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HR’s Role in Closing the Gender Pay Gap

So much literature on the gender gap focuses on what women should do to avoid being paid less than men. In the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, Deborah Ashton appropriately asks what organizations should and can do to close the gender gap.

Illustration for article titled HR’s Role in Closing the Gender Pay Gap

It so obvious it makes my head hurt that more people aren't putting the onus of this problem on the very institutions that write the checks. Human resource departments hold a wealth of information regarding their employees. More often than not they are even the ones that set the bands for compensation and benefits. It's time we start considering what they can do and, more importantly, should be doing to address the problem. The whole article is worth a quick read, but I'll highlight the steps here:

  1. First, don't rely on the candidates previous levels of compensation. Instead, determine the level of knowledge, responsibility, and value each position represents for the institution.
  2. Monitor promotions and raises and use statistical tools to ensure equal treatment.
  3. Conduct annual reviews prior to promotion seasons to track how well compensation reflects market value, experience, and performance.
  4. Peer review pay raises and promotions using demographic information to highlight and force the defense of management decisions where disparities are identified. (I will add that this can and should be done anonymously).
  5. Support transparent compensation and benefit policies. (This is becoming easier for employees to track themselves because of the rise of online aggregation sites like, but many organization are opening up their books as a means to decrease a source of tension in the company).
  6. Be explicit about who is responsible for avoiding pay disparities. Deborah mentions that Australia's Workplace Gender Equity Agency (they have one of those apparently) recommends "[an] explicit statement on where accountability for pay equity lies. This should include roles and responsibilities of people managers, human resources officers and employees in the remuneration process, and whether there is a remuneration review committee." Damn.

It should be noted that all of these recommendations apply equally well to pay gaps based on race. So, what do you guys think? Any other suggestions on how the company itself can better address this issue? Any resources you've used to help yourselves avoid the pay gap?

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