Apple, Facebook, And Obama Are Working Together To Tackle The Gender Pay Gap

In case you somehow managed to avoid scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed for a whole day and missed it, Friday was Women’s Equality Day, and it came with some pretty big news from the White House: President Obama, Apple, and Facebook are collaborating against the gender wage gap. The White House announced Friday that 29 private sector companies, including the aforementioned Apple and Facebook, as well as Microsoft, Target, Visa, and General Motors, recently signed a pledge committing to eliminating the gender wage gap for their respective employees.

The pledge, which refreshingly touches on a lot of important specifics, is available in full here, and companies that sign on “commit to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations; [review] hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers; and equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives.” Companies additionally “pledge to take these steps as well as identify and promote other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.”

Many companies that signed the pledge, including Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, Cisco, and others, published their own statements on the White House blog back in June elaborating on their dedication to gender equality and highlighting plans to create a more equal work environment.

In a statement released by Apple regarding the pledge, the tech industry giant denied the existence of gender-based pay inequality within the company at the present, but also promised that if it recognized any gap in its analysis of “the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide,” it will “address it.”

It’s obviously worth remembering that as the old adage goes, talk is cheap, and the gender wage gap is a serious problem that is really difficult to address for a variety of reasons. Naturally, it’s difficult to perceive the mere text on a pledge that doesn’t detail any incentive to follow through nor any repercussions for companies that fail to as any more than a friendly gesture.

Many are quick to point out how the prevalent 78/79-cents-on-the-dollar statistic regarding the wage gap is misleading due to the dramatically different proportions of men and women in high-paying fields, and the belief that the statistic isn’t wholly representative of reality leads many to believe no wage gap exists at all. This has inspired inaction regarding all the many factors which contribute to the median income of women in the labor force being around 20 percent less than the median income of men.

In a nutshell, there’s no quick fix for the gender wage gap because of how complicated its causes are due to the existence of cultural attitudes, impossible to quantify and pigeon-hole, that contribute to steering women away from certain lucrative fields, devaluing feminized lines of work, reinforcing sexist and traditional perspectives on raising children, and ultimately, influencing employers’ perceptions of who is more skilled, experienced, and worthy of promotions and higher salaries.

But that’s not to say the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress haven’t taken some seriously helpful steps toward addressing pay discrimination and workplace inequality. Democrats in Congress have repeatedly tried to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would instate more severe penalties for pay discrimination and also require employers to prove any wage gaps between men and women in comparable positions are based on factors other than gender. These efforts have been blocked four times by congressional Republicans who have somehow managed to reason that gender equality is bad for business.

President Obama Welcomes Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong To The White House
CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama himself signed an executive order earlier this year mandating that businesses with 100 employees must report their pay data by race and gender of employees to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And now there is the White House Equal Pay Pledge, signed by more than 50 companies, which, if nothing else, serves as a positive reminder to women in the workforce that the president is doing everything he possibly can to have their backs.