As Offices Reopen, Companies Need Renewed Focus on Equity

Maria Colacurcio, CEO, Syndio, July 10, 2020

Last year, Gartner published a report entitled, “Addressing Pay Equity” that is appropriate to mention as part of our recent survey around the race impacts on office reopenings. 

In the Gartner study, the analysts indicate that as diversity in the workforce increases, more (not fewer) employees are susceptible to pay inequity. It indicates that total rewards and compensation teams continue to rely on conventional practices that fall short. 

What does this have to do with policies around reopening physical office space? A lot actually. As leaders develop strategies for reopening, there is a lack of confidence that all employees will be able to return. And a small percentage of companies are addressing the fact that an optional policy when it comes to return to work will impact women and minorities the most. There’s a lot of busy work and frantic energy allocated to office reopenings at the same time leaders are trying to focus on integrating and supporting the Black workforce. But are they connecting the dots?

The Gartner study points out similar issues. The busy work around pay equity continues to kick up dust, often not resulting in equal pay. And most of the time, companies that do address equal pay fail to look at the underlying policies and practices driving the disparity and must fix them again and again. 

When pay equity is approached as a one-off project vs. an ongoing initiative, companies miss a huge opportunity to find the problems and fix them — at the very root. 

“For as many organizations that claim action, a nearly equal number are not confident they have actually closed pay gaps at all. In fact, despite the prevalence of organizational action, fewer than one-third of organizations believe they have successfully closed existing pay gaps at their organization.”

If they haven’t closed the gaps, but are “working on it”, what exactly are they doing? Ongoing pay equity analyses are the clear, data-driven answer to solving pay equity. And, more importantly, there’s clear financial incentive to do this as soon as possible. 

Again, from Gartner, “…because of the compounding effects that pay equity issues have over time, it will never be cheaper to fix than it is today. We estimate each year an organization waits to tackle the issue — or tries to tackle it but fails — will increase the cost to the organization by roughly half a million dollars …”

The last issue worth mentioning is the perception issue. Right now, in the throws of COVID, women and women of color are taking the biggest hit. They know it, and they are keenly aware of the dangers of returning to work — or not returning to work and missing the proximity and networking effect. Similarly, in the Gartner study, minorities are five times as likely as white employees to perceive a race pay gap. Most of the time, the gaps exist, but are not as bad as employees believe. But without a commitment to communicating pay equity results, a company enables employee perceptions to fill the void. 

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