EDITORIAL: Better data collection vital in helping close pay inequality gap


Inequality in pay for women, people of color, the poor and LGBTQ+ individuals isn’t just unfair to them.

It also has a significant effect on their lives, their ability to make a decent and comfortable living, their ability to advance their careers, and on their self-esteem and worthiness on the job.

For businesses, equal pay increases efficiency and productivity, helps attract the best employees, reduces expensive turnover and staff absence, and sends a positive message to employees, customers and the general public about the company’s values, which can lead to a better public image and more profits.

But if the government isn’t collecting complete and accurate data on pay inequality, then individuals can’t adequately fight for their rights, human rights organizations can’t adequately bring legal challenges, support organizations can’t make an adequate case for changes in policies and legislation, and companies and industries can’t effectively evaluate or promote their own effectiveness in promoting equal pay.

Government enforcement agencies that oversee pay discrimination can’t close the pay gap if they don’t know how big the void is, who the most flagrant violators are and what problems need the most attention in order to solve the discrepancies.

“Enhancing the quality of pay data is an essential step to ensuring all workers’ rights, but is particularly necessary because women and workers from communities of color continue to face significant pay disparities,” said Jocelyn C. Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

“The work of women of color, in particular, has been persistently devalued for decades. For example, National Partnership research shows that Latinas make just 49 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid — the equivalent of two years of rent.

“It allows the EEOC [federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] to uphold workers rights and provides the insight necessary to recognize when discriminatory salary decisions are made.”

That’s why Thursday’s announcement by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the EEOC is so important. The two groups announced that they plan to take steps to improve the collection of pay data to enforce nondiscrimination protections and advance fair pay.

More details will be forthcoming on Tuesday, when NASEM formally announces that it will appoint an ad hoc panel to review and evaluate the quality of compensation data that the EEOC has been able to obtain from U.S. employers.

The EEOC collected pay information from private-sector employers and federal contractors on a large scale for the first time in 2019.

A report issued Thursday found that compensation data collected by the EEOC was useful to the organization, but that changes needed to be made in its approach to gathering information.

NASEM officials say this is an opportune time to review the collection methods being used, document any lessons that have been learned in the past three years and to identify areas in need of improvement.

The ad hoc panel also plans to review the EEOC’s methodology for collecting compensation data from employers through the EEO-1 form, as well as communication efforts with employers.

They’ll also consider existing data quality frameworks to assess the data collected.

A final report will include conclusions and recommendations to help the EEOC do a better job collecting this vital information.

That, in turn, could help them do a better job enforcing federal laws that prohibit discrimination against employees and applicants.

And that could make the employment situation for women, people of color, the poor and LGBTQ+ communities more fair and more helpful in allowing them to better their lives inside and outside the workplace.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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