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Equal Pay ­ All Talk, No Act(ion)

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 9

Thirty years after the Equal Pay Act, women's salaries still lag far behind men's. At times, the pay gap has actually widened from one year to the next.

One common argument for the disparity is that women don't have the same credentials as men. "That's not true," says Eckerd College Economics Professor Peter Hamerschmidt who told the Wall Street Journal that his recent analysis of 194 corporate managers showed that "if women were men with the same credentials, they would earn about 18% more."

So why does this pay gap continue? According to Deborah Tannen Ph.D., author of You Just Don't Understand, women are taught from childhood not to stand out. "Asking for a raise requires a kind of self-promotion," Tannen says, and such self-promotion negates women's learned behavior.

Even when women do complain about pay gaps they may be reprimanded or fired. Sometimes they are even blackballed. One female executive who sued a major financial firm for pay discrimination was told by a headhunter that no other major Wall Street firm would hire her.

Companies need to recognize that pay equity is important not only because it is the law. But, paying women fairly is essential if companies are to retain their female employees, and particularly if they are to maintain high levels of productivity in these stressful times.