According to a poll released by Gallup yesterday, four out of 10 Americans believe that equal pay  for equal work is the top issue for women in the work force. This figure was nearly identical in all groups polled—with 37% of men, 41% of women and 42% of working women choosing equal pay.

These numbers were far greater than the concern that showed up next—equal opportunity for promotion/advancement—with 21% of men choosing this response, 20% of women and 24% of working women. None of the other responses—including jobs/unemployment, sexual harassment, access to childcare, healthcare, and home/life balance—polled below 10%.

Perhaps once considered a “women’s issue,” the poll clearly indicates pay equality for women is an issue of concern for both women and men. And it’s an issue that’s only going to become more prominent. For example, last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella came under fire for his misguided comments regarding promotions and pay raises for women, claiming that the key to such rewards was not in asking for them, but working hard and having “faith” in the system.

The wording of his comment, made in response to a question asked in a conference on women in technology, could even be the basis of a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, according to legal experts. (He has since apologized and tried to clarify his statement.)

Action items for small businesses

  • Awareness: The Gallup poll clearly indicates there is awareness and concern related to the existence of a pay-gap for women performing work equal to their male counterparts. There’s no more pretending that this is an issue that only matters to someone else–it matter to everyone.
  • A serious issue that deserves serious attention: As the Nadella controversy demonstrates, the issue of equal pay is past the stage where executives can rationalize, or worse, joke it off. Businesses, large and small, who ignore the issue as it relates to their payment practices will find it harder and harder to compete for the best employees or be perceived as having a quality brand.
  • Review your payment practices: It’s time to see what your salary practices actually are, not what you may think they are. Don’t just seek advice from your accountant and, perhaps, your labor lawyer. Ask for help from employees, both male and female.
  • The growth in women-owned businesses: According to the federal National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses continue to be the fastest growing segment of small business creation. If pay equality doesn’t exist in their workplace, perhaps one of the reasons could be that women have responded to pay inequality with creating a new workplace that will reward them more fairly.

(Feature image: JD Hancock via Flickr

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