Gender pay gap: Here’s how firms can promote fairness

Recent progress has been made in closing the wage gap in the U.S. between men and women. Now, a study from management consulting firm Accenture offers ways companies can further level the playing field between genders.

The study, published on Tuesday, found 14 characteristics that foster a culture of equality. Those factors fall under three categories: bold leadership from a CEO who isn’t afraid to take a public position on social issues; comprehensive action from companies that provide policies and programs helping to elevate women; and an empowering environment.

“It’s about being able to be who you are,” Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “There’s a lot of discussion about what it means to be inclusive. It’s who you are, and being able to feel as though people care about what you are and not sort of conforming to a version of what the company wants.”

The research is based on a survey of more than 22,000 working men and women in 34 countries that measured their perception of factors that contribute to workplace cultures, according to Accenture. From there, the company conducted in-depth interviews and studied detailed analysis of data on a range of workforce issues.

Ultimately, the study found companies that employ all of the 14 characteristics are five times more likely to advance women to senior management and director positions and two times as likely to promote men to those roles. Implementing these strategies can also help to reduce the gender pay gap, she said.

In 2017, women who worked full time on average had median weekly earnings that were 82% of their male counterparts, although the percentage varied by occupation and race, according to the U.S. Labor Department. In 1979, the first year for which corporate earnings data was available, women's earnings were 62% of men's. Since 2004, the women's-to-men's earnings has ranged from 80% to 83%.

“We call the report ‘When She Rises, We All Rise,’ so it’s really good for all,” Sweet said.

One of the most surprising findings in the study, she said, was that companies that offered only maternity leave tended to hinder women’s careers. Instead, she suggested companies provide mandatory maternity and paternity leave, which bolstered both men’s and women’s careers.

“When you have policies that are disproportionately like, ‘Oh, you’re taking the mommy option,’ it affects [women’s] standing,” she said.