USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg participated in a meeting of the UN’s Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), May 28-29 in Lima, Peru. Launched by the UN General Assembly in 2017, EPIC aims to help stakeholders realize and achieve SDG Target 8.51: “By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”
Specifically, EPIC is an initiative driven by stakeholders committed to reduce the gender pay gap and make equal pay for work of equal value a reality across all countries and sectors. Coordinated by a secretariat encompassing the ILO, UN Women and the OECD, the coalition engages governments, employers, workers and their organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia to take concrete steps to accelerate the closing of the gender pay gap and the achievement of pay equity.
At the Peru meeting, which was focused on “south-south” dialogue among developing countries, Goldberg spoke on behalf of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), part of USCIB’s global business network. She said that while the rights-based case for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and equal pay is clear, there is also a robust business case for gender equality.
“To speak in the language of business, the economic empowerment of women is a critical enabler of economic development and growth,” Goldberg stated. “Representing at least half of all human talent and potential and an enormous market of consumers, women are a valuable and strategic resource in developed and developing countries alike.”
Moreover, a growing body of evidence shows that companies that commit to and enable gender diversity are realizing clear bottom line benefits, not least through the attraction and retention of talented women, Goldberg said.
Companies can do – and are doing – a lot to foster gender diversity in their workplaces, according to Goldberg. Among the many lessons learned from the private sector’s experience:
- Buy-in at the top is essential.
- Pay equity is not a one-time fix. Constant attention is required, including annual benchmarking exercises.
- Unconscious bias is an important issue. Some companies have instituted training programs designed to uncover and deal with such biases.
- HR and hiring practices/policies need to be continually monitored.
- Some companies are opening themselves to rigorous outside audit and certification.
- Family-friendly and gender-blind policies on flexible work hours, maternity/paternity and sick leave benefit everyone, and extending them to all employees helps to reduce gender gaps.
Goldberg said the experience of employers indicated that gender pay gaps are not going to magically disappear, and eliminating them should not be viewed as a one-time fix. “Rather, they require specific interventions that will differ according to national circumstances, corporate cultures, available resources, and political will,” she said. “The good news is that the issue is now firmly in the public eye and an increasing number of companies are stepping up to meet the challenge.”