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Trump Deals A Blow To Equal Pay

Ivanka Trump, pictured here with President Donald Trump on Feb. 1, 2017, has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women. (Evan Vucci/AP File)MoreCloseclosemore
Ivanka Trump, pictured here with President Donald Trump on Feb. 1, 2017, has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women. (Evan Vucci/AP File)

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President Trump says his administration is all about jobs, jobs, jobs. But he clearly doesn’t care about women or people of color being paid less in those jobs. If he did, he wouldn’t have quashed a bold effort to end the pay deficit.

Much hope had been placed on a new process that would have required employers with 100 workers or more to report salaries according to race, ethnicity and gender across several job categories. But the companies that support the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business lobbying group, complained that it was just too difficult for them to fill out the form.

It’s onerous and time-consuming, whined the corporations. Really? It’s just a form, and it’s one that they already fill out now, but would require only a little extra data. Since the 1960s, companies have had to complete an annual census, the EEO-1, telling the federal government how many males and females they employ in which jobs across seven racial and ethnic classifications.

When the form was first created by President John F. Kennedy’s Plans for Progress, which preceded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, companies doing business with the federal government had to use adding machines and typewriters to provide the data. That took determination. That was hard. I could still see pencil marks in the margins where the employment specialists tallied some of the figures.

While researching my book on the development of civil rights in corporate America, I witnessed the power of the form to give companies a very specific road map of what they needed to do to integrate their workforces. In 1950, very few government contractors hired African-Americans. By 1970, they all did.

President Trump says his administration is all about jobs, jobs, jobs. But he clearly doesn’t care about women or people of color being paid less in those jobs.

The first census forms did not count women workers separately from men, it lumped them all together. When the form changed to separate the sexes, it became clear that most women in the 1960s were stuck in secretarial jobs. As the women’s movement took hold, companies clearly could see from the form which jobs needed more women. The EEO-1 enabled companies to transform the workplace.

With computers, submitting the annual EEO-1 is now a routinized procedure. When the Obama administration asked that salary data also be reported, it seemed like a natural progression, one that would be easy to accomplish in the age of automated salary payments. Since the pay equity form came out last fall, many HR specialists have already changed their data collection practices and were ready to roll with the new procedure.

Then the executive branch hit the pause button. The Office of Management and Budget said it would review the form, delaying change indefinitely.

It’s clear the Trump administration will not provide leadership on this issue. CEOs of Merck, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase and other companies split from the president over his tepid denouncement of the white power movement just weeks ago. Now is the time for them to stand against economic bigotry by supporting pay equity reporting.

Corporations measure what matters. Embracing the new pay equity form would enable companies to analyze their own pay practices and to see how they might be contributing to a pay deficit that has full-time women workers earning 83 percent of what men earn, and causing an even greater gap between whites, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Anyone who has worked in HR knows that there are many pay equity issues that are whispered and worried about behind closed doors. Embracing the new pay equity form would enable companies to grapple structurally with salary discrepancies among their employees and rectify imbalances before they are forced by the government or a court to do so. As most CEOs know, it’s easier to make salary adjustments in a strong economy like the one we’re in than a struggling one down the road.

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Susan E. Reed Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Susan E. Reed is an award-winning columnist who has reported from more than 30 countries. She is also the author of "The Diversity Index."

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