Gender pay discrimination: The $14.3 million cost of a shattered shame ceiling

Charlize Theron got another $10 million. Lily Ledbetter got $3.3 million. And even Ellen Pao, who lost her gender discrimination case, still cost Kleiner Perkins a cool $1 million. (It remains to be seen if she’ll have to pay it back.)

When it comes to men treating women badly, the last few years has erupted in a tidal wave of women breaking their silence and speaking out. From Bill Cosby to Big Eyes, the biopic of Margaret Keane, an artist who was awarded $4 million after proving her husband took authorship credit for her paintings, women are officially shattering the shame ceiling, and the cost is both unprecedented and stupendous.

Gender pay gap: Women break their silence but good

It was only a matter of time. The only historical safeguard standing between employers having to part with millions of dollars in pay discrimination settlements has been women’s silence. Now that women are no longer playing the shame game, it’s going to get very real very quickly. Each woman who speaks up about gender discrimination opens the door for another woman to do the same., and we’re seeing the effects in the tech industry in particular. Barely a week after the Ellen Pao verdict was served, two more women brought gender discrimination lawsuits against their workplaces, in addition to the concurrent lawsuits of Facebook’s Chia Hong and Twitter’s Tina Huang.

The discrimination is in the data details

These lawsuits aren’t terribly surprising, considering what we know about the disparity between male and female pay. PayScale’s Gender Wage Gap Report shows that female CEOs are paid 13% less than men across the board and that female software engineers make 12% less than their male counterparts, to highlight just a few findings from the report.

What makes this even more significant is that up until now, women have managed to successfully get what’s theirs with only the most catch-as-catch-can intelligence. Lily Ledbetter received an anonymous note from a coworker tipping her off that her male colleagues made three times as much as her. Charlize Theron got clued in through the Sony email hack.

If women could be this successful at proving pay discrimination relying primarily on techniques popularized in Nancy Drew mysteries such as The Secret of the Old Clock, how much more successful will we be now in the rich information age of Wikileaks, Silk Road, and Google Earth?

The rich flow of data can also be a double-edged sword for employers, who can no longer operate on an ignorance-is-bliss basis. In the eyes of the law, whether you as an employer are overtly sexist of just painfully oblivious doesn’t matter. Or to put it another way, oblivion IS overt sexism. Why? Because with real-time salary tools, there’s no excuse whatsoever for employers to not monitor if they are discriminating against race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Your move, employers

CEOs like Salesforce’s Mark Benioff are leading the way, though only time will tell if his is a practical reform or a publicity stunt. We appreciate the sentiment behind Women Surge, but Benioff should be taking a swifter, more data-driven approach that will allow him to remedy the pay discrepancies quickly, rather than “giving some women raises in a process that will take the next couple years.” Yay? Yawn? Yay?

Employers, you need to follow in Benioff’s footsteps and then outpace him, because the only thing that’s going to solve the fair pay issue is fair pay. Do not distribute pink puzzle pieces. Do not whip up an “every woman matters” covenant board. Do not force your lone female software engineer into a hostage-style recruiting video. (Yeah, we see you.) Just find out when and how you are paying unfairly, and remedy it. Immediately.

In conclusion, for employers who protest they can’t afford to raise wages for deserving female women because employee compensation is their biggest line item, this blogger would like to remind you of the opening paragraph of this article: $10 million + $3.3 million + $1 million equals $14.3 million that employers have now had to pony up for gender pay discrimination.

And they say girls aren’t good at math.

Are you sure your female employees wouldn’t win a pay discrimination suit? Sign up to receive a demo of PayScale’s real-time salary software here and begin protecting your company today.

Check out these related posts