Loading... please wait

March 24th is Equal Pay Day, marking how far into 2021 women in the United States must work to catch up to what their male counterparts earned in the previous year. While this actual date changes every year, there should be no “equal pay day” as there is no justification for women to have to work almost 15 months to earn as much as men do in 12 months.  

The simplest way to define pay equity is equal pay for equal work. According to the latest data, women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man does. And the gap is even worse when race is a consideration. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a man earns, and Hispanic women earn only 55 cents. This gap is simply unacceptable, and we need to address it.  

I personally feel a responsibility to speak out about this issue, not only because I am a chief human resources officer at a fast-growing biotechnology company, but also because I am a Latina, and a working mother of two daughters. Differences in pay should be driven by objective factors such as years of experience, educational background, and performance not by gender or race. And while every company is different and each face different challenges, I’ve found that there are three things every company can consider right now to help address pay inequity. 

Conduct a pay equity study

In 2019, Horizon Therapeutics conducted its first pay equity study to understand if there were pay differences between equally qualified employees doing similar jobs, specifically across gender, race and ethnicity. While the path of least resistance would be to “not ask questions, you don’t want the answer to” we went the opposite direction and before the study began, we committed to deal with whatever we might find. We were pleased that the results showed that all our employees, regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, are in fact receiving equal pay for equal work. We are clearly proud of this achievement, but while this is gratifying for us, it is disappointing that these results put Horizon among only 1% of companies globally that have achieved total pay equity.

Although we learned in 2019 that we achieved pay equity, our work is not done. Our long-term success as a company rests in our ability to attract and retain top talent. So, we have dedicated resources to conduct this study every other year to ensure we maintain pay equity and that everyone with similar experience doing a similar job has similar pay. 

I strongly recommend others consider doing a pay equity study within their own organizations. Without conducting a study, there is no way to know if you have pay inequities. Being informed by the data is critical to taking actionable and meaningful steps towards achieving true pay equity.

Weave equity into business values and practices

The payoff for achieving pay equity is significant. Pay equity contributes to employee retention and helps recruit a more diverse pool of applicants. There is a wealth of research that supports the idea that diverse teams are more innovative, and we know that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their industry average profitability and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely. But beyond the many benefits to the business, pay equity is simply the right thing to do. 

I believe that equal pay should be a foundational value for any company. At Horizon, this comes from our leadership’s fundamental understanding of the value of diversity and how it positively impacts our company, the communities where we live and the patients we serve. 

One way for companies to put these values into action is by using them to codify practices that assess the market value for various roles and then outline the necessary experience and qualifications of individuals either in the role or applying for the role. Best practice is to then pay those individuals based on the roles’ value and their concomitant qualifications regardless of what they look like or where they came from. 

We all can strive toward creating a more equitable workplace, we just need to have the courage to push against the inertia. As leaders, we must proactively check our biases and make the work setting truly equitable for everyone. 

Set up structures to support women 

It is crucial that companies support women and provide them with the resources they need to succeed both in the workplace and in their personal lives. 

Over the past year it has become abundantly clear that women are often bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. In the United States, some estimate that women have been set back by as much as 10 years in the workplace due to the pandemic. In fact, according to data recently issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2020 women lost 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000.

On top of this, lack of child care options has forced many mothers with young children to arrange reductions in their work hours four to five times greater than reductions arranged by fathers. This has more than doubled the gap between the number of hours worked by women and by men.

What these grim statistics suggest is that organizations need to be continuously innovating to support flexibility for everyone,  especially women, so they can appropriately balance the demands of work and family. And we must do this not only through the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic but also when we emerge on the other side.  A few of the practices that Horizon has implemented that have proven successful include:

  • Updating our parental leave policies to ensure both mothers and fathers have adequate and meaningful leave time 
  • Providing onsite day-care options so children of employees can be taken care of while their parents are at work 
  • Women mentoring and sponsorship programs to increase the opportunities for development and growth
  • Inclusion networks and unconscious bias trainings to help create a more equitable and transparent workplace


So, Where Do We Go from Here?

With March 24th on the horizon, I commit to continue working to ensure that qualifications and experience drive pay decisions, not gender, ethnicity or race. I also want to encourage other business leaders to do the same across their organizations.

Let’s turn our words into action and come together to make Equal Pay Day a day we no longer need to recognize, because we will have made pay inequity a thing of the past.