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This episode was originally recorded as a partnership between JBC and Women Employed, a non-profit devoted to improving the economic status of women and removing barriers to economic equity. Near the close of the month on August 26th, we observe change that was had over a century ago, in hopes of advancing change today. This day of observance is reserved for Women’s Equality Day—the day in 1920 when our nation granted women the right to vote by passing the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although it has been more than 100 years since women’s suffrage was achieved, the fight for gender equality is still ongoing as discrimination and disparities persist. Tune in for a riveting and insightful conversation about closing the wealth gap at the intersection of wealth and gender and how to radically shift the way we think about we distribute resources and forge pathways to economic security.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

Adrienne Lawrence: The gender wage gap impacts us all. And the loss is significant. The annual loss to women as a working group. Every year, $500 billion in wages being stolen. That loss there, despite the labor, $500 billion a year. The average loss over the lifetime of a college educated woman such as myself, $800,000. That’s near a million dollars that I will lose over my lifetime simply because I am a woman. It has nothing to do with quality of my work or my knowledge. It has everything to simply do with my gender. This is what the gender wage gap does to us as a society. It holds us back and it’s extraordinarily costly across the board. The global impact significant, it’s a staggering $28 trillion.

Doug: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now onto the episode.

Doug: Hello and welcome back to the will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode that you’re about to hear is a conversation that was conducted by Jennifer Brown Consulting in partnership with Women Employed, a nonprofit, devoted to improving the economic status of women and removing barriers to economic equity.

Doug: August is a notable month for reflecting on the pursuit of equality for women. On August 3rd, we recognize black women’s equal pay day, which is the approximate day that black women must work into 2021 to make what white non-Hispanic men made at the close of 2020. This wage gap reflects the fact that black women make 63 cents on the dollar of their white male peers.

Doug: As August closes, we also observe the change that was had over a century ago in hopes of advancing change today. This day of observance is reserved for women’s equality day, the day in 1920, when our nation granted women the right to vote by passing the 19th amendment to the US constitution. Although it has been more than 100 years since women’s suffrage was achieved, the fight for gender equality is still ongoing as discrimination and disparities persist.

Doug: And in this conversation, you’ll hear about all of this and more. You’ll hear from Adrienne Lawrence, JBC, principal consultant, and Sharmili Majmudar, executive vice president of policy and organizational impact at Women Employed, as they discuss the pursuit of equity, particularly as it applies to women in the workplace. Enjoy the episode.

Adrienne Lawrence: Thank you again so much for joining us for this conversation today as we’re working toward equity, particularly as it concerns gender oppression in the workplace. So as we remember why we’re here. Right now is today, in fact, it’s women’s equality day, and we’ll talk a little bit about what that means. Also, it happens to be August when we do recognize Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which we will also dive into.

Adrienne Lawrence: These are two very important days, as they impact. And really we want to be able to reflect and observe pretty much where we’ve been and also how far we still need to go. As far as the state of gender equality, that’s also a reason we’re here because it remains bleak. So far they’re estimating that it will take over 200 years for there to actually be some equity where women and men are making the same in terms of economic benefits, opportunities.

Adrienne Lawrence: These are things that really hamper our progress as a society. In addition to holding back women predominantly in our workplaces and in our world. Also, we have to appreciate the intersectionality in gender equity that that’s something that’s vital. So we have those intersections as Sharmili had mentioned earlier, when it comes to race, when it comes to ability, age, all of these things that will intersect with those gender equity issues, we need to elevate and discuss them.

Adrienne Lawrence: It’s also important that we invest in women in the workplace for the future of our nation, for the best, for us. And we’re going to talk about what that means and what that will look like. And also the benefits of it pretty much across the board. So first it’s important to understand something that a lot of us kind of question ourselves, what is the difference between gender equality and gender equity?

Adrienne Lawrence: So first when we’re talking about gender equality, what we’re really talking about is, essentially it’s a level playing field. It’s where everyone gets the same thing, where rights, responsibilities, options, obligations, opportunities. They don’t depend on individual’s gender. Essentially, everything is doled out equally. And that’s really the end goal.

Adrienne Lawrence: The means to get to that place is what we call gender equity. That’s where we treat individuals based on their needs. And because women as a class, when it comes to gender, have generally been oppressed, subjugated and do not have as much economic power, do not have as much societal power. Our needs as women are different. And thus, in order to have gender equality, what needs to be provided is gender equity, things that uplift and bring us to a point where we can essentially compete on a level playing field. At the end of the day, we have to recognize that gender equality, it’s a human right, but there still remains persistent gaps when we talk about access, resources, opportunities, decision-making.

