Closing the Wage Gap

Artifact OL 614: Closing the Wage Gap

Laura Inlow

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Artifact OL 614: Closing the Wage Gap

An action project proposal entitled “Closing the Wage Gap Between Professional Men and Women in the United States” demonstrates the eighth program learning outcome, creating an organizational culture of diversity and inclusion (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016). The proposal was submitted four weeks into the first course of the Organizational Leadership program. The overall assignment was about collaborating for the common good (Dibble & Gibson, 2013). Each student wrote a proposal and then chose which among the proposals, presented anonymously, the class would pursue for the final.

Although it was ultimately not selected for the class action project, this proposal tackles an important ethical dilemma within organizations (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016), the issue of equal pay across genders and ethnicities. In addition to background on the subject, it includes research on legislative movement regarding the issue, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and President Barack Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Act (National Women’s Law Center, 2013). It then outlines a basic plan for addressing the issue, mostly involving community and organizational awareness, as well as the empowerment of the groups and individuals affected by the issue.

Leaders play a significant role in addressing such issues plaguing today’s organizations. In addition to emotional intelligence competencies, they must also live by a set of ethical principles (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016) and are responsible for making the right choices to move their organizations toward diversity, inclusion and fairness.


Dibble, R., & Gibson, C. (2013, June 17). Collaboration for the common good: An examination of challenges and adjustment processed in multicultural collaborations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34, 764-790.

National Women’s Law Center. (2013, January 29). Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (fact sheet). Retrieved from

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. (2016, September). 2016-2017 catalog & student handbook, Organizational Leadership, M.A. Retrieved from

Closing the Wage Gap Between Professional Men and Women in the United States

Laura M. Inlow

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Closing the Wage Gap Between Professional Men and Women in the United States

According to, “full-time women workers’ earnings are only about 78 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings.” (White House, 2015). That gap only increases when women are also racial minorities, with African-American women earning 64 cents for every dollar, and Latina women earning only 56 cents for every dollar earned by Caucasian males (White House, 2015).

This is all despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a federal law which “prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility,” (Equal Pay Act of 1963, 1963).

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed his first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which was another step toward closing the gap (White House, 2015).

The Act promotes voluntary employer compliance, extends the timeline for employees who wish to challenge pay discrimination, and allows employees to assess the validity of their own claims (National Women’s Law Center, 2013).

The White House (2009) also suggests that discrimination continues to contribute to this disparity. There is strong evidence that the root of the problem is a lack of awareness.

Some men, and even some women, don’t even realize there’s a problem and therefore, cannot take action to resolve the issue (Ballman, 2012). Because it’s frowned upon, or even a punishable offense at some companies, to talk about salaries, women may work their entire careers without knowing that men doing the same jobs are actually earning more.

Other women who are aware they are earning less may not know that there’s anything they can do about it, and still others may not know what they can do, or where to find the proper resources to protect and stand up for themselves.

America’s future leaders should have a strong, vested interest in learning why this gap continues to exist and about possible ways to lead the charge toward its eradication. Leaders across various professional fields can focus on spreading awareness of the problem and laws in place to protect professional women; creating, implementing or participating in workplace programs aimed to generate more opportunities for women to learn and grow professionally; and making it easier for women who have been victims of pay discrimination to obtain information about their legal rights.


Current and future organizational leaders, especially those from diverse backgrounds, are in a unique position to enact change toward closing the gender wage gap in the United States and empowering victims of such discrimination to advocate for themselves.

The purpose of this study will be to collect valuable information about the past and present of the gender wage gap in the United States, as well as future actions that can be taken by business or organizational leaders, peers or victims to combat the issue.

Business and organizational leaders have the capability to act as advocates for their employees and followers, who should be compensated based on the quality of their work and qualifications, and not based on their race or gender.

The Project

This action project will comprise three stages: research, planning and action.

The research phase will involve gathering information about the facts regarding the gender wage gap, a topic that has been extensively researched to date.

The planning phase will involve brainstorming ideas for spreading awareness of the problem and resources available inside and outside of the workplace, as well as possible processes that can be put in place within the workplace to work toward ensuring wage equality among genders.

The action phase will involve implementing awareness programs and other processes in the workplace.

Leadership Development

Through this project, participants will learn compassion and the courage (Johnson, C.E., 2015) to put their companies’ human resources first by working to improve workplace conditions for women and minorities. By empowering them professionally to move out of the powerlessness stage, where victims are often stuck (Hagberg, 2003), participants will improve their character and in turn, their effectiveness as leaders (Johnson, C.E., 2015)

To achieve this end, participants will work collaboratively in a virtual team to collect a database of knowledge and resources to enact change at various levels of their organizations. The group will aim to empower other leaders and followers and nurture them into this change process (Northouse, 2010, p. 184).

Lastly, participants will learn to improve their communication skills, an essential leadership quality.


Ballman, D. (2012, July 25). How do I prove I’m paid less than my coworkers? Retrieved from

Equal Pay Act of 1963. (Pub. L. 88-38) (EPA). United States Code. Volume 29, section 206(d). Retrieved from

Hagberg, J. O. (2003). Real power: Stages of personal power in organizations (3rd ed.). Salem, WI: Sheffield.

Johnson, C. E. (2015). The leader’s character. In Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (5th ed., pp. 78-104). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

National Women’s Law Center. (2013, January 29). Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (fact sheet). Retrieved from

Northouse, P. (2010). Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

White House Staff. (2015). Your right to equal pay: Understand the basics. Retrieved from on March 19, 2017.

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