It’s going to take another 300 years…

to achieve gender equality…

It’s International Women’s Day today: are you celebrating? I’m not, and the reason is obvious. I look at my social feeds and see all these companies posting support for their female workers. And all I can think is: if you want to show some real support for women, how about giving them the same compensation as men? If you haven’t established that, why are you even posting?

There is an awesome Twitter account (yes, remember Twitter?) @PayGapApp that holds companies in the UK accountable. When a company tweets about #IWD2023, they will retweet it and call out the gender pay gap at that company, from this year and last, so you can see if the company actually made any progress. It’s a bit shocking to see that at many companies the gender pay gap is wider this year than last. Clearly, we have work to do.

It has not been a great year for women’s rights:
– We obviously haven’t erased the gender pay gap
– There are more countries rolling back women’s rights than advancing them
– Fewer girls are in school than before the pandemic
– Only 15% of CEOs at Fortune500 companies are women
– Women-led startups raised only 1.9% of all VC funding in 2022
– And my 22-year old niece deals with the same gender-bias nonsense I faced in my career (at least she’s not putting up with any of it)

Last Monday, UN Chief Antonio Guterres warned that “global progress on women’s and girl’s rights is vanishing before our eyes”. 2022 has been a bad year in many countries around the world. He also mentioned that gender equality is an increasingly distant goal “that will take another three centuries to achieve.

Three hundred years! And even if he’s wrong and it’s only a third of that, that is still a hundred years. Which means not even your great grandchildren will enjoy gender equality during their lives. Is that what you want for them? More importantly, is that what you want for your daughters today? I certainly don’t want that for my niece, who’s just starting her career. I want her to have every opportunity, and be treated as her male colleagues.

Just think of all that female talent being under-appreciated, under-utilized and under-paid. Just think that if we made a few changes, that labor shortage we are all dealing with could be less painful and a bit smaller. We know what we have to do, we just keep postponing it.

Equal pay for equal work in the EU

And I get it, closing the pay gap is costly. With the EU Directive on Equal Pay coming up, I’m introducing this topic to many HR leaders. By 2027, companies in Europe will have to mandatory report on the gender pay gap. And we know that the longer you postpone this, the more costly it will be to raise salaries appropriately. If you fail to show equal pay for equal jobs by 2027, employees can ask for backwards compensation and a company can be fined.

If this is the first time you hear about this directive, here is your reminder of what it means:
•The right to information for employees about their individual pay level and average pay levels
•Reporting on gender pay gap for companies with 100+ employees
•Pay transparency before employment: pay scales in the job ad
•Clear information on pay setting and career progression
•Joint pay assessment when the pay gap is larger than 5%

In practice this will mean that you must post a salary in all job ads. Which your current employees will see as well. You won’t be allowed to ask candidates about their current compensation anymore – it’s your job, and you determine the offer. Research tells us that companies that include salaries in their job ads attract better quality candidates – simply because people self-select based on that information.

The directive needs to receive final approval, but that is expected to happen later this month. Once that is done, EU member states have three years to put the law in effect, and companies get an extra year for their first report. That brings us to 2027. But please, don’t wait that long – you need to start working on this today. And while you are at it, make sure you include all characteristics in your reporting, including age, cultural background, etc.

Enough of a rant! By now you get the point, and I hope you take some action today. I certainly will – more on that in a few weeks.