Gap, Inc. (parent company of Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta and Piperlime retail brands) announced yesterday that it had independently verified that, on average, it paid female and male employees, equally.
Let’s be clear about what this statement means:
- If you added up all the salary that went to women and divided that by the number of women in Gap’s employee workforce, that number would be $X
- If you added up all the salary that went to men and divided that by the number of men in Gap’s employee workforce, that number would ALSO be $X
I wholeheartedly join the chorus of applause for Gap Inc. but my genuine respect and praise for them is because they actually took the step of trying to ascertain in the first place what (a) their workforce diversity was, and (b) how pay across their male and female workforce compared. Moreover, Gap Inc. went to the trouble of paying a third-party, Exponential Talent LLC) to independently study / confirm their data. Based on admittedly anecdotal conversations with HR professionals, most companies haven’t even made the effort to do this analysis for themselves — much less hire others to study the issue. Certainly, Gap’s third-party consultant, Exponential Talent said that it hadn’t seen another client do something like this in its 10 year history.
Now for the nitty-gritty analysis:
What does Gap’s statement NOT mean?
- Median salaries across male and female employees are equal. They may be, but a statement about average pay could mean that a few disproportionately highly paid female executives are skewing the numbers for the average female employee’s pay, and the “typical” female employee may or may not be equally paid to the “typical” male employee.
- Across any individual job title or position, the pay is the same for a given female and male employee. This analysis is across the entire Gap Inc. workforce, not for any particular role (e.g. store manager) or job title (e.g. VP).
Am I being persnickety in picking at these fine details? Maybe. However, I’m being cautious because the critique of the typical equal pay gap “77 cents for $1 of work” statement has been about the fact that this is sloppy, head-line grabbing analysis that’s potentially misleading precisely because its based on averages and doesn’t consider pay equality on an apples-to-apples basis (i.e. it does not account for job title, job function, education, hours worked, and other merit-based factors).
That said, I certainly don’t want to obscure the larger point that Gap, Inc. has done an extraordinary, and completely voluntary Good Thing. Moreover, in combination with its data about the relatively high proportion of female executives and managers among its ranks, its undeniable that Gap Inc. pays more than lip service to gender diversity and generally tries to do the right thing.