Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Day Long and Less Than a Dollar Short

Yes - it's true. A dollar is a dollar!

The issues around pay equity are complex for sure, but it's clear that our economy suffers greatly as a result of the pay gap between women and men. Most of us don't grow up thinking that we want women to earn less than men for equal work - or that we want the actual work performed by women to be devalued in aggregate tracking. Many of us probably don't even think about it perhaps assuming that it's just so wrong that it doesn't make sense to consider it. Yet it's happening. Women end up at less than a dollar short for long days at work - and at home.

On average women spend ~1800 hours per year working a paid job where the average pay is less than men's. Once the work day is over, women also carry the load for their families at home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women devote more than 110 million hours a year to unpaid interactive child care - more than double the amount of time spent by men in these same areas. The effort at home doesn't yet factor into economic evaluations, but shouldn't it?

If women received pay equal to their male counterparts, the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income

Beyond the Working Years

The economic impact of unequal pay cascades throughout a woman's lifecycle and causes challenges well beyond the working years. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), women live long and prosper with an average age of 81.1 years compared to men's 76.3 years yet the adverse impact of pay inequality carried forward is doubled for women.

The Social Security Administration shows more optimistic longevity data noting that:
  • Women who reach 65 today can expect to live until 86 on average
  • Men who reach 65 today can expect to live until 84 on average
  • For 65-year-olds today - ~25% of will live past age 90; ~10% will live past age 95

The median income for women over 65 was approximately 25 percent lower than men’s over the last decade, with a poverty rate for women at 2X higher than men's in 2010


Avoid Poverty Now - and Later

What if pay equity wasn't an issue? Data from the Institute for Women's Policy Research shows a dramatic decrease in poverty if pay was equalized based on:
  • same number of hours worked
  • same age
  • same educational attainment
  • same urban/rural status
  • same region of the country

The poverty rate would decrease by 50% if women earned the same as men!

Moving Forward

With laws in place to ensure equal pay for equal work and increasing awareness of the challenges caused by the status quo, barriers to pay equity will begin to fall away as more people take an active role in changing the future. To move forward we must continue to:

  • Increase Awareness - seek first to understand and then to change what doesn't work. Don't assume that everyone is aware of the details around pay equity. Leverage your knowledge and applicable laws as necessary.
    • Equal Pay Act of 1963
    • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
    • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
    • The Paycheck Fairness Act (Pending)

  • Speak Up - secrecy leads to the persistence of stubborn pay gaps due to lack of visibility. Dig in and understand fair market rates by role, gender, education, location, experience, skills, effort, and responsibility (i.e. know what's fair based on your value proposition?)

  • Challenge Perceptions - a dollar is a dollar and it should be viewed as such. Once you know your market value, prepare to negotiate for top dollar and be creative when promoting your capabilities.

  • Hold Employers Accountable - don't be afraid to challenge employers when discrepancies are found. That's what the laws are for! Concerns have been expressed that additional legislation in this area will tie up the courts with frivolous law suits. Rubbish! If pay is going wrong, then use all available avenues to help make it right!

  • Redefine the Value of Work - All of It! - people are the core infrastructure of the economy thus work 'with' people (i.e. families) should be included in economic evaluations.

Our future is in our hands - so let's take care of us!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Dollar Is A Dollar - Or Is It?

Pay equity certainly has people talking these days which is a good thing, right? We have an opportunity to understand, reevaluate, and equalize something as simple as the definition of a dollar between men and women. After all a dollar is a dollar - or is it?

