Resource Round-Up: Equal Pay Day 2016

When I attended college, there was little talk about Equal Pay Day – from administrators, students, or conversations spurring on the internet.

It’s exciting to see the conversation becoming more mainstream on social websites like Twitter and Facebook (#EqualPayDay) and expanding to create awareness of pay gaps among the gender spectrum and different races. As an involved undergraduate student leader, I was often one of the first people to spread awareness of an event or campaign on campus.

Digging through my memory banks, I don’t remember equal pay being a topic of conversation or being discussed in my graduate courses preparing me for a career in higher education (which was only two short years ago). After realizing my experience was all too common among college students and women on our team, we decided to put together resources and use Equal Pay Day as an impetus to continue a much needed conversation among all student affairs functional areas.

Unequal Pay in 2016

We’ve compiled information to help you broaden your individual awareness, spark more conversations about equal pay on campus, and bring resources and ideas to your institution to take action and help close the wage gap.

Startup Stock Photos

It’s important to acknowledge that the field of student affairs is not immune from the issue of wage discrimination or the fact that men are often promoted at a faster and higher rate in a field dominated by women. We still see fewer undergraduate women holding student government roles at institutions, which is concerning in environments where women are typically overrepresented.

It’s also important to recognize that many facts being tweeted and shared about today’s Equal Pay Day are about white women compared to white men. With this in mind, we’re making efforts to expand the conversation to be more inclusive of people of color, different genders, and people who hold different identities who aren’t provided with the same privileges of cisgender, heterosexual, white men and women.

What Gender Wage Gap?

Women earning 79 cents for every dollar men earn” is the statistic being shared across social media networks and news, which is based on the most recent Census data of full-time, year-round workers in the U.S. There are also other reports that show how wage gaps widen more based on things like race, gender, occupation, and age.

Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 to show the wage disparities between men and women’s wage earnings and to prove that a wage gap exists.

The wage gap exists partly due to differences in education, experience, or time working. However, after a study of women’s earnings (based on 18 years of women’s earnings data) it was determined a 20 percent gap between women and men that could not be explained – even when things like demographic information are accounted for.


Picture from: The American Association of University Women (AAUW)

With knowing this information, the gap can be blamed on discrimination, meaning, jobs still pay women and people of color less than men simply because they hold these identities.

Many people believe that the wage gap is a myth, and a recent post by Huffington Post Women outlines why it is in fact still very real.

What You Can Do

As professionals and role models in higher education, we have a responsibility of continuing conversations and paving the way for equal pay at the institutions we work for.

This means creating opportunities for students to learn about wage gaps and intentionally embed the information into curricula and make inclusivity at the forefront of campus culture.

Completing a Self-Audit

We pulled questions from the National Committee on Pay Equity’s 10 Step Guide to help you analyze some of your department or institutional hiring and practices in the student affairs field:

How does your hiring process seek diversity in the qualified applicant pool?

Do you write position descriptions, seek employee input and develop consensus for position descriptions?

How do you assign scores or grades to jobs and allow worker input for performance evaluations? Do you have a consistent performance evaluation system?

How long do men, women and minorities stay within job grades or scores before moving up? Do men or non-minority workers move up faster? What are the reasons that some workers move up faster? Can you take action to ensure that all workers have equal opportunity for advancement?

How does negotiation affect entry-level salaries? Are men able to negotiate higher starting salaries than women or minorities?

How are workers selected for participation in training opportunities or special projects that lead to advancement? Are there differences by race or gender? If so, what can be done to widen the pool to reflect equal opportunity?

Check out the full guide to self-audit here and work with human resources to update hiring practices.

Changing Employee Evaluations

More and more institutions of higher education and companies all over the U.S. are trying combat gender bias in the workplace and suggest that employee performance evaluations need to occur more often, include data, and address things like bias (conscious and unconscious) at the beginning of the evaluation conversation.

Supervisors can educate themselves on biases in the workplace through diversity trainings about performance evaluations.

Reviewing performance evaluations more frequently

In a situation where an employee is only reviewed once a year, managers tend to only remember the performance of an employee of the past few weeks – not earlier contributions in their role. This leaves room for bias and changes in compensation or promotion decisions when compared to other employees.

Facebook published video modules on managing unconscious bias that help with things like Performance Attribution Bias where, for example, women are less likely to take credit for their own contributions, and instead give most of the credit to the team they worked with.

Re-thinking how you measure performance

Bring in more people into the evaluation and review process. More and more workplaces are adopting 360 degree reviews to give a complete picture to an employee’s performance.

When creating your own evaluation timelines and processes for employees or student staff like Resident Assistants and Orientation Leaders, incorporate 360 reviews to help identify and prevent bias.

Creating access to performance evaluations

Too often, managers hide evaluations after they are reviewed. If provided electronically, employees can access the feedback whenever they may need it, making it easier to show if they’re not receiving the same access to advancing in their position. This is an easier way for employees to track progress and easily track past feedback.

Creating a system that allows for anonymous feedback for managers

In a Women in the Workplace study, the women surveyed reported they were less likely to be consulted on important decisions than their male counterparts. If female employees have the opportunity to point out possible unintentional biases, managers have the opportunity to identify and correct their own behaviors.

Planning Events for Students

Conversations about equal pay aren’t limited to career services offices. It’s the responsibility of everyone, both staff and faculty, to discuss the issue of wage discrimination with all students (not just women or marginalized groups of students, but with white men as well)!

Inviting companies to campus who believe in Equal Pay Day – everyday

Yes, there are companies that do pay men and women equally. In fact, Gap, Inc. has paid men and women equally for the third year in a row (2016 will be their third consecutive year). Find out if there are companies or local businesses in the communities who enact and believe in equal pay practices.

Holding workshops on job negotiations

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) holds Work Smart and Start Smart salary negotiation workshops that empower women entering the workforce with more skills and confidence they need to negotiate their first salary, paycheck, and benefits. The workshops do cost money so you could see if there are any hosts on your campus already, if multiple offices want to help pay for the workshop, or locate a workshop already happening near campus.

Expanding the Conversation

The National Committee on Pay Equity created this short quiz you can print off and bring to a staff meeting or give to students to create awareness of wage discrimination. It can bring awareness to and inform conversations on campus in regards to people of color and the wage gap.

Moving the Dial

Wrapping your head around all of the information on the wage gap can be a lot to take in. However, compiling these resources can give you highly useful information for you and the students you work with who are most likely headed into today’s workforce. Following these suggestions, finding additional resources, and providing education for students will not only make you a more mindful professional, but these steps will hopefully motivate you even more to take action in lessening and one day eliminating the gender wage gap.

Look for more takeaways? Check out AAUW’s Quick Facts on the Gender Pay Gap.

How are you bringing awareness to Equal Pay Day?

Did you hold any specific conversations or programming to address the wage gap?

Tweet us @CheckImHere with program ideas and thoughts! Thanks for reading.

Kayley Robsham

About the author: Kayley Robsham is the former Community Engagement Manager at Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

Check I'm Here is now Presence. Learn more about this change in our blog post here.