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Women's empowerment

Zero Gap Forward: A blueprint for closing the gender pay gap

Published 16 April 2024 in Women's empowerment • 4 min read

Transparency and standard salary benchmarks are vital to ensure the future of employment is equitable and just for all.

In the pursuit of gender equity, the corporate world finds itself at a pivotal juncture. Historically, endeavors to address the gender pay gap have often focused on rectifying past discrepancies. Yet, progress remains elusive. According to the World Economic Forum, closing the gender pay gap will require over 169 years. It’s time to confront the stark reality: The prevailing inequality didn’t arise from malice but rather from the longstanding presence of men in the workplace, leading to incrementally higher paychecks.

Companies have long grappled with the challenge of pay equality. However, attempting to rectify past disparities is riddled with complexities and financial obstacles. The glaring disparity in earnings — where women earn on average 80 cents on the dollar, Black women 64 cents, and Hispanic women 53 cents — underscores the urgency of our mission. While commendable, initiatives like Marc Benioff’s move to equalize pay at Salesforce, costing the company approximately $10 million, signal that retroactively addressing the issue is not only costly but also unsustainable for many. The truth is, despite our aspirations, there’s no windfall from divine sources or clients to finance this endeavor.

The question arises: Why does it take so long to bridge the pay gap in the workplace when every Fortune 500 CEO has access to data on each employee’s earnings? This is no enigma. Why should Sally earn less than Peter in today’s world? “Same job, same pay.”

In our Equality Lounges, we’ve employed a simple yet potent analogy: candy sales. Imagine selling candy for $1 to men and 80 cents to women. It sounds absurd, yet it mirrors the current reality of our workforce. This analogy serves not only as a conversation starter but also as a clarion call to action, emphasizing the imperative of unwavering transparency and a resolute commitment to equal pay for equal work.

“In the pursuit of gender equity, the corporate world finds itself at a pivotal juncture.”

As we gaze into the future, it becomes evident that the path to equality demands a fresh approach. At The Female Quotient, we focus on what can be done, not what can’t. We offer a proactive solution to close the gender pay gap, which we term “Zero Gap Forward.”

It’s a forward-thinking strategy that advocates for equal pay from this moment onward, prioritizing the future over dwelling on the past by implementing true salary transparency, where everyone knows what the other is making, and implementing standard salary benchmarks for every level, removing the need for negotiation.

Zero Gap Forward also addresses the two critical junctures where the pay gap emerges: during the first promotion, where men tend to negotiate more assertively, and during parental leave, a period when women, particularly in the US, often miss out on promotions and salary increases. By eliminating the need for negotiation and ensuring equal pay from the outset, Zero Gap Forward aims to establish a workplace where fairness reigns, tackling these pivotal moments head-on to ensure everyone receives equitable recognition for their contributions.

Our approach isn’t about rectifying yesterday’s mistakes; it’s about preventing their recurrence tomorrow.

We cannot afford to wait for the world to change or for legislation to catch up. It falls upon companies to lead the way. This proactive mindset empowers us to become architects of a more equitable future, setting an example and paving the way for others to follow suit.

Our Zero Gap Forward Blueprint transcends mere policy; it signifies a paradigm shift. It represents a transition from the past to the future, from excuses to deliberate action. In our journey towards gender equity, let’s unite not only as companies or leaders but as architects of a future where equity is the norm, not the exception. Let’s ensure that future generations need not debate the value of their work based on gender. It’s time to rewrite the rules so that the future of work is equitable, transparent, and just for all. Let’s transition from disparity to parity and close the pay gap now. Why wait 169 years?


Shelly Zalis

Shelley Zalis

Founder and CEO of The Female Quotient

A trailblazer for women in the workplace, Shelley Zalis is an internationally renowned entrepreneur, a pioneer for online research, a sought-after speaker, a well-known thought leader, and a devoted mentor. As founder and CEO of The Female Quotient, Zalis is in the business of equality™. Together with a growing global community of more than a million conscious leaders, she is on a mission to change the equation and close the gender gap. 


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