The composite figure cited by the White House as $0.77 earned by women versus $1.00 earned by men brings up many questions - and much angst. Sure there are reasons for pay differences, but the bottom line is there are gaps where there shouldn't be. We might get a headache from looking at the details, but that's where the devil is so let's go there - to the details.
Tracking and Reporting Pay Equity

Highlights of Women's Earnings - a report published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics - tracks the history of pay equity from 1979 forward. The latest report was published in 2012. Data captured in the report (the head-splitting kind) includes major categories such as age, race, ethnicity, education, occupation, parental status, location, and hours worked - plus data tables.
Does each of these factors make a difference in pay equity? If so, how much of a difference does each one make? Do these factors explain why a dollar doesn't equal a dollar for women and men - when all factors are equal? Answers in order are: yes - it depends - NO!
Women's Earnings as a Percentage of Men's (1979 - 2012) shows the gap closing, but there's still a ways to go. Notice the dip approaching 2012. Definitely moving in the wrong direction.

Median Usual Weekly Earnings (2012) shows a more granular view of gaps - most significant among White and Asian populations, but still not winning any stars for other segments of the population.
Percent Change in Constant Dollar Weekly Earnings (1979 - 2012) shows that education makes a significant difference in pay. However, the spread for Bachelor's Degree or Higher is 11.1% favoring men.
Distribution of Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers (2012) shows the types of occupations held by women and men. Women carry a majority the work load in all areas (based on population) except Sales, Natural Resources, Construction, Maintenance and Production, Transportation, Material Moving. This view makes pay equity even more critical.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) was signed on June 10, 1963, but we seem to be stuck 50 years later. The law permits differences in pay for "seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex." Considerations for equal pay for equal work include skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and establishment.
The EPA requirements are reasonable and insightful so why is it so difficult for companies in aggregate to comply?
To be continued...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Curiosity Is The Spark

Curiosity. That's what sparked it.

Way back in my early years I recall my father tinkering with electronic gadgets or anything else that stimulated his imagination for hours on end. Whenever he wasn't working or at church, he would come home rest, eat, take care of any family issues, and tinker. He must have had every version of 8-track players in existence. Most of the time he was borrowing parts from one gadget to make another gadget work. He invented things - lots of things. He once made a pair of electric gloves to keep his hands warm during the winter only to find out that the gloves were too clunky to be useful. He was undeterred by the 'f' word (failure) or by naysayers . "Can't" wasn't part of his vocabulary. He just kept on creating - and creating. He was curious and creative.

My mother was also curious and creative. Unfortunately she passed on when I was just 3 years old. To the amazement of my father and my siblings, I remember her vividly. Over the years I learned more about her from my family and from many others who knew and loved her. She was focused on faith, family, and education - demanding that every one of her children receive a solid education - girls and boys alike. She kept the family clothed and fed with the money that my father brought in. Those were simpler times - I suppose - when women were primarily homemakers and men were breadwinners (it wasn't that long ago!). She stretched pennies to make dollars. It's possible, but I'm not sure how she did it - keeping our family going while also making room to help others as well.

My parents together created a large family of creative individuals with me at the end of the line - the youngest of 16 siblings (13 girls and 3 boys). As the youngest, I had the greatest advantage of watching with wide-eyed curiosity as my siblings grew up and went away to build lives of their own. I saw what worked and what didn't. Somehow I knew that I was destined to be fiercely independent and innovative, but I wasn't clear where this realization would lead me. My DNA - literally - drives me to be creative, compassionate, innovative, and fiercely independent. Curiosity is the spark. I'm curious about everything. I ask the next question. I ask the question before the question. I ask the question after that question. I imagine possibilities and link ideas that don't seem to be related.

Curiously, my career and my life are the alignment of my parents' natures. My curiosity makes me pull things apart to see how they work so that something better can be created and my compassion makes me care deeply about the impact of technology innovations on people's lives. I've studied and worked on both sides of the chasm as an Electrical Engineer supporting the creation of faster, better, more amazing technologies - and as an Industrial and Organizational Psychology Practitioner evaluating the future of work and the kinds of roles that will drive prosperity and well-being in the knowledge economy.