Adrienne Lawrence: What role are women able to play in our society at large? Opportunities that are available, essentially crafting our next generation. These things are important. These are human rights issues, but unfortunately they’re treated like options. And that’s where the problem starts because women do not have an option the vast majority of the time.

Adrienne Lawrence: Let’s talk about the gender wage gap. What is it? Well, you may be familiar with it, but for those who are not, it’s the difference in earnings between women and men. It’s the labor that I’m putting in and how much I’m getting out and how my gender alone will impact that. And right now it’s based on the median earnings data from the US Census Bureau. So we do have that official marker use from the census data. And what it tells us is this, that right now, women on average, all women across the board, essentially on average are making 82 cents on the dollar of a non-Hispanic white man is making.

Adrienne Lawrence: That’s essentially says, if I put in the same amount of time as a non-Hispanic white male, who’s a peer, who is on the same level as me, then I’m making less. That’s a problem. And this is a problem that persists across education levels and occupations. And there are some things that you may learn during our conversation today that’ll show you that it actually is not getting better or worse in certain circumstances, that may shock you.

Adrienne Lawrence: And there’s compounded harm that goes into that wage gap. Employer practices play a role, where using past salary to set the current pay. Because unfortunately when women often enter the workplace, they’re paid less from the start, regardless of essentially what they bring to the table. And if your next employer compounds that by just saying, “Hey, I’d like to base whatever I’m going to pay you based on what you were paid last.” All we have is compounded harm along that journey.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, banning employees from discussing wages, that compounds to harm the gender wage gap, because that silence, that secrecy, it really gets in the way of people being able to discuss essentially what’s fair, how much people are being compensated for the work that they’re doing. And not having access to that information, not having that knowledge, it really takes away the power.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, just the basic fact that there’s discrimination and it shows up along the path for women and other individuals of marginalized groups. It holds back individuals from truly being able to market their skills, to capitalize on them, to serve as individual human capital. Because unfortunately we do live in a patriarchal society that sees the value of a woman’s work as being less valuable than a man’s. And as a result of that, there’s unconscious bias in the roles that are playing out with decision makers every day. And these things are problematic and they are very harmful when it comes to the gender wage gap.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, we have female dominated jobs. Again, being paid less because the value of a woman’s work is often seen as being less valuable than a man’s. So industries that are women dominated historically, those will pay less from the start. Also, because women unfortunately are still in a position where they are treated and seen as the predominant caregivers in the home. With insufficient paid family leave and childcare, that also puts women in a position where they’re suffering in terms of economic benefits, opportunities, professional promotions, because of that lack of having time that you can take off to take care of the family, to build the next generation. And these things are all compounded harm that continue to make the gender wage gap problematic for you and for our society in total.

Adrienne Lawrence: There are also significant racial disparities. As much as it is 82% on average for all women across the board, when you break that up, what you’re going to see is that there’s disparities there. Asian-American Pacific Islander women often will make 85 cents on the dollar, but that is not all the time. As in some cases it’s as low as 50 cents. As we know, the AAPI community is very large. So we cannot disregard the fact that individuals in that community who are women are also still struggling and not being valued for their work.

Adrienne Lawrence: White women on average are at 79 cents on the dollar of a white male who is not Hispanic. Black women are at 63 cents on the dollar. Native women, 60 cents, and Latinas 55 cents. Imagine working equally as hard as an individual next to you, and you do not get paid as much because of the color of your skin and the gender that’s assigned to you, or the gender that you identify with. These disparities are extremely limiting and they continue to impact you over the course of your life.

Adrienne Lawrence: There are significant age disparities. You check out this chart here. This is the percentage of male earnings that women are paid by age. And as they can see, it gets worse over time. And this is just the average. The wage gap continues to grow with age and as a result of that, imagine being in the workplace and at the age of 65, at the age of 50, what incentive do you have to continue to work just as hard as your male colleagues, when you know you’re taking home just a portion of what they are enjoying? How is that going to impact your ability to retire, your ability to support yourself?

Adrienne Lawrence: These are all limitations that get in the way of our ability to be economically independent, to contribute to society and to benefit from it. The consequences of, let’s be real in call it what it is, wage theft. What it does is it hampers financial future. It’s also demoralizing. Who wants to think that the person next to them simply because of their gender is getting paid more just based on again, their gender, even though we’re doing equal work.

Adrienne Lawrence: It also robs an individual of economic stability because if I’m working just as many hours or more, my ability to have that stability is taken from me because now I need to invest even more of my labor, my time, my knowledge, to be able to reap the same rewards and benefits. Also the gender wage gap compares one’s ability to retire, as I indicated before. How likely is it that you can relax, take those golden years off, if you were only making a percentage on the dollar? It makes it more likely that your male colleagues will be able to enjoy that, to be able to retire and to flourish into their later years, whereas as a woman, you are going to have to work more and to work longer to be at that same level.

