HR’s Role in the Gender Pay Gap

Pay Gap

HR’s Role in the Gender Pay Gap

12 Dec, 2019

We’ve spoken a lot about the gender pay gap and how leaders can work to eliminate the gender pay gap in their organizations. We’ve gone through several gender pay gap topics and now, we’re going to explore HR’s role in the gender pay gap analytics.


Our previous articles will give you a good idea of specific stats and research that explain why the gender pay gap exists and how to make improvements:



The good news? HR’s role in the gender pay gap doesn’t require any huge, transformative changes. Using the right tools, HR can use the same techniques they’ve always implemented to improve processes like job analysis, salary review, performance evaluation, and other employment data. All it takes is the right mindset to make compensation to be more equal between men and women.


Not only is it HR’s role in the gender pay gap to ensure fair pay practices, but it is also their responsibility to keep humanity at the forefront in the workplace. 


Why is bridging the gap important?

Aside from the obvious reasons of fairness and promoting a just society, the gender pay gap has serious effects on women, families, and the economy. 


While the gender pay gap steadily increased throughout the 80’s and 90’s, it has now slowed down and reached a point of stagnation. If the current rate is allowed to continue, most societies will not achieve gender parity for 100 years. That’s a lot of money missed out on not just for women, but their children and the families they support with their wage.


What’s more, in 2015, only 18% of board members of Fortune 1000 companies were females. So, it’s important to pave the way so more women can move into leadership positions.


HR leaders are in the best possible position to instill change over the gender pay gap, especially since HR is one of the professions dominated by women. It is HR’s role in the gender pay gap to take charge of their companies’ recruiting practices, compensation, and diversity efforts. 

The cultural problem of the gender pay gap

Most experts will agree that the gender pay gap is due to a combination of cultural, social, and economic factors. In most environments the default belief, whether conscious or not, is that women’s contributions are less valuable than men’s. Therefore, inequality is systemic.


Also, in many if not most cultures, women are still considered from a societal perspective to be the primary caregivers and are vulnerable to experiencing the “motherhood penalty.”


For HR to effectively make an impact on the gender pay gap at each step of the employment lifecycle, they need to have reliable data and honest conversations with key company leaders and stakeholders about these imbedded biases.

Reasons pay gap reporting is difficult

Before we begin addressing specific items HR can address to minimize the gender pay gap, there are some reasons why gender pay gap reporting can prove to be problematic.


Because the gender pay gap is complex, working to eliminate the gap will take multiple efforts and initiatives. Here are some things to be aware of where HR professionals can experience difficulty:

Lack of resources

Every organization disperses pay and HR responsibilities differently. If the company is smaller, the finance department may be carrying out HR duties (or vice versa). This can result in a complex flow of information, which is worsened when staff are spread thin.


Here are ways to combat the problem of a lack of resources:


  • Make a list of the exact data needed to complete a pay report. Then, identify where gaps exist and come up with a plan to retrieve that data
  • Export and clean the data collected (this is very important!)
  • Identify key departments and individuals that HR employees will need to interact and communicate with for this project. Be sure to make those groups aware of the research report and what is required of them (and set deadlines).
  • Come up with clear task lists so everyone involved in the project knows exactly what they must do and who to ask if they have questions.
  • Use an efficient software that will do most of the hard reporting and data collecting for you. Heartpace can help you with this. It will be like having several extra employees on hand!

Inaccurate data and reporting

Having accurate data is imperative in being able to create a comprehensive pay report within your company. Unfortunately in many organizations, data isn’t integrated or it’s dispersed everywhere. This makes reporting and data collection all the more difficult.


Without clean data and a good reporting system in place, your company’s reputation could be negatively impacted. Also, HR wouldn’t be able to properly identify the sources or reasons for any gender pay gaps. At Heartpace, we offer a robust reporting software that will take a lot of the difficult parts of the gender pay gap reporting process and automate them for you. Learn more about how this tool can help the HR department more proficient and fair. 



Things HR can do to combat the gender pay gap

Here are the key things HR can do to prevent gender pay gaps within their organizations:

1. Don’t ask salary history question

Asking prospective candidates the ‘salary history’ question only helps pay inequities to carry over. This practice is also quickly becoming illegal in many countries, so it’s best to eliminate this questioning entirely from the recruitment process. Instead, HR professionals should work to identify set salary ranges for specific job titles and award salaries based purely on the skillsets a candidate brings.

2. Eliminate potential recruitment biases


Getting rid of bias is one of the most tricky problems to tackle, because bias often comes out in unconscious ways. Seeing candidate names or even the color they use on a CV can all create to bias in the recruitment process. Here are some things HR professionals can do to work against this:


  • Temporarily hide identifying information like names on applications until a comprehensive shortlist has been made.
  • Closely monitoring promotions over time to ensure they are bias-free
  • Working to make sure both female and male counterparts are being presented with the same opportunities (such as training, 1 on 1 time with managers and leaders, mentorship opportunities, etc.)

3. Find ways to make up for career interruptions


A large part of what makes up the gender pay gap are the disadvantages women face after having children. Women are more likely to switch to part-time work, take more time off to give birth and raise children, and be overlooked in the workplace due to an assumption that they aren’t dedicated. While mitigating the “motherhood penalty” isn’t easy for HR staff, it is possible. These are some helpful policies:


  • Offer paid maternity leave
  • Provide onsite childcare or an extra benefit helping pay for childcare
  • Flexible scheduling and telecommuting
  • Paid paternity leave to incentivize males to stay at home to care for children


These types of practices help give women and parents the flexibility needed to continue achieving at their jobs while balancing their lives as parents as well.

4. Be transparent about pay


Promoting transparency around compensation helps hold HR departments and their organizations accountable for gender pay gaps. Many European countries have now made it legal practice for companies to make pay transparent to employees in the same line of work. Companies like Whole Foods are already doing this by publishing individual salaries on their company intranet.

5. Use reporting and analytics to pinpoint inequities


Regular reporting and analytics are central to ensuring fair pay practices and closing the gender wage gap. Having a robust tool that collects all pay- and performance-related information will make this process a lot more simplified. While there will be time and energy required upfront to get up and running with the tool, in the long run, it will make reporting and analyzing company pay practices much more efficient. 


Learn more about conducting pay equity analyses in our other blog post here


At the end of the day, leveraging the right technology will give HR professionals a huge advantage in closing the gender pay gap. When the organization puts into practice ways of eliminating gender pay gaps, it shows that the company it committed to fair compensation for everyone in the company. Learn more about how Heartpace can jumpstart gender pay processes within your organization today. We hope you’ve gained important takeaways from this post on HR’s role in the gender pay gap.


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