Japan has made specific moves to equality; so has the U.K. What’s the holdup here in the U.S.?
This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com
For women, the American workplace still remains fraught with inequality. Issues like pay disparity, poor maternity leave policies, sexual harassment and unconscious biasare among the various disadvantages preventing women from succeeding and thriving at work.
IBM research, meanwhile, shows that 79 percent of global companies haven’t even prioritized achieving gender equality in their workplaces. But just because American gender equality and occupational integration appear to have stalled shouldn’t mean we have to wait the 202 years the World Economic Forum has estimated it will take for the gender gap to close.
When Japan faced its own challenges in developing gender equality in its workforce, that nation introduced Womenomics, a concept that seeks to boost domestic product and female representation and focuses on increasing equality and reducing pay disparity.
The concept ultimately helped push female participation in Japan’s workforce up to 67 percent.
If U.S. big business is truly committed to improving gender equality — as over 40 major companies have confirmed — inducting Womenomics principles like data reporting and improved sexual harassment policies into business ethos will not only help to dismantle gender barriers but ultimately make businesses far more sucessful.
Companies are rewriting rules to help achieve equal pay
A major component of Japan’s Womenomics policy focuses on securing equal pay, and thus ensuring representation and financial stability for working women. In the United States only 65 companies, according to Just Capital, have reviewed their gender pay gap, showing the need for U.S. businesses to foster business models that maximize Womenomics’ potential.
One way companies can do this is by incorporating business practices that require them to collect and report pay data.
In the United Kingdom, for example, companies didn’t address the gender pay gap until a government requirement pressured them to make the data public. Now that over 250 U.K. companies have published pay data, that move is expected to boost transparency and ensure pay equity.
As Quartz reported, salary reports are essential to identifying structural inequality of opportunity patterns and the unequal distribution of well-paying jobs. Salary data can also reveal stark differences, based on salary levels, in women’s access to bonuses and rewards; bonuses and other rewards help widen the gender pay gap.
Then, when businesses don’t report their pay data, “naming and shaming” methods can hold these enterprises accountable.
What’s happening in this country
The current push for American companies’ data may soon give this Womenomics strategy precedence. Recently, a federal judge reinstated an Obama-era ruling for companies with over 100 employees to report pay data by gender, race and ethnicity.
It’s unclear if companies need to comply by the May 31 deadline, but this legal ruling could be a useful impetus to close the gender pay gap.
Even so, Natasha Lamb of Arjuna Capital has told Bloomberg that while this regulatory mandate from the EEOC might help narrow pay gaps, it won’t make the data transparent to investors. Said Lamb: “We want to be able to measure ‘apples to apples’ on how companies are doing on narrowing those gaps.”
It’s imperative, as Lamb pointed out, that we find ways to push companies to collect and report their data. And, in fact, pay transparency is starting to become more of a trend across multiple industries. Recently, for instance, tech companies like SumAll and Buffer have implemented transparency as a core tenant of their company culture, with positive results.
Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne listed staff salaries on the company website — including his own paycheck — along with the formula used to calculate those salaries.
Other companies like Starbucks have partnered with 25 other U.S. employers in something called the Employers for Pay Equity consortium: Members agree to a shared set of pay equity principles: equal footing, transparency and accountability.
Along with pay-data reporting, Starbucks’ VP of Global Public Policy Zulima Espinel has spoken about her company’s focus on helping women achieve better paying roles. Specifically, Starbucks has pledged to promote organizational changes with gender parity in senior leadership by 2020.
As more major companies align their business principles with transparent data-reporting practices and equal pay initiatives, they will not only bolster their reputations and appeal to more female workers, but also strengthen their potential for longevity. As Business Insider has reported, studies indicate that these practices increase productivity and performance.
Strategies of support
Japan’s Womenomics concept centers around the idea that women’s equal participation will improve the economy as a whole; and U.S. companies need to become equally savvy, creating safer, more supportive professional spaces where women have the ability and desire to participate, especially in traditionally male-domainted industries.
More supportive sexual harassment policies are a key element here: In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported, 52 percent of companies surveyed reviewed their sexual harassment policies.
That’s a start, but it’s not enough to curb the harassment that over 54 percent of women reportedly face in professional settings, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.
Companies can build more support by changing the culture through initiatives like no-retaliation policies and networks other than HR where women can report harassment. Strategic training goals (like employee resource groups, unconscious bias training and empathy training) are another move. So is the creation of a diversity governance structure that limits any minimization of these issues.
At KPMG, a Women’s Advisory Board supports women at all stages of their work lives and careers, targeting programming and strategies to meet their needs. Other companies like Google and Mogul foster unconscious bias training to pull apart the foundations of toxic work cultures. Goldman Sachs includes a diversity committee in each geographic region, three of which focus on affinity networks and training as key levers in achieving diversity objectives.
Maternity and parental leave
Maternity and parental leave are especially important supportive policies. One of Japan’s Womenomics philosophies centers around support for working mothers. Currently, only 13 percent of American workers, according to Glassdoor data, have access to paid parental leave.
KPMG is again at the forefront here, with its paid leave policy of up to 17 weeks for new mothers and four to six weeks for new fathers; the company also offers up to $20,000 for child adoption assistance subsidies.
At Deloitte, programs like the “Reconnect Program” coach new parents at work, giving them the knowledge and confidence to support both their careers and families. They also receive financial support for childcare once they do return to work.
Wiser Womenomics policies for winning solutions
Economic policies work better when cultural and financial policies change with them. To help close the gender gap, we must push companies to spearhead new, holistic approaches to Womenomics within their respective industries.
As businesses make commitments to women through integral initiatives and policies, they will redefine how our culture treats working women and women in general. When we have finally achieved that level of gender equality, those among us who are sexist and ignorant will witness and accept the incredible things we can accomplish together as a united gender-equal society.