Do the math on gender, racial wage gaps

Calculator lets companies run the numbers on advancement disparity

YOU’RE HAVING a conversation with a close coworker that takes an unexpected turn when he reveals that he has gotten the promotion you were both up for. An uncomfortable feeling washes over you. Your face turns red, your palms start sweating, and you feel betrayed; but you know it isn’t your coworker’s fault. As someone with the same degree, same years of experience, and same job responsibilities you can’t help but wonder why your male colleague was on the receiving end of the new job title and salary.

Too many of us have had this experience.

When the advancement disparity occurs between genders, both men and women feel confused and frustrated. As much as women do not want to be promoted less than their male colleagues, men also don’t want their friends, wives, sisters and daughters to be in this position. Interestingly, employers are often unknowingly part of this unfair system. Many do not know they are perpetuating a gender and racial wage gap.

The Greater Boston 2021 Gender and Racial Wage Gap Measurement Report, conducted by the Boston Women’s Workforce Council (BWWC), revealed that the average 2021 gender wage gap in Boston is 30 cents. Therefore, Boston Equal Pay Day, the date into 2022 that, on average, women must work to have earned on average what men earned in 2021, is April 20 – over 3.5 months longer. Looking at the data for women of color, the gap is 35 cents, making their Equal Pay Day closer to May 9. Much of this gap is because women, and particularly women of color, do not get advanced in their careers at the same rate as men.

This practice is much harder to identify and uproot through a standard pay equity analysis. It takes looking at the numbers from a new vantage point – vertically instead of horizontally. In short, we need to understand if there is a power gap at play, which occurs when women are outnumbered, outranked and out earned by men.

The BWWC and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement have launched an Employer Wage Gap Calculator to help companies calculate their gender and racial wage gaps caused often by lesser rates of promotion among certain groups. The calculator lets companies easily input their own payroll data and compare it against the community snapshot created every two years by the BWWC and its Compact Signers.

Doing the math provides companies with a baseline with which to acknowledge the gaps and measure progress. When a company advances and pays women at the same rate as men, they create a workforce that has the diversity to succeed in the future. A more diverse workforce provides the opportunity for different perspectives and experiences that result in better productivity and solutions. When all companies in a city pay and promote women fairly, they will make the city a better place to live and work, attract and keep talent, and lead as a national economic example. If you measure it, you can manage it.

The BWWC leads a unique public-private partnership between the mayor’s office and Greater Boston employers dedicated to eliminating the gender/racial wage gap. The group recruits employers to sign the 100% Talent Compact, a pledge to examine their workplace policies, fix any pay and advancement inequities they might find, and share anonymously their payroll data on race and gender in order to provide a community snapshot on progress. It is a first-in-the-nation approach to removing the visible and invisible barriers to women’s advancement. Over 250 Boston companies are already on this progressive path.

As employers, we owe it to ourselves and our employees to take the steps necessary that will change the workplace. Use the wage gap calculator and see where your company stands. You don’t have to be a Compact Signer to use our tool but, if you find gaps, you might think about joining the 250-plus organizations that have signed the 100% Talent Compact. But companies can’t do this alone. Policymakers have a role to play and can look to Boston’s public-private partnership with the mayor’s office as a playbook for how to bring government, companies, and the public together to find lasting solutions.

Meet the Author

Kim Borman

Executive director, Boston Women's Workforce Council
Take the first step. Do the math.

Kim Borman is the executive director of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council.