Adrienne Lawrence: And then also basic, pure and simple math, it reduces your buying power. So if you are a woman and you want to buy a home, you again are going to have to invest more time and labor into the market to be able to realize your dreams. These are consequences of this wage theft, of this gender gap, and they are real. And there are oftentimes people out there that I’ve run into who don’t see it as something valuable.

Adrienne Lawrence: If it’s a man, maybe he doesn’t believe the wage gap is that important. Well, if you are in a heterosexual relationship and you have a wife or a partner, how likely is it that you can retire as a couple if your spouse is being paid less for their labor, if they are going to work just as you day in and day out, putting in all those hours and time and they are only taking home 75 cents on the dollar?

Adrienne Lawrence: It’s not very good for your economics as a couple, as a partnership. And thus, it will also hamper your ability to retire, your opportunity to commingle your funds and to purchase a home and so forth. The gender wage gap impacts us all. And the loss is significant. The annual loss to women as a working group, every year, $500 billion in wages being stolen. That loss there, despite the labor, $500 billion a year. The average loss over the lifetime of a college educated woman such as myself, $800,000, that’s near a million dollars that I will lose over my lifetime simply because I am a woman. It has nothing to do with the quality of my work or my knowledge, it has everything to simply do with my gender. This is what the gender wage gap does to us as a society.

Adrienne Lawrence: It holds us back and it’s extraordinarily costly across the board. The global impact significant, it’s a staggering $28 trillion because we’re essentially living in a patriarchal world for the most part. Women’s work is not valued, women are diminished, demoralized, underpaid, and undervalued, that’s a lot of money that we are losing. And as you see, based on the different continents and countries listed here, there’s a lot to be gained. And hey, we could make up that 28 trillion by 2025 if we close the gender wage gap.

Adrienne Lawrence: But unfortunately, there is a lot that still continues to get in the way of achieving that end. But today, we’re celebrating Women’s Equality Day. And that’s something that a lot of us may often forget about. As in our generations, women have always had the right to vote, but this wasn’t always the case, as many of us all know.

Adrienne Lawrence: So this day, what it does is it recognizes August 26th, 1920. That’s the day that essentially Congress said we are going to recognize the 19th amendment, where essentially it was said across the board that the right to vote could not be denied based on one sex. At this point in time, women did have the right to vote in a lot of states, but it was not guaranteed and it also was not memorialized at the federal level until the 19th amendment came through. And that read that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Adrienne Lawrence: That was put into the constitution. And that was important in terms of recognizing the value of the voice of women, the value of women’s involvement in deciding who our leadership would be, who was guiding us as a nation, having that level of involvement in crafting, creating our futures, it’s incredibly important as we know how valuable having the right to vote is today. It’s something that we should not take for granted.

Adrienne Lawrence: But we also have to remember that as great as Women’s Equality Day was, as great as it was to have that memorialization in the US constitution, it wasn’t afforded to everyone. Once again, disparities in race, problematic, non-white women were excluded from the right to vote oftentimes. It wasn’t until about 1965 when they passed the Voting Rights Act.

Adrienne Lawrence: Both of my parents, I think were at least, they were at least probably 10 years old at that point in time. It wasn’t that long ago that there were people who finally got the right to vote again, because of the color of their skin. That intersectionality, when we’re talking about oppression against women, against individuals, it’s so incredibly important to remember, simply because something was allowed across the board or made accessible to everyone in the United States, does not mean that everyone could access it.

Adrienne Lawrence: And oftentimes, unfortunately, in the society in which we live, it’s women of color who end up suffering the most. And as we’re seeing, the struggle is still very much real and alive to be able to contribute your voice, to make change. There is a current battle as it concerns voting rights, fighting over voting rights in Texas nears and as Democrats return, all of these headlines battle to pass Federal Voting rights Act legislation. These things are pivotal, and they’re going on now because the right to have one’s voice play a role in deciding who our leadership is and who is going to craft our future as a nation is such an incredibly powerful thing. It was withheld from women up until just a little over a century ago, particularly white women. But this is something that’s very important, that right to vote and that future.

Adrienne Lawrence: And so let’s talk about what we can do to create more equity, to uplift women, that intersectionality of women of color, to close the wage gap, to position individuals to truly be valued for what they have to contribute as individuals and not on account of their gender. Let’s talk about what you can do in your workplace to really put gender equity in action.

