Top 3 Smart Ideas to End the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is a longstanding, frustrating, and unfair part of everyday life in the American economy — but is there anything that can be done to fix it? As of 2022, according to Pew Research, women in the U.S. earned about $0.82 for every dollar earned by men. Men are often more likely than women to get higher paying corporate jobs; only about 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Meanwhile, women are often more likely to work in lower-paid occupations like child care, domestic work, and home health aides.

McKinsey research from the Women in the Workplace 2023 report shows that, although women make up 48% of entry-level corporate employees, women are only 28% of the C-suite. There’s a huge dropoff for women in the corporate talent pipeline between entry level talent and C-level executives; not a “glass ceiling,” perhaps, but a “broken rung” on the career ladder. Women are being diverted from the highest-paying, most ambitious career paths.

Fortunately, forward-thinking companies have options to level the playing field in ways that help make work a better deal for everyone — women and men. Let’s look at a few good ideas that could help end the gender pay gap.

1. Formal mentoring programs (for women and men)

Career mentoring is one of the best ways to improve your professional skills and for organizations to prepare promising young talent for upper management jobs. A recent article in Bloomberg cited research showing that formal mentoring programs can increase the number of women in management positions by 10%. And these mentoring programs should be open to everyone, regardless of gender.

The research suggests that when women get access to formal mentoring, they’re often faster to sign up than men. Women also tend to be more likely to use formal mentoring to build relationships with upper management and connect to better career networks. A formal mentoring program can help women boost their professional value, and get tapped for promotions, in ways that might not otherwise happen for them through informal channels.

2. Child care benefits and parental leave

Women’s careers shouldn’t have to suffer just because they decide to have children or take time to serve as caregivers for other family members. But too often, women have had to take time out of the paid workforce so they can take care of family. Smart companies are trying to find ways to support people as caregivers, and in their careers.

Bloomberg also cited research from Harvard Business Review which found that, when companies offer child care benefits, it boosts the numbers of women who go on to get promoted to management. This study of 800 companies found that, seven years after offering child care vouchers and on-site child care centers, companies saw significant increases in the percentage of women and people of color who are retained and promoted to management.

As Sarah Green Carmichael writes in Bloomberg, “When a company introduces child care benefits, it affords greater career stability to everyone. And that stability, in turn, gives a wider array of people a chance to climb the ladder.”

3. Flexible, remote, and hybrid work

One positive change to happen during the COVID-19 pandemic was the rise of remote work and flexible schedules for people formerly known as “office” workers. Remote work was a game changer for working mothers, because this made it easier for moms to manage their careers and their caregiving roles. Working from home can make it easier for women to stay in the workforce, keep their careers and bank accounts on track — and still be there for their families.

But flexible work and remote work is not just about being able to pick up kids at school and do a load of laundry during the workday; remote work is unlocking women’s productivity and career potential. McKinsey’s research also found that women have become more ambitious since the pandemic — and flexible work is helping to shape that ambition.

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2023 report found:

  • 80% of women want to be promoted, compared to 70% in 2019
  • 1 in 5 women say “flexibility has helped them stay in their job or avoid reducing their hours”
  • A majority of women say that when they work remotely, they have “more focused time to get their work done”
  • A large number of women say that a primary benefit of remote or hybrid work is “feeling less fatigued and burned out”

Women aren’t the only employees who love flexible, remote, and hybrid work; men see it as a valuable employee benefit too. But flexible work could be the biggest change of the 21st century (so far) to help women get more of what they want out of their careers and their personal lives.

Bottom line

The gender pay gap has been stubbornly persistent for many years, but there are signs of hope. If employers adopt just a few smart policies, women can get a fairer chance to thrive in their careers, get promotions and pay raises, and stay on track for higher paying jobs.

These ideas to end the gender pay gap are not just good for women. Formal mentoring programs, caregiver benefits, and flexible work can ultimately make the workplace more inclusive and more family-friendly. Ending the gender pay gap can ultimately make work and life better for everybody.

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