy-in can be challenging. “What is something the HR side can use to argue for the value?” Bourdet asked Sampson.To understand what’s most important to that leader, likely profitability for the company, then offering metrics or other reasons why volunteerism is the answer. If that leader is focused on employee retention, Sampson has a metric for that. “What are the costs of employee turnover? For a lot of businesses that we work with, it’s millions of dollars.” So, if employee engagement improves through these impact projects, it could save the company money. For one company they were working with, Sampson predicted a $26 million savings over 12 months, if done effectively. “There is so much positive emotion when people volunteer.” One employee who was able to volunteer for the first time told Sampson, “It’s cool that my employer has given me the opportunity to do this.” Now that’s employee engagement. Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, WizeHive, for sponsoring this webinar.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | May 17, 2024

Navigating the Future of Business With Resilience and Innovation

When Amy Letke, national practice leader, HR consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency talks about innovative HR strategy, she points to one of her clients as a perfect example. This company has a workplace with harsh conditions that most of us would find unattractive. It’s a meatpacking company where employees often find themselves working in below-freezing temperatures and less-than-competitive pay. Yet its attrition rate is remarkably low.The client told her, “We’ve invested in our people, we’ve conducted leadership training, we’ve had to reorganize. We’ve [also] had to go back to our leaders and say, ‘You’ve got to like your people, to talk to them, and be compassionate to their needs.’” Letke shared this story in a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s D.C. event. By offering a holistic benefits package and engaging not just the employees, but also their families with a welcoming company culture, this organization convinced workers not only to stay, but to thrive in a very tough job.In a dynamic business environment, adaptation is essential to stay competitive. Organizations face unprecedented challenges and opportunities, demanding a blend of resilience and innovation. Letke offered an enlightening presentation on how to navigate and excel in this landscape, with insights, strategies, and actionable advice to thrive amid evolving industry trends.Workplace Challenges in 2024Letke says employers face three major challenges this year, each of which offers opportunities to be more effective with your HR benefits strategy. First, is attracting and retaining talent. The second, she says, is getting more done with less. And finally, the third is the rapid technological advancement happening.Covid prepared HR teams to deal with rapidly changing circumstances, she says. “HR teams have to be resilient. And we always are renewing and invigorating ourselves.” She offers several hallmarks of a resilient HR structure, including a coaching for leaders, a handbook that addresses time off and other work policies, up-to-date job descriptions, and a readiness to handle tough conversations, among others. By consistently analyzing your infrastructure and making sure the latest trends and policies are incorporated, you can stay ahead of any challenges coming down the line.Creating an Effective StrategyIn addition to staying on top of trends and keeping HR infrastructure updated, it’s also about attitude and company culture. “When we become a leader, we’ve got to realize what we’re signing up for,” Letke said. “It means we have to be compassionate, caring, [and] we have to listen.” This sometimes requires training, she says.Amy Letke,  National Practice Leader, HR Consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency led the thought leadership spotlight in D.C.Resilient infrastructure can create a resilient culture with exceptional supervisors. These leaders give the frontline workforce the support that they need and can often make an organization more attractive even when the pay is not as competitive due to budget cuts in a challenging economy. It also means that leaders should be held accountable for employee turnover, as their attitude and care should be driving the culture that inspires retention and loyalty.Workers satisfied with every element of the employee experience are happier and feel more successful, appreciated, and have a greater sense of belonging, Letke says. These elements include pay and compensation, purposeful work, culture, and flexibility. “This list shows how we as leaders can deliver care throughout our organization,” Letke said, and should be a guiding principle behind HR strategy.Having an Effective Benefits Strategy“Offering good employee benefits is just basic, everybody expects it,” Letke said, especially post-pandemic. So she encourages leaders to be more creative with their benefits strategy in order to stay competitive. A recent Marsh McLennan study showed that one in three employees would forgo a pay increase in return for additional well-being offerings for themselves and their families. “Being able to support your employees’ well-being is something we are seeing as an emerging trend, so thinking about those benefits is a way you can differentiate your company from others,” she said.Letke identifies four key areas of focus as opportunities to be more effective with your benefits strategy:Personalization: Give employees choices.Segmentation: Understand the different segments of employees and their needs. Centralization: To curb spending, there will likely be a centralization of tech platforms and human support options for HR teams. Empathy: Be there for your employees.A comprehensive benefits program incorporates the needs of every generation in the workforce, whose needs can look quite different. For example, Gen X might want remote work, flexible scheduling, caregiving benefits, and retirement planning, while Gen Z might prioritize student loan repayment, financial planning assistance, and training and development.Many workplaces have multiple generations represented among the workforce, so “managing to the needs of these generations is critical,” Letke said.Ultimately, HR success is about cultivating a mindset of innovation, Letke says. If HR has become a “check the box” compliance function, you’re doing it wrong. “Our job is to lead, inspire, and help others understand the impact they can make on the employee experience,” Letke said.Intention, compassion, and empathy is how winning organizations do it. A holistic approach to leadership that includes every element of an employees’ experience – both at work and at home – can make for a sustainable, forward-thinking, and highly attractive workplace.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Marsh McLennan Agency, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | May 09, 2024