Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which marks the day a Black woman’s average salary catches up to a White man’s average salary from last year. In other words: A Black woman has to work 7 months and 7 days more than a white man to earn the same salary.
At Lyft, we’re driving to close the wage gap. In March, we announced our commitment to equal pay with an annual audit to confirm that there are no unexplained pay gaps based on gender or race at Lyft.
Originally posted to LinkedIn, below is a personal note from our VP of Talent & Inclusion, Nilka Thomas, sharing her thoughts on what companies can do to address equal pay and how Lyft is partnering with LeanIn.Org and Black Girls CODE for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day to continue to drive to close the wage gap.
Growing up in Alaska, my family had frank conversations about race beginning at an early age. My parents, who both had full-time careers in the health field — my mother as a nurse and my father at a nursing home — instilled in me the values of hard work, service, and care and concern for your community. They also told me I could grow up to be anything I dreamed, but were honest that as a young black woman I would have to work harder to achieve the same as many of my peers.
These lessons not only shaped my worldview, but profoundly influenced my career as I have sought to change the ways in which organizations not only think about equity and access, but reflect those values in their policies and systems.
For women, especially women of color, the wage gap remains persistent and alarmingly large. The World Economic Forum's 2017 Gender Gap report calculates that at the current rate of progress, it will take 168 years to close the gender wage gap in North America. In the United States, Black women are paid on average, 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women.
These statistics can feel overwhelming, but there are concrete steps we can take to implement the necessary changes to close this gap.
First, know where you stand. Just like with any important problem, you can’t improve if you don’t know your baseline. I recommend initiating an audit across all departments and levels, and examining the results to determine if and where gender pay gaps exist. Lyft has done just that by committing to an annual audit, to confirm that there are no unexplained pay gaps based on gender or race. If your in-house team lacks an audit capacity, engage one of the growing number of outside firms with expertise. It’s only then with a baseline that you can create an action plan to address any disparities.
For example, if you find that on average women at your company are earning a lower starting salary than their male counterparts for the same role, that baseline is the first step in finding out what led to it. Perhaps during the interview process previous salaries were considered, thus inheriting historical pay inequities. While the fix for this example is rather clear: evolve your hiring process to be blind to previous salaries - which Lyft has made a commitment to do for each and every employee - and base pay on a position and responsibilities, other proactive steps can take time and research. But none of it begins without first knowing where you stand.
Second, it’s critical to be transparent throughout your organization about pay cycles, levels, growth opportunities and advancement. These are things we prioritize at Lyft. Conversations about earnings and advancement are, of course, often uncomfortable – but the lack of clear information among your team may create an uneven playing field. Many of us remember what it was like, or even deal with it now, having to find out about advancement opportunities or what various jobs on the team pay through friends, connections and back channels. That uneven playing field leads in consistent inequality. The reality is that employees, and their companies, benefit when everyone negotiates from an informed position.
Lastly, ask yourself and your company this: do we have the tools, support and access to information necessary for management teams to overcome unconscious bias and course correct disparity? This starts with training and setting clear expectations. Our culture far too often promotes employees into management positions because of success in an area unrelated to management, skips training, and then expects them to excel at that too. Managers need training on the value of positive human capital and how to create it. From growth opportunities for employees, to being transparent about the pay decision process, to how to address disparity issues as soon as they arise – managers become great because of training and creating accountability. Fortunately many companies and organizations in the U.S. have created trainings like this resulting in both direct and consulting resources available to you and your company. And at Lyft, we are working hard to implement manager trainings, unconscious bias trainings, and interview skills sessions to ensure that our company leaders know how to recognize and proactively prevent unconscious bias from creeping in to the way they manage and interact with employees and candidates. Creating a culture, and a business, where everyone understands the best way to attract and keep a diverse talent pool isn’t magic – it comes from intentional, focused work.
When I joined Lyft this past March as the new Vice President of Talent and Inclusion, I knew I was joining a team committed to examining where the company currently stood, and one that was willing to make changes to reflect our core values. At Lyft we strive to Be Yourself, Uplift Others, and Make It Happen – these values are foundational to our culture, and it’s the direction we’re taking in training our current and next generations of leadership. Like many of our contemporaries, we have a long way to go before seeing a fully realized vision - but by having the conversation now and initiating steps to make the changes we want to see, I’m confident we’ll get there.
This Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, I’m excited that Lyft is partnering with LeanIn.Org to support the #38PercentCounts campaign, to help bring awareness to this massive pay gap. I challenge my colleagues across businesses in every sector to ask themselves if they, and their company, are being proactive in identifying race, gender or culture disparity in their business, and are taking action. Change from within an organization can sometimes be difficult. I invite you to join Lyft in our efforts to drive change by opting in to our Round Up & Donate program with our partners Black Girls CODE. Throughout the month of August, for every ride that is rounded up, a donation of 38 cents will be made to Black Girls CODE.
Change starts today with you. For more information about what you or your company can do to help, please visit https://leanin.org/lyft.