Adrienne Lawrence: So first, let’s talk about some of the benefits of gender equity, because most people want to know how’s this going to benefit me? Well, by uplifting women in the workplace, what you’re going to be doing is you’re going to benefit from having a more positive company culture. As we talk about a lot today, culture is everything. It really will dictate whether you rise and fall. It’ll also dictate your turnover rates, how people feel when they come to work, are they able to bring their best self? Do they feel welcomed, valued, respected, and heard as we say here at Jennifer Brown Consulting?

Adrienne Lawrence: And when you really invest in gender equity, you are in a position to enjoy a positive company culture. Also, you have enhanced innovation and creativity, because when you bring more voices to the table, you are going to have different vantage points. You’re going to be able to cover more basis and have more creative thought. There’s opportunity out there to benefit economically by having that enhanced innovation, creativity, by having greater equality and diversity.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, you have a better reputation. Many of us know the companies that treat women horribly. Shocks, I know, I’ve worked at a few. And we know the companies that treat women well, and we want to invest our resources. Each one of us is walking around as human capital. We have value that we bring to the table.

Adrienne Lawrence: And so when you have a good reputation, that goes a long way. Also, especially with customers or clients, they want to be involved. They want to benefit from your services. They want to do business with you because it’s a good feeling when you get to partner with entities, with organizations that treat people fairly, that do good work and that uplift others.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, you’re going to have fewer lawsuits, fewer legal issues, because it is a matter of the law and sure the law isn’t enough, otherwise we’d have gender equality today, but it’s a start. Maybe you’ll make fewer headlines for mistreating women. And that definitely also goes a long way. You definitely don’t want to end up with shareholder lawsuits as we’ve seen certain companies get into because of sexual harassment, discrimination, all sorts of things that all go back to how women are mistreated.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, you’ll have better conflict resolution. It goes to that positive company culture. Also, women as we know, tend to be some pretty good leaders. So giving women more power, elevating, uplifting, treating women well, really investing in gender equality, equity. It goes the distance. And you’ll see the stat down here as a 1% gender bias effect at a fortune 500 company that hires 8,000 people a year. It can bring productivity losses of an estimated 2.8 million a year.

Adrienne Lawrence: That tells you how impactful gender bias can be and how much you can benefit from removing it, from minimizing it in your workplace. There are significant gender equality benefits across the board, and you want to invest in those. Some of them include the four areas here that I’ve listed down that are helpful. This is how you can level the playing field, recruiting and hiring, compensation, development, and every day culture.

Adrienne Lawrence: Let’s talk a little bit about each one of these. So first off, recruiting and hiring. Alter your hiring practices. What are you doing in terms of bringing people to the table? How are you investing in others? Who are you looking for? These are important things that we can all do because oftentimes many people, they’ll defer to male names when they see them on resumes. Now broaden your mind, change your hiring practices. Where are you sourcing people from?

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, create longer short lists. That is an incredible benefit when you have longer short lists. Why? Because it gets you to think more of candidates that you may not necessarily have thought of on that original shortlist. And when you add more, it creates more opportunity to bring women through the door. Also, when you’re hiring, hire for culture, look at people a little bit deeper. How do they see gender equity? Do they uplift a more egalitarian society? What is their mental framework when it comes to gender issues?

Adrienne Lawrence: Hire for culture. That should be the question of who is a “good fit” or does that person believe in the same gender equality, equity issues that your organization stands to benefit from? Also, you can figure out more of that by doing skills-based assessments. Why? Because they’re less likely to play on unconscious biases that you as a hiring or recruiting partner may hold.

Adrienne Lawrence: The fact is that we all have our unconscious biases. And they can get in the way of our ability to truly be objective. But when we look to hire people using skills-based assessments, as opposed to individual critiques that are more subjective, let’s say, oh, I think I like that person more, they felt good. And we look at, can this person do the job? That goes a lot further because it removes a lot of the opportunity for our subjective unconscious bias to play a role in selecting the individual.

Adrienne Lawrence: Number two, compensation. And this does definitely goes back to that gender wage gap, which we discussed is extraordinarily harmful. So the ways in which you can minimize that harm is simply do a pay audit, look at how are you paying people? What is their gender? How long have they worked there? What’s their education level? These are the spreadsheets that were required under, I believe it was the close of around the Obama era. They were reversed in the Trump era. But employers were required, a lot of them to keep these kind of stats sheets.

Adrienne Lawrence: So they could objectively look at, hey, how has unconscious bias or just plain out discrimination, played a role in furthering the wage gap in my workplace? And these are things that even if the government doesn’t continue to mandate it, you should invest in because it helps promote gender equality in your workplace, and you will reap the rewards and benefits of it. Also have equal pay initiatives.