Going forward my contributions will focus on building bridges between these two areas in order to tackle significant challenges for:

I've been very fortunate in my career. It's not easy to advance and no one says that it should be. However, gender inequality will choke the life out of our economy if we don't set about resolving the issues systematically - and fast. Without knowing any more, consider the implications if ~50% of the population is not leveraged at it's peak potential while simultaneously being impacted by the explosion of new technologies and global dynamics. What does this mean for us collectively in 5 years, 10 years, +? What can be done about it? How long do we have to make a difference? I'm curious - and nervous - not for me as much as for my daughter and for the next generation of women and girls.

The cure for curiosity is mediocrity - keeping things as they are or allowing them to deteriorate. I don't care much for the curiosity cure, but I do care to push the boundaries in education and in the workplace. I'll continue creating and innovating in these areas until I can no longer do so. Our DNA makes it possible - and somehow necessary - to build faster, better, more amazing technologies. We can also exercise compassion in the process. Curiosity is the spark. Taking action is the next step.

I'm curious - what actions will you take and how can I help?

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Good Job Versus A Great Life - Is This A Fair Comparison?

A good job versus a great life is a never-ending discussion. Maybe it's not a fair comparison, but it's important to continue to focus on the way we lead our lives as technology, work,  economics, society, world events, and our own expectations continue to encroach on our well-being. We spend the majority of our productive time working and if we're not creating our version of a great life in the process then what are we doing?

Typical 24-Hour Day for Americans

According to the American Time Use Survey (June 2013), a typical day for a working person consists of 8.45 hours of sleep, 0.76 hours for personal care, 1.24 hours to eat and drink, 7.95 hours to work, 3.26 hours to watch TV, and 1.76 unclassified hours (commuting, random activities, etc).  For a total of: 8.45 + 0.76 + 1.24 + 1 + 7.95 + 3.26 + 1.76 = 23.42 hours. We repeat the pattern for 5 days per week totaling approximately 71% of the calendar week. If we’ve managed our time well during the week, then Saturday and Sunday are our leisure days (29%). Oh wait - we work on weekends too!

Glassdoor's Employment Confidence Survey which focuses heavily on 'employee vacation realities' enlightened us further by focusing on our use of vacation time.  Most of us don't even pause long enough to take the vacation time which our good jobs provide. We often just power through. Even if we do take physical vacation time away from the office, we take our work along with us. Again I say - what are we doing?
  • On average, employees took 51% of their eligible time off in the past 12 months
  • Of employees who have ever taken vacation/paid time off, three in five (61%) report doing some work while on vacation
  • Of employees who took vacation in the past 12 months, one in 10 (11%) report they used vacation/paid time off to interview for another job

Definitions of Good Job and Great Life

Driving to and fro daily is my introspection time. For years I contemplated the dilemma of having a good job versus having a great life. I finally concluded that this is a false comparison and it's up to me to create a great life powered by a great income. If you're comfortable with your arrangement, then proceed business as usual. If not, then redefining what a good job versus a great life means to you may be your next step. My definitions have changed slightly over the years, but the basics remain the same.

--> What is a Good Job?

The baseline of a good job typically includes an effective salary and benefits, company stability, interesting work, advancement potential, friendly co-workers, and solid leadership. No mention of working through weekends and vacation!

--> What is a Great Life?

A definition of a great life is a bit tougher to align, but there are some characteristics that virtually everyone can agree on - good health, perpetual income, happy family, great friends, purposeful actions, freedom, and fun times. Still nothing about working through weekends and vacation!

If one works all the time including weekends and vacation, then there might not be much room for health, family, friends, and fun - unless work is structured so that it includes all of these elements. If you're on a path where there is little overlap between a good job and a great life, then perhaps it's time to reevaluate your trajectory.

I get it - we all need an income to take care of ourselves. Our life phases and circumstances often dictate our choices. However, at each step along the way it's up to us to determine how and whether we create a great life or simply settle for a good one.

To kick life up a level from good to great at work and away from work, here's a hint - change and risk are involved.