Survey: 20% of HR People Say They Pay Men More Than Women For Same Work

By Eric B. Meyer

So, do we really have a gender pay gap? Or is it just a myth?

Well, first let’s talk about this study. Recently, “more than 3,200 workers and more than 220 human resource managers in the private sector across industries participated in a nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 4 and December 1, 2015.”

In addition to the startling results about the gender pay gap — and more on that in a bit — the study reveals that “more than half of workers (55 percent) do not believe men and women are paid equally for the same job, and a similar proportion (51 percent) do not feel men and women are given the same career advancement opportunities.” You can review all of the results here.

Pay gap based on gender? Or something else?

But, what of those one in five Human Resource managers “admitting that women do not make the same wages as their male counterparts at their organizations?”

Let’s assume that’s true. That is, there are women who make less than men for the same work. Does this mean that it’s because of their gender?

Well, studies I’ve read (this one, or example) show that men and women just starting their careers earn the same amount. It’s over time that men tend to earn more. But is that because of their gender?

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Like my blogging buddy Robin Shea notes at her Employment and Labor Insider blog, there are neutral factors, other than sex, that could contribute to a growing pay disparity:

The “[gender] pay gap” compares the average pay of all women in the workforce with the average pay of all men in the workforce. It does not control for type of position held, geography, career ambition, family responsibilities, education, type of employer, length of employment, gaps in employment, era in which one entered the workforce, or anything else.

Are women paid less because of discrimination? Maybe. I can’t say no. But I can’t say yes, either. At least, not in this day and age. I suspect that these other factors account for the vast majority of the modern gender pay gap, so why blame it on employment discrimination and impose a significant new burden on employers?

Find out the reasons behind pay disparity

Either way, to those 80 percent of HR Managers who don’t see a pay disparity, don’t turn a blind eye to the possibility the protected-class motivates pay inequity. Rather, consider auditing job classifications to see if certain protected classes are getting paid more than others.

And, if so, learn the reasons why. If the pay disparity is based on a protected class, fixing that problem before it becomes a real legal issue.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (, which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.


2 Comments on “Survey: 20% of HR People Say They Pay Men More Than Women For Same Work

  1. Eric, the problem of gender pay inequity is easy to identify but very complex to solve. It is definitely influenced by things like job type, family responsibilities and so forth. But this raises more questions such as do companies systematically assign less financial value to functions that historically have been more willing to promote women into leadership roles (e.g. HR, marketing, customer service)? Are these stereotypically “feminine” roles treated as being less valuable than “masculine” roles due to implicit biases about the value of women or the value of roles historically occupied by women? And what is the damage caused by implicit tendencies to channel women toward certain leadership roles and away from others?
    Similarly, what is the long-term cost to an organization when it derails a high potential leader because they want to spend a few years raising their children (whether female or male)? Is the traditional view of fast track leaders who are expected to consistently put work over family every quarter of their working life a good long-term model for future workforce management?
    These are the sorts of questions we need to be looking at. They are far more substantive than simply saying we have to start paying women the same as men. Just talking about gender equity statistics without looking at these deeper questions is like obsessing over your weight without discussing how to change your lifestyle to become more healthy.
    On the other hand, I believe statements that suggest, intentionally or not, that we should dismiss the gender pay gap as being something that may be okay simply because it may not actually due to intentional bias is a very dangerous way to think about the issue. Its akin to ignoring the health affects of obesity just because you haven’t intentionally tried to gain weight. Gender based pay inequity at the levels it occurs in our society clearly indicates that something is happening that leads to companies placing less value on work performed by women vs. work performed by men. In my opinion, that is not the mark of truly healthy and equitable society that is fully engaging both halves of its workforce.

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