Adrienne Lawrence: Once you do that audit, take it the next step further. Maybe that means that you bring certain people up to a certain level. Maybe it’s an extra $5,000 here. Maybe if you see that bonuses have been paid out to everyone, but the Latina of the group, look at why that is. And if it is we don’t know, course correct and appreciate the fact that unconscious bias could be playing a role in decision-making.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, promote greater wage transparency. That means that you get rid of those kind of, nobody talks about it policies. Maybe you make it publicly available. Information about, hey, this is about what people make in this position. This is the range here. That wage transparency, not only does it help close the gender wage gap, but again, it will promote a more positive culture and you will have lower turnover, you’ll have more invested individuals. That human capital can truly be realized and you will benefit across the board when it comes to innovation productivity and truly getting the benefit of the bargain from your employee and what they can bring to the table.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also evaluate leave policies. As we initially touched upon, the fact is that generally one contributor to the gender wage gap that is a compounded harm, is the fact that policies don’t really create enough room for women to operate. As we saw during the pandemic, a lot of women ended up having to leave the workplace. Some were focusing on childcare at home because now with a lot of kids who did not go to school, women were forced to not only take care of the home, but also to educate children and the burdens continue to compound. This speaks to the small bit of a microcosm of what goes on in the lives of women because of how our society is structured.

Adrienne Lawrence: So when there is greater leave policies available that are more flexible and fluid, you can truly benefit by promoting greater gender equality and equity. And that also includes paternity leave, maternity leave. What are you providing individuals? What are you promoting?

Adrienne Lawrence: Next step, development. This is important because it speaks to investment. Ongoing unconscious bias training. This is something that I teach and that we specialize here at Jennifer Brown Consulting. The fact is that unconscious biases are always something that we are taking in as individuals, because this is a society in which we live. So we are being programmed at all times to move toward more of a bias mindset. That’s just unfortunately how it works. So what we need to do to truly benefit, to maximize, essentially the opportunity to have the best business we can and to better our workplace, is to have ongoing training. So people will remember that, hey, I need to course correct, or I need to be cognizant of the fact that unconscious biases are playing out.

Adrienne Lawrence: And to remain committed and devoted to that is extraordinarily helpful. It’s a form of development and it helps promote gender equality and equity. Also, having women mentor men. Generally in our society, it’s a thought that men are the leaders, men are the ones with the knowledge. That is not the case at all. And when we do more to flip that by essentially relying on and really extracting from the knowledge of women in the workplace and the insight and allow women to lead, to guide that goes a long way.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also encouraging development at all levels. We don’t want to think that just because someone is maybe coming toward the close of their career, that they don’t have anything more to give, or maybe because someone’s on a certain path, that they’re not interested.

Adrienne Lawrence: No, we want to invest in individuals, predominantly women, encourage development at all levels, creating more opportunity for opportunities. And then as touched upon a little bit, more women in leadership. The fact is that when we look at the vast majority of fortune 500s, and we see who is at the table, who is the leader, we often see men. What we need to see is a more egalitarian society. Women have a lot to contribute, considerable knowledge and also value in society. Why allow that human capital to sit back simply because we’re operating on unconscious bias?

Adrienne Lawrence: We’ve got to beat that bias so we can take advantage of it. Having a bigger payday, a better workplace. But the thing is, it’s all on us as individuals. And lastly, our every day culture. It’s so incredibly important that we change our cultures. And as someone who’s written a book on sexual harassment, I can tell you how important having a strong anti-harassment policy is.

Adrienne Lawrence: It can be incredibly impactful, especially when it comes to the longevity of essentially the work that a woman does and the quality. Because unfortunately, once again, we do live in a patriarchal society. So there is often an underlying unconscious bias that will encourage people to, hey, push other people out of the workplace, push other people out of positions. The thought that a woman’s domain is in the home.

Adrienne Lawrence: That is something that it oftentimes is playing in our subconscious. And it can come in the form of harassment. When we see women in traditionally male jobs, it’s the thought of you shouldn’t be there. And thus behavior can pretty much subconsciously come out of us that pushes other people out. But when we have strong and effective policies, when we have training that is ongoing and effective, then we are in a better position to ensure that everyone feels welcomed, valued, respected, and heard, and isn’t harassed out of the workplace.

