American Express – Gender Pay Inequality – 2016
Outcome: Withdrawn on a technical basis
The median income for a woman working full time in the United States is reported to be 78 percent of that of their male counterparts. This gap has largely remained flat over the past decade.
The financial services sector is routinely found to have one of the widest gaps in pay by gender relative to other parts of the economy. Despite women making up nearly one third of the financial services workforce, women on average earn less than their male colleagues.
The persistence of gender pay disparity is evident through the numerous lawsuits brought at major financial services firms. Companies like Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America have all settled gender discrimination lawsuits ranging from $32 – $46 million. These lawsuits are costly to the company and costly to shareholders. By publicly discussing and examining gender pay within the company, American Express can reduce its risk of gender bias problems and subsequently potentially costly lawsuits.
A large body of evidence suggests that diversity leads to better performance. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has found companies with highly diverse executive teams had higher returns on equity and earnings performance than those with low diversity. A May 2014 study from University of Castilla La Mancha found gender diverse teams were better at driving “radical innovation”. While advancing women to executive roles is important in addressing gender diversity, compensating women fairly relative their male counterparts is also key.
Last year PricewaterhouseCoopers voluntarily released its gender pay gap in Britain. The analysis showed that most of its 15.1 percent pay disparity reflected a lack of women in senior jobs. Consequently the firm focused on whether it was promoting fairly. In 2013, the grade just below partner was 30 percent female, yet only 16 percent of those promoted to partner were women.
Companies may also face regulatory risk related to pay parity. The Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014 is pending before Congress to improve company-level transparency and strengthen penalties for equal-pay violations. President Obama has signed an executive action requiring companies who do business with the federal government to report pay data by gender and race to the Department of Labor.
The potential cost savings of closing the gender wage gap are enormous. About 20 percent of large companies now train employees to recognize unconscious bias, spending billions of dollars to try to stamp out unintentional discrimination yet performing a salary analysis is less expensive and potentially more effective. Evidence suggests that less secrecy about pay results in greater employee loyalty and lower turnover. Additionally, American Express may enjoy a competitive edge in hiring employees who know they will be fairly compensated regardless of their gender.
Resolved: It is the sense of shareholders that gender pay inequality is a serious problem in the United States and in the financial services industry and that closing that gap is in the best interest of the company and the US economy.