State Of California Signs Equal Pay Pledge

By Kim Elsesser

Studies estimate that California women lose $87 billion per year due to the gender wage gap. Today, the State of California took a step to reduce that staggering number by signing the California Equal Pay Pledge, an initiative launched by California’s First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, to close the gender pay gap. California Governor Gavin Newsom also announced the creation of a new chief equity officer position to bring an equity perspective to the state’s hiring and to help achieve pay parity among government workers.

Although California has the fourth-smallest pay gap in the country (trailing Vermont, Hawaii and Maryland), there is still work to be done. Women in the state earn only 88 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and Black, Latina and Native American women face a much larger pay gap.

“I’m proud to announce that California has signed the Equal Pay Pledge to advance pay equity in our workforce,” said Governor Newsom. “Signing the pledge and establishing a chief equity officer position are just the latest examples of our continued commitment to ensuring our state government workforce practices reflect the highest standards of economic, gender, and racial equity.”

Organizations that sign the Equal Pay Pledge agree to conduct an annual, company-wide gender pay analysis. They’re not required to report their findings publicly, but they use the data to assess their hiring and promotion procedures to reduce unconscious bias and ultimately close the pay gap. Over 60 major California employers, including Airbnb, Apple, Gap Inc., Intel, and Twitter, have already signed the pledge. Now, California’s largest employer, the state, has signed as well.

The pay analysis creates an awareness that is the first step to ending pay disparities. Organizations that don’t know where unconscious bias slips into their hiring, pay or promotion processes are helpless to reduce their gender pay gap. Only through data analysis can they begin identify problem areas, which is the first step toward change.

The pledge supplements the equal pay requirements already on the books in California. California companies with more than 100 employees must submit pay data to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to be in compliance with a law signed by Governor Newsom in 2020. In addition, California’s Fair Pay Act prohibits unequal rates of pay for employees of the opposite sex who perform “substantially similar work.” 

In addition to pledging to complete a pay analysis, California will be among one of the first states to establish a chief equity officer position (Illinois appointed a chief equity officer last year). The chief equity officer’s responsibilities will include focusing on policies and programs that could help reduce the gender pay gap.  They will also work to ensure that California government workforce practices reflect the highest standards of diversity, equity and inclusion.  The position is an appointed position and is expected to be filled this year.

“We can’t reach full gender equity or close persistent gender and racial wealth gaps without reaching pay equity,” said Jennifer Siebel Newsom. She adds, “As the state’s largest employer, California is leading by example. I call on other employers to join us as we work to ensure all California women are valued, respected, and paid equally.” The First Partner leads the Equal Pay Pledge in collaboration with the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls and the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.