Adrienne Lawrence: We also want to prioritize work-life balance. As we’ve kind of touched upon the fact that leave policies have generally not been great. But also when we look at the work that needs to be done, are we creating opportunities for individuals to get involved and to be involved? Oftentimes we’ve seen in workplaces where maybe there are team connecting events that are directly after work or at certain times of the day, if someone is a caretaker, or if someone has other obligations and women tending to be caretakers at certain times may not be able to attend, may not be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

Adrienne Lawrence: So what we want to do is have some flexibility, to recognize that life doesn’t revolve around just our limited mindset in terms of the schedule and what works best for all, and create that flexibility there. We want to prioritize the fact that life exists outside of work, and we need that balance there so that we can keep women in the workplace and we can essentially benefit from the value that women have to bring.

Adrienne Lawrence: We also want to make equality of business imperative. This is about weaving this into the structure of the business. When we value the fact that we have equality and we make that something that is vital and imperative to our company, just like diversity, equity and inclusion. When it becomes a business imperative, when there are bonuses structure based on the diversity of your team, based on the opportunities that are given, these things signal that this is important, this is a business imperative.

Adrienne Lawrence: So look at what you’re doing to truly communicate to the individuals around you in your workplace to say that gender equality, gender equity is an imperative here. And thus, we want to see it in your actions.

Adrienne Lawrence: And lastly, establish inclusive expectations. That means you want to create a framework that brings individuals to the table. That says, hey, we recognize that there is bias out there, unconscious bias that’s playing a role. But what we’re going to do is invest in equity, the means to get us to equality. So if that means that maybe there’s a hiring initiative or an opportunity to bring in more women, to ensure that each team is staffed with a certain number of non-men, so to speak.

Adrienne Lawrence: So whether it’s an individual who is a woman or identifies as a trans woman, it does not matter. But when you essentially establish these inclusive expectations and you say, this is what we expect of you all, we expect this diversity, we expect you to make investments in equity to ensure everyone’s brought to the same level. That is when you win. And that is something we’re looking to do to all win together.

Adrienne Lawrence: So thank you so much for joining us for this conversation. And what we’re going to do now is open up to our Q&A portion where we are going to have more conversation here. There we go. Perfect. Excellent. So we can all see each other. Sharmili, thank you so much for joining us. And I know we have questions coming in from individuals, but I really kind of just wanted to start with asking you, first off, when it comes to the gender wage gap, what have you seen in your role at Women Employed?

Sharmili Majmudar: Thank you first of all for such a comprehensive overview of the issue of gender equity in the workplace. The gender wage gap sometimes gets simplified as just being about equal pay for equal work. And what we see is that it’s more complex than that. A lot of what you touched on that influences the gender wage gap, whether it’s occupational segregation, the fact that women are overrepresented in located industries and underrepresented in higher paid industries. Whether it’s the fact that the gender wage gap has also racialized. And the many ways in which we still have opportunities to address the gender wage gap that aren’t just about some of the myths about it. The idea is that if you have higher education then you won’t face the gender wage gap, which as you showed is not true. Certainly as you advance in your career, you actually end up having a larger gender wage gap because it’s correlated with age and career advancement as well.

Sharmili Majmudar: What we’ve seen is also though the effectiveness of certain policy and practice interventions. One of the ones you highlighted was banning asking salary history questions. And what we’ve been able to advocate for and has been implemented in Illinois is that you don’t ask questions about salary history when you are in the process of hiring a person.

Sharmili Majmudar: And so you interrupt the compounding of the year by year impact of the gender wage gap. And we’re seeing also that there is great evidence that for women and for people of color both, eliminating questions about salary history has a real impact anywhere from 6% to 18% more that people are getting paid. And that gender wage gap and the racial age gap is actually getting closed.

Sharmili Majmudar: And we have opportunity at the federal level as well with the Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate this year, that institutionalizes a salary history ban across the country so that we’re not just approaching this on a state by state basis.

Adrienne Lawrence: Then it’s an incredible powerful thing. And something kind of just really hinting on that. I’ve been in situations where you realize that you are being underpaid, as opposed to your peers, despite all of your effort and accolades and whatnot. And I can tell you, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth when it comes to continuing to work for that employer, or keeping that business relationship alive.

Adrienne Lawrence: And so I really, really do encourage employers to think twice because essentially as we know, the truth always makes its way to the light and you don’t want to burn those bridges because everybody is their own human capital and they bring a lot to the table. You never know where someone’s going to be. And so you want to invest in them and treat them fairly.

Adrienne Lawrence: And so you had mentioned essentially about a lobbying pass recently, and I know you and I have discussed the fact that we had a big budget being passed. And so I’d love for you to share and enlighten about how that is going to impact equality for women.

Sharmili Majmudar: Sure. So a lot of people may have heard about the federal budget resolution that recently passed as well as the infrastructure package and a real push to think about what it is that we mean when we say infrastructure. A lot of what we talk about or think about are things like roads and bridges when we think about infrastructure. But infrastructure is also the supports that are in place that allow for people to be able to contribute to the best of their ability.

