The gender wage gap is still a prominent issue for women in the workforce as we have seen from the various lawsuits surfacing over the last year.

In this climate of #MeToo, some groups are pressuring industries and businesses into being more proactive in supporting equal pay in the U.S. One organization, The 3% Movement, is having some success prodding the advertising industry toward better equal pay practices.

The 3% Movement launched in 2012 with a focus on increasing the number of women who are creative directors in ad agencies from 3% to 50%. Achieving pay equity is a critical part of the organization’s goals. The 3% Movement’s proprietary Belonging, Inclusion, Leadership and Talent (BILT) survey found that more than 40% of women at creative agencies believed they are not being paid comparably to their male peers.

As part of its activities, the 3% Movement has encouraged 17 advertising agencies to become founding members of its 3% Pledge for Pay Equity. The group says its intention in developing the pledge is to “create an umbrella that is as inclusive as possible, allowing in both agencies who are well underway in pay equity as well as those who are raising their hand to undertake the effort in the near future.”

The 17 agencies committed to the following when becoming founding members of the 3% Pledge for Equity:

  • We have conducted a wage review within the last two years or plan to within the next 12 months.
  • We are committing to rectifying like-for-like disparities or will do so following our review.
  • We are committed to advancing pay equity through collaboration, communication and continued identification and promotion of best practices to close the wage gap in the advertising industry.

The 3% Movement is recruiting more ad agencies to sign the pledge. The group plans to extend the impact of the pledge by developing tools, sharing research and best practices, and hosting seminars, with the goal of creating and driving momentum in the movement to close gender pay gaps.

In a press release, Amanda Enayati, Head of Culture Innovation for The 3% Movement, said: “Pay equity is not just important for employees’ financial well-being, engagement and productivity, it’s also fundamental to agencies’ capacity for creativity and growth. In our consulting work with agencies across the country, we discover again and again that pay equity is seen by people as one of the most important work-related issues.”

It will be interesting to see if the success The 3% Movement is having with the advertising industry will translate over into the formation of similar organizations or strategies to address pay equity issues in other industries.

However, as public sentiment grows in the U.S. and around the world in support of the concept of equal pay for comparable work, businesses should expect their equal pay policies to receive more attention from federal and state regulators, pressure groups, stakeholders, and the media.

Businesses would be wise to get ahead of this issue. Many companies, including Uber, Google and Nike, faced with equal pay lawsuits have found themselves settling these cases for tens of millions of dollars and facing damage to their corporate reputations.

Many federal and state regulators are encouraging employers to conduct equal pay audits as a way to be proactive.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, has established guidelines for federal contractors to conduct pay equity self-audits and then correct any issues that are found before they lead to violations.

Several states incentivize organizations to conduct self-audits by offering safe harbor protections within state statutes in the event of an equal pay claim.

Overall, a comprehensive pay equity audit is the best place to start to understand what your company is doing right, and where it can improve, before regulatory investigations and employee lawsuits require you to provide this information.

Take action to be a leader in the effort to provide equal pay to your workers and reap the rewards of a more enthusiastic workforce, positive PR and avoiding costly regulatory penalties and litigation.

To learn more about achieving pay equity, click here.