By Manon DeFelice
Let’s face it: The gender wage gap is not closing fast enough. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, women earned 82% of what men earned in full- and part-time jobs in 2017, compared to 80% of what men earned in 2016. It will take more than a 2% gain to make us women do a happy dance. Based on those numbers, to catch up to what men make we’d have to work an extra 47 days a year — and that’s on top of spending almost double the time that men do on child care and housework. Black women and Latinas are paid even less than their white female counterparts. We deserve better.
As more of the workforce now works remotely via flexible and work-from-home schedules, we need equal pay for women who work flex, too. Say a woman chooses to work a half-time job so that she can better juggle work and family. She should be making 50% of what a full men’s salary would be in the same role, commensurate with experience — not 50% of a reduced women’s salary. Women should not have to pay for the same concessions twice, with a gender wage gap added to the equation.
Working flexibly can require give-and-take with an employer, with salary reductions often negotiated in exchange for reduced and remote work time. Equal pay for women needs to be front-and-center during negotiations like these, which are often best worked out through a third party such as a flexible-work recruiter. Instead of holding women back from a pay perspective, working flexibly should put women in a position to come out stronger. That way, when they choose to rev back up to full-time work, they will be set up to make 100% of what a man’s salary would be in the same role for the same experience.
For women, part of “leaning in” is staying in the workforce, even part-time. So when it comes to growing your family or taking time out to care for an elderly parent (or one of the many other reasons why people choose to work flex), it’s a better deal for women to keep one foot in the game rather than sit the whole game out. Staying in the workforce on a flexible schedule can be a way of playing the game to your advantage — adding to your resume, staying fresh with your skill set, keeping up your contacts and setting yourself up for bigger career wins down the road.
According to a recent New York Times piece, it’s after the birth of a child when the gender wage gap really grows. Interestingly, women who have babies before age 25 or after age 35 (before their careers start or after they’re established) have a better chance of eventually closing the pay gap with their husbands. It’s when women have babies between ages 25 and 35— the prime childbearing years and the prime career-building years — that women’s salaries are less likely to catch up to men’s in the long run.
It stands to reason that working flexibly can help stem women’s losses. Yet the same article notes that “when women work fewer hours, they are paid disproportionately less and become less likely to get raises or promotions.” It’s shocking to see that women sometimes get penalized for working flex, with employers scoring an additional discount for their part-time work. This should not be the case, and women need a strong radar for pay inequities like these. Rather than taking three steps back while they’re in the thick of caring for young children, women should be able to negotiate flexible work arrangements that are fair and equal to their husbands’.
Meanwhile, men are increasingly seeking flexible jobs too, often for the same reasons as women—growing their families, caring for their children and contributing 50-50 to their households. These kinds of shifts, and a rethinking of traditional gender roles, are the key to real and lasting gender equality. They’ll also help even out the wage disparities among men and women. Change in one area often leads to change in another.
Last week, April 10, was Equal Pay Day — meaning that women had to work all of 2017 plus until April 10 of 2018 in order to catch up to what men made in 2017. The Lean In organization launched a public awareness campaign, and now we need to keep the conversation going and make sure that it stretches to every aspect of the workplace. Including the flexibility revolution that’s changing our work culture everywhere.
When highly accomplished, rock-star women want more time at home, then part-time, flexible work is their best solution to keeping skin in the game. Let’s make sure their part-time pay accurately reflects the time they spend working and the value they contribute to their roles. That way, when they choose to return to full-time, they’ll get a salary that is 100% equal to men’s, and that 100% reflects their rock-star capabilities.