In 1973 the United States Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. During this National Day of Celebration, not only is the ratification recognized, but the day also calls attention to efforts surrounding toward full equality.
One of the myriad ways PR is working to address inequality is by acknowledging pay inequity and the gender pay gap. This speaks loud and clear in a profession where women hold a majority of the positions in the industry—72.8% to be exact—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And yet, women still lag behind men in management positions and pay. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide. This number has worsened since the COVID-19 outbreak, climbing from 99.5 years. While some casual observers may see women as equal, particularly in the U.S. when it comes to work and opportunity, the numbers don’t lie, making Women’s Equality Day all the more important.
“Sometimes we don’t fight enough for pay or promotions,” says Gina Espinosa-Meltzer, partner, Hope-Beckham Inc. “We are multitaskers...we go the extra mile and yet, we don’t realize that we deserve more.”
Creating a Safe Space for Equality Conversations
Katherine Verducci and Santiago Villegas, CEOs and co-founders of 1903 Public Relations, both came from backgrounds in corporate, male-dominated leadership environments. When they came together to start their own firm, they knew they wanted to create a different environment and path forward for their employees.
“We wanted to make sure that we gave people opportunities that were equal, and didn't just promote those with typically masculine traits,” Verducci says.
One of the items they discussed was how to decide when someone deserved a promotion. “Traditionally [companies] value people who are aggressive and go-getters,” she says. “But if you limit who gets a raise to who's aggressive enough to ask for it, that's typically a masculine [trait]."
Verducci found that even she, herself, needed to get over a fear of asking for raises, which stems from a tradition of too few women getting a seat at the executive table in corporations. Women work hard to get and keep those seats, and many worry about rocking the boat and losing their positions.
“Why are women afraid to ask for what they want?” she asks. “We have to find ways to elevate salaries that are not just looking for aggressive behavior."
Villegas says the firm works to create safe spaces to encourage employees to have those salary conversations, while building clear expectations for each position from the start, with complete salary transparency.
“I think with a lot of long-standing companies, they'd rather just ride as much productivity from an employee than ask them, are you ready to go to the next level?” he says. 1903 goes the opposite route, encouraging constant conversation about progression with employees including, 'where do you want to go next' and 'what do you see for yourself?' You don’t get to the route of this conversation, unless you are talking about it with female employees.”
Verducci adds, it can be easier to see the output created by a male who puts in many hours, while women may get overshadowed because of their family responsibilities. Having conversations about accommodations and flexibility may encourage a dialogue surrounding progression.
“In traditional gender roles, [women] might not have the ability to be on [email] at night, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in advancing.”
Over the past couple of years, 17 states have passed laws requiring employers tell applicants the salary range at some point in the hiring process. Some states are even going as far as requiring a salary listing in job descriptions.
In a recent survey conducted by LinkedIn, “53% of women believe that if people share information about their salaries and bonuses, that will lead to better equality in pay.” This sharply contrasts 42% of men, who aren’t so eager to broadcast salaries.
But many organizations are utilizing pay transparency to level the playing field and help alleviate the gender pay gap.
Junapr lists salary ranges for every open position, even though it is not required in its home state of Vermont. Nicole Junas Ravlin, president and CEO of Junapr, says transparency and equity are important to her and how she runs her business.
“Historically, women don't negotiate and they under-promote their financial needs when seeking employment,” Junas Ravlin says. “Posting salary ranges helps level the playing fields for women—and all applicants—to understand what my business is looking for, and what we can afford for this position, and for the applicant to assess if the salary range is suitable for their employment needs and desires.”
Publicly posting salary ranges is just one thing businesses can do to promote fair negotiations on both sides for all employees. 1903 also practices pay transparency by allowing all employees access to a Google spreadsheet, which lists out years of experience for each role, salary and skillset.
Commitment to Female Leadership
Red Havas committed to closing its gender pay gap several years ago through committing to 45% or greater representation of women in leadership positions by 2025. Many of Havas' agencies have already exceeded this. Higher positions equal higher pay, as well as set a new standard for representation at the executive level.
Melanie Klausner, EVP, Red Havas, says the firm already has 14 women and one man on its U.S. senior leadership team, so it shifted its focus on diversifying its team through its DEI programs.
“Havas All In openly shares our gender, diversity and inclusion data from across the group at all levels,” Klausner says. “Through this initiative, we’re actively addressing imbalances and other related initiatives at a country and agency level.”
Klausner believes sharing this type of data and visibility into salaries will help improve, and eventually close, the wage gap.
“Women need to understand their value to negotiate from a position of strength and to better advocate for themselves,” she says. “If more agencies commit to these [types of] changes, it will contribute to decreasing pay inequities across the industry.”
Becoming an Example for Other Women
Verducci finds a recurring problem for women in every industry: confidence. And she finds that being an example for others can create a real path for the future.
“We run into so many women who say, 'I’d like to do this but…I’m not that person.' They think there is some kind of magic in an executive title. There’s really not. It’s taking the risk of getting comfortable being uncomfortable. The worst thing that happens is you start over. I feel so bad when women say, 'I could never do that.'"
Working remotely has allowed for a unique mentorship for her 10-year-old daughter—one she hopes will make an impact.
“She sees mom as a business owner, and she jokes around…brings out her laptop and [pretends to type, saying] 'business, business, business.' But I love that. I love that she sees a different kind of role model. My mom worked outside the home and that was a huge thing. I feel like this is the next step.”
Nicole Schuman is a senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her: @buffalogal