Equal Pay: Ladies, Here’s How You Can Ask Your Boss About Pay Parity

It's projected that 2059 will be the year that the pay gap will close in the U.S. if we take zero action. But obviously, as women, waiting on the sidelines is not in our DNA.

So MAKERS brought together women from lululemon, Adobe and the National Partnership for Women and Families, who all achieved pay parity in companies this year for Equal Pay Day on April 10.

Here are the highlights from the conversation about how these women achieved equal pay for equal work and their impactful advice for how women can advocate to do the same in their companies.


Susan Gelinas, lululemon: When we looked underneath it all, our store support center—our head office—was where we had a gap that needed to be closed. It wasn't a huge gap, but it was a gap nonetheless. And any gap is too big of a gap and we want to close it. At the time we didn't really know where we were, and it's been a journey to get there and close faster than we expected. So we were about nine months ahead of schedule, which we're really proud of.

Rosemary Arriada-Keiper, Adobe: Right now we've achieved pay parity in the US and India—that's roughly about 80 percent of our employees. We have about 19,000 employees globally. We're really going to focus on the other 20 percent [in 2018] and trying to get them to pay parity. What we found was in the U.S., we were at 98 cents to the dollar. Not a huge gap relative to some other folks but a gap nonetheless. Like Susan said, it's just not acceptable.


Rosemary Arriada-Keiper, Adobe: We had to embark on a lot of work ensuring that people were appropriately matched to the right jobs. It was really a redesign of our job architecture, and ensuring that the roles and scope of responsibilities that individuals have were reflected in the job descriptions that they had. We had commitment from leadership that they were willing to go ahead at any cost and make the adjustment.

Susan Gelinas, lululemon: What we did is we partnered with an external firm. We brought people on who are the best in the world at doing this to get even deeper and to dig underneath to look at things like performance, experience and looking by job level.


Rosemary Arriada-Keiper, Adobe: The way to go about initiating these conversations start with not being afraid to ask the question. If you're advocating for yourself individually, it becomes more of a one-on-one conversation with your manager: What is my salary range? How am I positioned relative to other folks in this role? There's a way in asking those questions that is not threatening and that's more inquisitive. Just having that open dialogue. If there's momentum within a company already then try to find a direct line into some of those decision makers that have some passion around this. If you come from the perspective of trying to understand and get some context versus demanding, it tends to be a more positive experience.

Susan Gelinas, lululemon: [First], not having fear around raising the conversation. In our culture there's talk about feedback and feedback truly being a gift because there may be something that the manager doesn't see or doesn't understand. So if you come at it from a place of seeking to understand and seeking to know more, then I think it can lead to a really powerful dialogue.

Vicki Shabo, National Partnership for Women and Families: Where I tend to get worried, and as a policy advocate tend to think a lot, is about workers that don't have any bargaining power in their workplace—the folks who are among the 40 percent of workers who say that they can't talk about it at work. We're starting to see large states pass laws prohibiting retaliation, prohibiting asking about salary. There are great resources out there for employees around negotiation and training. AAUW [American Association of University Women] is one of our partners and it's a great resource. Department of Labor has some good resources as well.


Rosemary Arriada-Keiper, Adobe: We have the balance of the 20 percent of the employee population that we've committed to addressing by the end of this year. So that's an immediate focus for us. We're also focusing a lot on diversity and inclusion at Adobe.

Susan Gelinas, lululemon: Now that we've closed our gap, the next question is what does it look like to maintain that closure? Continuing with our systems, our analysis, how do we maintain this so it doesn't come to a point where a gap reappears. It's dynamic, it's never actually static. So how do we always know that we're maintaining that closure.

Vicki Shabo, National Partnership for Women and Families: Pay parity is not an end goal. It is a standard you have to maintain. I think some of it is revisiting, understanding of both the role of new hiring and the promotion at raise process. These folks and some of the others, like Starbucks are really the exception right now. What we need to do is figure out both how to incentivize the companies that are taking the lead to do it, to publicize their data and talk about best practices. We also need to change the landscape so that it doesn't have to be this hard.