A report released Monday on the eve of Equal Pay Day ranks 46 of the world’s largest companies on their efforts to close persistent gender and racial pay gaps—and the results are dismal.
Half of all the companies flunked the pay equality test and only one, Citigroup Inc., earned an A grade, according to the report from investment advisory firm Arjuna Capital and Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy and proxy voting service.
Companies in the financial, technology, retail and health care industries were graded across five categories: equal pay gap, median pay gap, racial pay gap, transparency and commitment to pay equality.
The results suggest companies in every sector are struggling, though some more than others. Ten of the 19 financial companies failed. Five of the nine retail companies flunked. Five of the six health care companies received F grades. The tech sector fared slightly better—three of its 12 companies failed.
Natasha Lamb, wealth manager and managing partner at Arjuna, said in a prepared statement that the company had “pressed 22 major U.S. companies to take critical first steps toward pay equity,” adding that “it’s time for Silicon Valley and Wall Street to step up their game.”
But Christine Hendrickson, a labor and employment law partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago who co-chairs the firm’s pay equity group, cautioned that the report has “significant limitations,” in part because it dinged employers who choose not to publish their pay statistics and draws conclusions from a “mishmash” of variables.
“If I were sitting within an organization … my focus would be on figuring out which employees are doing similar work, ensuring that I had the data that is relevant to the pay of my employees and performing proactive pay equity analyses and making adjustments if I saw anything that was off,” she added.
While many companies named in the report took home Fs, there were some standouts. Apple Inc. and Intel Corp. got the only B grades in the tech class. Bank of New York Mellon Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and American Express Co. also received B’s, as did Nike Inc., Starbucks Corp. and Pfizer Inc.
According to the report, 10 companies said they had achieved 100 percent equal pay, including the Progressive Corp., Apple, Intel, Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc., eBay Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Microsoft Corp., Adobe Inc., and Starbucks. Last year, only five companies reportedly reached that equal pay goal.
In the financial industry, which has a 5.6 percent gender pay gap—the highest of the four business sectors in the report—Citigroup was a model student that received high marks for being transparent about its pay practices, according to the report.
Last year, Citi announced it was the first financial institution to publicly release the results of a pay equity review that looked at 36 percent of the company’s workforce in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. The study was based on pay rates adjusted for job function, level and geography and found that the pay rates for women and minorities were about 99 percent the same as for men and non-minorities.
Citi extended its pay equity review this year to cover all employees globally and reported that its findings were virtually the same as the prior year’s partial review.
But Citi also released for the first time its raw pay gap for women and U.S. minorities. The new review found the median pay for women globally was 71 percent of the median for men. The median pay for U.S. minorities was 93 percent of the median for non-minorities.
“This reiterates the importance of our goals to increase representation of women and U.S. minorities in senior and higher-paying roles at Citi,” Sara Wechter, Citi’s head of human resources, said in a prepared statement. “That is how we will reduce the difference in our raw pay gap numbers over time.”
According to Wechter, Citi aims to increase representation at the assistant vice president through managing director levels to at least 40 for women globally and 8 percent for black employees in the U.S. by the end of 2021.
Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact and co-author of the report, noted that pay equality poses a “key challenge for companies as they face reputational risk, consumer backlash, new legislation and governmental and employee lawsuits.”
“Ultimately, it is both equal pay and equal opportunity that will eliminate the gender pay gap,” he added.