Q&A: Here's how organizations can prove they are equal-pay employers

Photo by: Alexander Mils on Unsplash

MANILA — Calls for gender equality have often led to a review of gender representation within development organizations. But there’s another significant area that organizations can focus their attention on — unequal pay.

Unequal salaries between men and women has been a contentious issue across industries. Women from Hollywood and the media have spoken openly and critically about the discrimination in recent years, but less so in the nonprofit sector. Most organizations focus on gender pay gaps, or the pay difference between men and women in terms of their average hourly wages.

“Equal pay is a basic human right. While most companies claim they pay women and men fairly, to be an equal-pay employer takes proving,” said Véronique Goy Veenhuys, founder and CEO of the EQUAL-SALARY Foundation, a Swiss-based nonprofit organization that provides equal-salary certification to companies and organizations.

One of the most cited solutions to solving the issue is pay transparency, but research states it can have its downsides, such as employee dissatisfaction and frustration, which could have an impact on employee performance and departure. Some companies and organizations are worried it could have an impact on their ability to hire and retain talent.

“In an ideal world, where trust and respect prevail, transparency would be the solution,” said Veenhuys. But conversations surrounding wages are often “highly emotional and complex,” she argued.

But a third-party certification, like the one offered by her foundation, can bring “transparency while preserving confidentiality,” and “put the doubt behind [an organizations’ equal pay claims] once and for all,” she said.

“The EQUAL-SALARY certification ... has a lasting impact on organizations at all levels. It reinforces trust of employees toward their employers and improves talent attraction.

— Véronique Goy Veenhuys, founder and CEO, EQUAL-SALARY Foundation

The World Economic Forum has been certified and is in the process of renewing its certification. Philip Morris International is the only company that has received global certification to date. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is the first global health organization to have obtained the certification late last year.

The movement for equal pay needs pioneering entities like these organizations, said Veenhuys, to “close the gap and end this conversation.”

Devex spoke to Veenhuys to learn more about the certification, its benefits, and how interested organizations can qualify.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What does it mean, in practice, that an organization like Gavi is now EQUAL-SALARY certified?

By committing to the EQUAL-SALARY certification, Gavi has proven that they pay women and men fairly — equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. Gavi has demonstrated that its organization has implemented an efficient and sustainable HR management system that guarantees improvement around equal pay over time.

Does that mean, for example, logisticians working for the organization in different regions are receiving the same salary?

In order to evaluate a company's remuneration or wages, a company needs to have a salary policy. And so based on that and the fact that we have all the data, all the information for each individual within an organization … we are able to really evaluate.

It is not that everybody earns the same because we always talk about equal pay, but it is about the fact that every person within that organization — given the specific education or experience or whatever it is recognized as important to set the remuneration — is actually receiving what he is supposed to receive. And the idea is really to be as objective as possible to take into account any elements that have an impact on the individual remuneration.

How does the certification work?

The EQUAL-SALARY certification takes place in two phases: a statistical salary analysis and an on-site audit.

The EQUAL-SALARY methodology used for the salary analysis allows us to estimate the remuneration of each employee given the wage policy that the organization has set and given the particularities of each person. Any gaps between the estimated and the actual wage will have to be explained and documented by the candidate organization. If no objective reason explains that gap, the organization will present a corrective action plan.

The on-site audit allows us to verify the commitment of top management and the existence of well-deployed HR processes, which bring objectivity and help to defuse any existing gender bias. This establishes a solid base to drive a true diversity and inclusion program, which will, for example, address the issue of the glass ceiling.

To complete the process, employees are involved through a survey and interviews during the on-site audit.

What are the requirements for organizations wishing to receive the certification?

Equal treatment for all candidate organizations is one of the pillars of our mission.

The EQUAL-SALARY certification applies to organizations with fifty or more employees, of which at least 10 are women. [The requirement is] an established commitment by top management to equal pay. Organizations also need to have a fully implemented human resource processes, including indicators by gender.

How long is the certification valid?

The EQUAL-SALARY certification is valid for three years. Two monitoring audits are taking place respectively one and two years after the main audit. This allows auditors to verify any corrective action plan has been implemented, as well as for minor nonconformities that might have been identified.

Why is this certification so important? What does it offer organizations who may already be implementing their own pay policies?

As there is more and more pressure for organizations to communicate on their equal pay status, addressing it is becoming one of the risks organizations will soon have to assess.

With the EQUAL-SALARY certification, equal pay becomes an established fact. It has a lasting impact on organizations at all levels. It reinforces trust of employees toward their employers and improves talent attraction. It brings an indisputable proof that an organization complies with the law and follows good governance best practices.

In addition, a certified organization contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals of the U.N. Global Compact, by contributing to SDG 5 and SDG 8.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.