On the Money

Some companies are bridging the gender pay gap, but it still pays to do your homework

Key Points
  • Companies are becoming more transparent with their pay practices, and making real change toward addressing the gender pay gap
  • Use sites like Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com to do your research on compensation, an expert told CNBC.
Workplace & women
Getting the most out of salary negotiations

As the gender pay gap conversation grows louder, some companies are becoming more transparent with their pay practices, and making real change.

Earlier this year, a group of Nike female employees circulated an internal survey regarding discrimination and sexual harassment, bringing it to the attention of their CEO. The findings of the survey prompted Nike to launch an investigation into whether the company fostered a hostile work environment for women.

Since then, changes were made: The CEO issued an apology, 11 executives left the company, and 7,000 employees' salaries were adjusted.

Research suggests women earn less on the dollar than men do, for various reasons. However, according to research by Payscale.com, the gap is far narrower than popular data suggest. 

CNBC | Giorgio Tonella

Strides have been made, but some say the pay gap persists because of the way in which women negotiate.

"I've had women, who, when they've been promoted, have said 'Oh no no, that's ok, I make enough.' And that I think is much of how the pay gap comes about," enterprise software Blackline Founder and CEO Therese Tucker, told CNBC.

But she added: "I think younger women are getting better."

Still, others argue there's a valid reason women don't ask for raises as often as men or as aggressively.

"Women are in a bit of a bind because we're expected to be likeable especially in the workplace environment, and we could be penalized for asking for more simply because we're supposed to go along with things," Georgene Huang, Fairygodboss Co-Founder and CEO told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

However, she's optimistic that companies are addressing equal pay by conducting pay audits.

"They look at titles and gender and they say 'Are people being paid fairly?' And in many cases they are righting wrongs," she said, citing Salesforce, SAP and other companies that have taken action.

Look it up

Huang's advice to women: Do your research. "Use the internet and all the information that's crowdsourced out there."

Websites that gather salary information include: Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, Salary.com, and Huang's own Fairygodboss.com. Huang said she feels positive changes for women will continue because the public is demanding it.

"Companies like Nike see that it affects their brand for consumer purchases. We're employees - but we're also consumers."

However, women are not only combating a pay gap, but also an opportunity gap.

According to research by Payscale.com, by mid-career, men are 70 percent more likely to be in executive roles than women. And by late-career, men are 142 percent more likely to be in VP or C-Suite roles.

This is abundantly clear when you look at leaders in the S&P 500, where just 5 percent of CEOs in that group are women. That number will drop when Indra Nooyi leaves her position at Pepsico this fall, until Kathryn Warden steps into the CEO role at Northrop Grunman in January 2019.

"In the mid-career stage, women in [Fairgodboss'] community say that there's still political networks and a lot of barriers to advancing and that sometimes it comes with motherhood, sometimes it has nothing to do with motherhood, it's just bias and political connections," Huang told CNBC.

She added, "If you don't see role models, that's the number one thing people notice when they say a company is not a fair place for women to work."

In order to foster a more equal work environment, Huang said women are looking for companies to have "good parental leave that's gender neutral, so that men are also expected to take care of their families."

In addition, she said women want a flexible workplace culture since women today are still primarily the family caretakers.

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