Want to know how to close the wage gap in pay? Here are three ways.

Close it.

It’s nice when people talk about the complexities and nuances of the labor market and then fold in a discussion on intrinsic motivation and capitalism. Those people are avoiding an honest conversation about accountability. If you want to close the gender gap, you close it. You get serious about titles and compensation. And you craft a total rewards program that is transparent, simple, and applicable to all levels of the organization: from people who package frozen dead chickens in a warehouse to executives who fly the company jet.

It’s a tough conversation made easier to stave off by conflict-avoidant HR professionals who don’t want to admit that we enable super-inflated executive pay and benefits at the cost of our middle-class workers.

Reward discretionary efforts.

Incentive programs should enhance your transparent compensation system, not deter from it. A well-designed plan doesn’t have to be rooted in Stalinist principles. There are ways to reward discretionary effort and encourage workers to demonstrate loyalty and advocacy without contributing to the cultural tendency to reward the youngest, the prettiest, or the most privileged in our society. I believe in bonuses, extra PTO allotments, gift cards, recognition programs, and technology applications that help leaders identify and celebrate good work.

Work on your communication skills.

Benefits communications are tricky. You wouldn’t pretend to know anything about the complexities of filing IRS tax documents after the issuance of common stock grants, so why would you pretend to know anything about pay equity or the gender gap? Hire some experts to help you understand your current plan. Learn how you can enhance it. Then work with professionals to help you communicate the changes to your program.

So those are three ways to make change without excuses.

However you have to do it, you must close the wage gap. You need to do this today.


  1. Great post! Communicating is as important, perhaps more important if what you’re really working for is engaged employees who feel good about their deal.

  2. For starters, post a spreadsheet with pay grades and steps. Assign each position a pay grade. We would be a lot closer to gender pay equality if companies didn’t insist on being so secretive about compensation. We’ve got to fight and win the payroll transparency battle first. Otherwise it’s like going down to a car dealer with that $500 off coupon from the Sunday paper. It’s worthless because the salesperson can just build the coupon into his price. But companies don’t want to be transparent on salaries because it would jeopardize their ability to lowball employees.
    All the old battles are new again.

  3. Most business professionals dont feel super comfortable talking about these issues. Im a big believer in hiring experts to help in the communication process.

  4. The concept is a no brainer but the ‘close it’ approach is clearly not that simple from an organisations perspective due to cost and retention pressures. Raising female salaries to equality will hit the cost base significantly for larger companies. Dropping male salaries then runs the risk of talent walking out the door.
    Morally companies should obviously be doing this. Mechanically, it would be interesting to know how they plan to go about it in cases of clear (and possible extensive) discrepancies.

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