Hacking The Wage Gap

What we ultimately need is an approach that addresses structural and historic workplace biases, be they racial, homophobic or sexist. Can we get an app for that, please?

Are we finally on the verge of achieving equal pay for equal work? The answer is sadly no, although arguably progress is being made.

The latest estimate from the Census Bureau indicates that in the United States, female workers earn 79 cents to every male dollar -- 2 cents higher than a decade ago. And while there are certain occupations where woman outperform men, they are the exception; around 1 in 38.

And it's not just women who are getting stiffed, pay-wise. Research shows that in 2015, black men in the United States earned around 85 per cent as much as white men. And there is even a gay wage gap, with economist Lee Badgett estimating that LGBT workers earn roughly 11 per cent less, globally.

In January of this year, the Obama administration proposed legislation which would require companies of 100 employees or more to disclose worker pay by gender and ethnicity, coming into effect in 2017.

"The issue has been a hot topic on the campaign trail, too," says Marie Claire's Kayla Webley. "Hillary Clinton has vowed to close the gap, calling on Congress to pass legislation and on CEOs to investigate pay at their companies, while a field organiser for Donald Trump filed a complaint against the campaign, alleging she was paid less than men with the same job title." Webley's breakdown of the wage gap includes advice for managers on how to address pay inequity, as well as tips for acing your next salary negotiation.

"When women are not paid fairly, not only do they suffer, but so do their families," says President Obama. In addition to floating the new rule which will hold companies to account, Obama also launched a hackathon event this year to focus on innovation in this space. "I wish I had these tools to benefit my own career, and for the benefit of the businesses I've run," says Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who provided feedback to each 'Hack The Pay Gap' entry.

Variable Labs design VR experiences specifically to "foster empathy, develop soft skills, and change behaviour." For the hackathon, the organisation presented a VR negotiation simulator, comprising a number of workplace scenarios in which female players are encouraged to be confident and assertive when pitching ideas and discussing their pay.

'What's My Pay Gap?' is a simple calculator which uses income data from the Commerce Department to give workers an accurate insight into their pay inequity based on race, gender and age. The value of this tool, according to developer Adam Bonnifield, is to "uncover where inequality comes from" and dispel "incorrect assumptions."

'Raise Above The Wage' is a browser plug-in which enables users to experience the pay gap for themselves, by altering the price of goods and services based on their selected profile. In other words, you can see with your own eyes the cost of being a woman or POC.

Perhaps the most useful on a broader scale is 'Aware', a data survey and analytics platform which allows companies to collect and visualise information about the wage gap from their own employees, fostering communication and action on the issue. 'Aware' differs from the other tools in that in addition to empowering the individual, it also puts the responsibility on the company to solve this problem -- a crucial difference.

What we ultimately need is an approach that addresses structural and historic workplace biases, be they racial, homophobic or sexist. Can we get an app for that, please?

A version of this article originally appeared at Ogilvydo.

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