I originally published this post in advance of a panel event commemorating Equal Pay Day. The event involved a lively discussion on the gender pay gap, as well as how best to communicate the issue of equal pay in our current political climate. For additional information on the gender pay gap, follow this blog! For additional information on other WBA events, check out the website here. If you have questions about whether you may have equal pay claims, feel free to contact our firm at 202-499-5206.
Earlier this month, on April 4, we commemorated Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into this year women must work in order to earn what men earned in the previous year. You read that right – we are already in the second quarter of 2017 and we’ve just caught up to what men made last year. And these calculations are based on the median incomes of all full-time, year-round employees – the gap is much larger for women of color. Compounded over a lifetime, women are shortchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars in their careers. The gap exists for women in all sectors of employment, including attorneys. In fact, last year the legal search firm of Major, Lindsey, and Africa released a study finding that average compensation for male law firm partners is approximately 44% higher than for female partners.
So what’s going on here and what can we do about it? Join the Women’s Bar Association and Sanford Heisler Sharp for a panel discussion to commemorate Equal Pay Day on Wednesday, April 26 held at Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Washington, DC office. I will join fellow panelists Deborah J. Vagins, Chief of Staff and Principal Attorney Advisor for U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Charlotte Burrows and formerly Senior Legislative Counsel for Civil Rights at the American Civil Liberties Union; and Maya Raghu, Director of Workplace Equality and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center to discuss these issues. Here’s a short taste of what you will hear!
Kate – In my work as an employment lawyer, I find that a lot of women are being paid less than their male colleagues without their knowledge. On more than one occasion, I have had women come to me looking for a sexual harassment lawyer, only to find out later through discovery that they earn substantially less than their male co-workers and may also have a pay discrimination case. I am interested in hearing from Deb on the EEOC’s take on this issue and from Maya on what companies and law firms can do to tackle it.
Deb – The EEOC has made equal pay a top national priority, and it has also been a passion of mine throughout my career. Enforcement of employment laws like the Equal Pay Act and Title VII has helped change the landscape for women and workers of color. Yet, today, more than 50 years after passage of these laws, there are still significant gender- and race-based pay gaps. When women and workers of color take home less than they have rightfully earned it hurts everyone – workers and their families, employers, and the nation’s economy. I’m happy to say the EEOC has prioritized this work. Since 2010, the EEOC has investigated over 30,000 charges and obtained more than $184 million dollars for those who have faced pay discrimination. But there is still more for all of us to do to fully close the wage gaps, which we will discuss at our April 26 presentation.
Maya – In addition to strong laws and enforcement, we recognize that employer efforts are also essential to advancing equal pay. In recent years, a number of companies have taken proactive steps to not only identify and address but also prevent gender wage gaps in their own workforces. These companies understand that bias, whether conscious or unconscious, can impact decisions at critical points – recruitment, hiring, performance evaluations and promotions, allocation of assignments and opportunities, and opportunities for advancement and leadership development – which not only create pay disparities but perpetuate and magnify them over time. Some promising employer practices we have seen include pay audits; internal transparency regarding the discussion of pay and salaries for positions; and standardization of compensation-setting practices, including establishing objective metrics and limiting the use of salary history and negotiation. I look forward to discussing these efforts and others to close the wage gap on April 26.
Click here for registration information. We look forward to seeing you soon!