In the past five years, American corporate giants like Wal-Mart, Morgan Stanley, Home Depot, FedEx and General Electric, to name a few, have faced expensive discrimination suits. In 2007, Congress and contenders for the White House addressed the issue, with a recent Supreme Court decision prompting women’s groups to push for passage of the Fair Pay Restoration Act this fall. The message for corporate America should be clear — the issue of pay equity is an opportunity and a threat.
A 2006 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found wage disparities by gender, race and ethnicity in the communications and media sector. The multitude of services provided by our industry doesn’t fit neatly into one of the Institute’s categories, but the wage gap persists across the sector: Women employed by Internet Service Providers fared best, earning 99 percent as much as men; women in Wired and Wireless Telecommunications earn only 71 and 72 percent, respectively, of what men earn. The Radio/TV/Cable sector came in between the two, with women earning 90 percent as much as men.
In many ways the cable industry is at the forefront of implementing innovative pay policies and practices. Pay equity has seen tremendous growth in our industry during the past five years. When the WICT PAR Initiative (Pay Equity, Advancement Opportunities, and Resources for Work/Life Support) launched in 2003, 71 percent of participating companies lacked formal pay equity policies. Today, 60 percent of companies have them. Without the resources provided by the PAR Initiative, this dramatic change would not have taken place.
Pay equity policies, however, are just a starting point. There are additional practices companies are beginning to employ to eliminate pay disparities and increase transparency. Pay bands give managers firm parameters for salary and bonus decisions. Employers are also providing employees with information about the cash value of benefits like child care and sick time. Pay equity enforcement is moving into the hands of line managers, who are being equipped with the latest compensation data and tools to correct inequities when they are discovered. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to equity by insuring that pay equity policies are ingrained into their corporate cultures.
As the search to attract, and keep, talent intensifies, employers who can showcase success in this area will have an advantage over competitors. Smart employers are moving to get ahead of anticipated legislation by improving transparency on pay decisions and allowing employees access to information that they can use to analyze the equity of their own pay.
As an industry, we have an opportunity to become a model for pay equality practices, while also protecting ourselves from the threat of lawsuits facing our corporate counterparts.
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley is president and CEO of WICT.