Sharmili Majmudar: And those infrastructure supports need to include things like childcare. We have definitely seen, and as you spoke about, the pandemic has had a huge impact on women’s attachment to the workforce. And we have lost a lot of ground when it comes to gender equity in the workplace as a result of the pandemic. And we’re still not recovered back to even where we were pre-COVID. We’re still behind in terms of actual jobs. And then we’re also behind as it comes to childcare centers reopening as well.

Sharmili Majmudar: And during the pandemic, women did the equivalent of a full-time job just through the childcare they provided in addition to their paid work. So I don’t think that we can underestimate the huge impact that childcare can have. Two thirds of children under the age of 13 have their parents in the US workforce.

Sharmili Majmudar: This is not a situation where there’s only one parent working. This is a situation where parents are being forced out of the workforce because we don’t have childcare. The budget reconciliation package would invest in childcare. It would help to subsidize costs so that expenses wouldn’t exceed 7% of your income. It is insane to think about how many people are spending far more than that when it comes to just getting childcare for their kids. And that’s a lifesaver particularly for low income families.

Sharmili Majmudar: If we invested in childcare, it also creates jobs. And those jobs are predominantly jobs that go to women and women of color. We would increase our GDP. Families would be able to save money because they weren’t having to make a choice between childcare and actually earning through their own work. And American businesses would also gain back money that they have lost due to childcare challenges.

Sharmili Majmudar: So I think that the theme here is that if we really truly center the needs of those who have primary caregiving responsibilities, when it comes to the workforce in terms of policies as well as practices at the public policy level, but also at the employer policy level, then we recouped benefits both at the family level, at the community level and at the employer level as well. We encourage folks to speak out in support of the infrastructure package as well as the reconciliation.

Adrienne Lawrence: Thank you so much for sharing that. And one of the questions is, how do you recommend women approach getting an audit done to have her employer check her current pay and make any needed adjustments?

Sharmili Majmudar: That’s a great question. I think that there are two way to approach this. There’s the individual way. And in some states, it is prohibited to retaliate against an employee for talking about their salary. That’s not the case everywhere. So you want to make sure that you know about that.

Sharmili Majmudar: Information is going to be the sunlight that you were speaking of Adrienne. That’s going to be your biggest ally. So it’s about understanding kind of what are your peers making, getting that information if you can get it for your employer. And if not, there are a lot of market analysis that will help you understand what the going rates are for positions like yours. So that’s arming yourself with information and being able to really speak at this from the perspective of the value that you bring and whether or not that value is being compensated fairly.

Sharmili Majmudar: So there’s the individual approach and thinking about how you negotiate that. But then there’s also kind of just the business practice of doing pay audits that ensures that you have equity across the board, which do not just have to be focused on gender. They can also be disaggregated by race, by age and by kind of other factors as well so that the business can understand better what they are doing in terms of their practices.

Sharmili Majmudar: And that kind reporting of data is increasingly being required by law. So being able to do that for your employer, doing that is getting ahead of the legal compliance that is probably going to be necessary very soon. Again, I think leaning into this idea that businesses benefit when they are known as equitable employers. And they benefit both internally but also from an external perspective.

Sharmili Majmudar: When we look at younger generations of workers, they name the businesses, the possible employers focus and implementation and operationalizing of values as being really key to whether or not they’re attracted to work at a place. So there is a real business benefit to being thoughtful and to being transparent and to following through with action. Don’t do an audit if you’re not gonna act on it. I think that’s the other thing. The audit is information and that information then needs to be acted upon as well.

Adrienne Lawrence: Thank you so much for sharing that and the bad lawyer in me will go ahead and say, yeah, you can also sue. But hey-

Sharmili Majmudar: All options are always on the table.

Adrienne Lawrence: Some people need to get right. But let me go ahead and ask you the next and last question we have here because I know we’re running out of time. So most companies, especially the large ones use significant resources to tout their DEI policies. But it feels like there are very few actually backing up their words with actions. In fact, those congratulating themselves the most maybe the worst offenders. What are some tangible ways we can evaluate whether companies practice what they preach?

Sharmili Majmudar: Oh, that’s a great question. That’s a whole separate training right Adrienne.

Adrienne Lawrence: Amen.

Sharmili Majmudar: I think one key is understanding the metrics. There are lots of ways in which we can put a lot of great language around things and develop all sorts of ways of communicating that don’t actually reflect kind of concrete change. I think one of the things is something like a pay audit, asking about actual practices and then what the evidence is that comes from those practices.

