Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Offering Employees Equal Pay for Equal Positions

August 8, 2019

The glass ceiling still exists, despite a push to raise awareness. Read how to break the cycle in your workplace by offering fair pay for equal positions.

Glass Ceiling Cover Image

My husband and I are working parents, so we have to devise strategies for managing life. We have work, school, homework, swim, bills, cleaning, and exercising. Oh, and then we have doctor’s and dentist visits, and speech therapy. At the end of the day, we usually default to our divide-and-conquer strategy.

However, even though we have a method to the madness, we don’t always feel successful. Unfortunately, our efforts occasionally end in feelings of defeat. I admit this is because of my insecurities. My husband can repeat my mantra: “You’ll never understand because you aren’t a woman.”

The Feelings behind The Words

A toy man stands over a toy woman who is trapped under a glass.
Photo by Christine Yanner

So, why do I say this to my well-intentioned husband? Well, it’s simple. I am not the breadwinner in our family, despite being bilingual with a master’s degree. So, when we have to choose between who must stay home with a sick child, my career takes a backseat.

Yet, my choice of career dictates my earning potential. Thus, I likely will never earn as much as my husband. Still, my frustration and insecurity stem from something else. For the first 1.5 decades of my career, my male peers earned more than me, for no other reason than because I am a woman. That, folks, is the glass ceiling.

Although the glass ceiling is clear, it’s time to see it for what it is. Here we will discuss how to break the glass in your company to create a fair workplace.

Seeing Clearly through the Glass Ceiling

So, what exactly is the glass ceiling?

Before we can begin to address the glass ceiling, we need to fully understand what it is. The glass ceiling the way many people refer to the gender pay gap. However, the glass ceiling doesn’t only affect women, and it isn’t only about pay. Additionally, it encompasses minorities, and their inability to advance in their careers.

The Data

Reading glasses sitting on a table.
Seeing clearly by Kenny Louie | CC by

Research shows that in the U.S., women make an average of 79 cents to a man’s dollar. That means a man’s salary is approximately 21.4% higher than a woman’s. The gap shrinks to 19.1% when you consider similar education and experience. Finally, the gap is at its narrowest point when considering the same title and location. At that point, men still make an estimated 4.9% more than women. Most notably, the gap is never eliminated altogether.

Now, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not the only country that experiences the glass ceiling. The studies note similarities in the pay gap compared with other developed countries. For instance, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore are among the countries studied.

So, now we know that the glass ceiling is a problem, but what can we do about it? A good place to start is by looking at the data in pieces.

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Breaking Down the Data in the Gender Pay Gap

To begin, let’s consider the data showing that men make an average of approximately 21.4% more than women. So, what could account for that gap?

The Variables in the Equation

Well, it turns out that the very thing that caused frustration between my husband and me is part of the equation. According to studies, the largest gap in gender pay is due to the difference in career choices.

While some might say that women simply prefer jobs that pay less, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Experts argue that women are actually steered toward lower paying careers. They argue that starting at an early age, society encourages boys to pursue math and science. Conversely, society values a woman’s role in the home, among other caretaking roles.

Next in the equation is a person’s age, education, and experience. So, a male and a female can be the same age, have the same degree, and have the same number of years’ experience in a field. However, data shows that there is still a pesky 19.1% pay gap. In other words, the glass ceiling is holding strong despite all those variables in common. So, why would that be the case? Well, if you remember the first part of the equation, women are already in different fields. Therefore, the playing field is already uneven, so to speak.

Finally, let’s actually compare a male and female of the same age, education, and experience. Furthermore, they are in the same role. You’ll remember that although everything is comparable, the pay is not. Society pays men nearly 5% more than women. Also, the gap is wider in some professions. Particularly, industrial fields involving wood, plastic, and metal working see a profound variation.

A Glass Ceiling Scenario

To simplify, we are going to consider the pay gap for a sales representative. Data shows that the national average fora sales rep’s salary is right around $50,000 per year. Thus, if that’s a male’s salary, we can deduce that a woman of similar age, education, and experience receives $47,500.

Besides salary, it is important to remember commission. Many sales reps receive commissions for their sales. Lucky for them, the commission is typically a percentage based of the sales they bring in. However, many sales reps also receive a bonus at the end of the year. Do you have any idea how to calculate a bonus? Ordinarily, a sales rep’s bonus is on a tier, and salary based. Hence, if a male rep’s bonus is 5% of his salary, and so is a woman’s, the male will nevertheless earn more. In summary, where these two sales reps started $2,500 apart, by bonus time they are $5,000 apart. Yet this is only the beginning, because each year that gap will continue to compound. And for what? Friends, that is the question the glass ceiling begs to ask.

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Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Considering this information, what can you do to break the glass ceiling?

Throw a Few Stones

A professional woman giving a presentation to a group of men.
Photo by Susan A. Romano | Source

Stone 1: For starters, you can avoid making excuses. Any company with a pay gap will be able to come up with a reason why the gap exists. Instead of following the sheep, try being a leader. Accepting that there is a glass ceiling is the first stone you will throw.

Stone 2: Next, don’t succumb to biases. Rather, challenge yourself to be objective when considering pay. Ignore the employee’s race, gender, or other physical attribute during the hiring process. Being intentional about your thinking is the second stone to throw at the glass ceiling.

Stone 3: Then, once you have hired the best candidates for your positions, remain aware. It would be easy to fall back into old habits, so keep your eye on the target. Practicing fairness is the third stone that will help crack the glass ceiling.

Stone 4: Finally, don’t let others sway you to do the wrong thing. The good ole boys club can be a powerful force. Nevertheless, you will only be able to sleep at night if you know that you’ve been fair and unbiased in business. Once you throw this final stone, people will know that you are serious. At that point, you will break the glass ceiling.

The Glass Ceiling is Not Shatterproof

Breaking the glass ceiling isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. You will need to first believe that it exists. If you don’t believe it, look at the data. Next, train yourself to avoid stereotypes and biases. Then, you must continue practicing fairness at every crossroads. Finally, even under pressure, remain convicted. If you stay strong, you will endure, and you will succeed in your cause. While the glass ceiling won’t break with one stone, if you continue to throw stones it will shatter.

Picture of a hand tossing a stone into the air.
Photo by Pxhere | Source

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