Sharmili Majmudar: So for example, a lot of companies will say that one of the things that they do is conduct a pay audit. The follow-up question is, do they share the results of that pay audit? And how regularly are they doing it? Do they then share what their follow-up steps are going to be with their workforce? What are their commitments? Do they have certain goals for getting from where they are now? And what is that goal? And how far are they in getting to what that goal is?

Sharmili Majmudar: So it’s asking about those follow-up questions and understanding better what’s behind what it is that they are saying. I think the other thing is, are they willing to talk about what they didn’t get right? I think that we sometimes think of diversity, equity and inclusion as a kind of linear journey, and it’s not. It is not a linear journey. It is an opportunity, however, to learn, grow and do better. And that means a willingness to make mistakes. That means a willingness to be transparent about the things you haven’t gotten right and what you’re commitment is to getting right.

Sharmili Majmudar: So I think that those are some of the things we need to look at. I would add one more thing, that for us at Women Employed, because we focus on women who are in low paid sectors, is to also understand whether the things that they are touting as their strengths in their DEI program, are those things that are available to everyone in their workforce. Are those things that are only focused on their professional roles or does the receptionist also have access to them? Do the janitors also have access to those benefits? So true equity would be across the enterprise, not just focused on specific areas of the business. And doing that is what it takes to have an equitable enterprise.

Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. And I will definitely piggyback on that. In my book, Staying in the Game, the Paybook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment, I have an entire chapter dedicated to red light, yellow lights and green lights about workplace culture that are easy identifiers that will tell you, is this place going to be what I’d call a sexual harassment hot bed in terms of, are they going to treat women poorly? So that’s definitely an option. If you want to check that out, that Staying in the Game, the Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment.

Adrienne Lawrence: Also, I will just tell you really off the cuff, you can track race and gender together. So if you look at a company and their entire board is white, whether it has women or men on it, that should tell you. That’s a big red flag, they got problems. Whenever you see any kind of imbalance in any way, it should be a huge flag.

Adrienne Lawrence: So you always wanna pay attention if you’re a white woman and essentially maybe race doesn’t necessarily impact your daily life, you want to still pay attention to it because it can signal how your gender will be treated in those environments and vice versa. Also on that same vein, diversity and leadership boards across the boards at all angles. Is it across all levels up and down? Hierarchical? How is the chain of command really set up?

Adrienne Lawrence: And as Sharmili had indicated, transparency. Is there transparency everywhere? Also one of the kind of small subtle cues, look at things like health insurance. Does it cover gender confirmation surgeries, fertility benefits, things that have generally been left out because unfortunately we live in a patriarchal society. And so health benefits have generally geared toward whatever will benefit men.

Sharmili Majmudar: I would extend that Adrienne to benefits overall, because if we look at paid sick leave, if we do look at paid family medical leave, how is family defined? There are many iterations of how family is actually lived in the world. Does the employer reflect that or do they restrict those benefits by only providing maternity leave, for example, or only allowing for sick leave for children and spouses? When the reality is that we often are caring for many other folks.

Adrienne Lawrence: Yeah. These are all small cues that say a lot. Because when you’re looking at an employer, it’s similar to kind of dating, which is those little red flags, oh, those can really, they can be a headache down the line. So you don’t want to lie to yourself. Pay attention, stay mindful because that relationship with your employer is extremely important and valuable and you want to be in a place where there is gender equity.

Adrienne Lawrence: And so now we are out of time. But I want to thank you all for joining us. Sorry, we weren’t able to get to all of your questions, but we did have a great conversation. Also in the chat, there is a link for feedback. We also at Jennifer Brown Consulting have put out an advocacy paper that is geared toward discussing this exact topic of working toward equality. Women’s Equal Pay Days, gender quality, gender equity in the workplace and working ahead.

Adrienne Lawrence: And I really, really want to thank Women Employed, Sharmili Majmudar, who joined me today. She’s the executive vice president of policy and organizational impact at Women Employed. And Sharmili, can you please tell all of our listeners where they can find more information about Women Employed.

Sharmili Majmudar: Absolutely. You can go to our website, womenemployed.org and please sign up for our many different communication vehicles. We also have action alerts that allow very busy people to make an impact on these issues that matter to them. You can follow us on social media. We’re @WomenEmployed on a number of different social media channels, Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram.

Sharmili Majmudar: And then of course we are a nonprofit organization. So we always appreciate your investment and support, whether it’s following us on social media or donating. We have a brand new monthly giving program called Elevate, and I would encourage all of you to look into that. The work that we do not only elevates women in the workforce, but in so doing, elevates us all.

Jennifer: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work. And discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

Doug: You’ve been listening to the Will to Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.