This Equal Pay Day, work to align perception with reality

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Only 23 percent of women in media, advertising and creative positions believe that their pay is equal to their male peers, writes the president of Domus.

Today is Equal Pay Day, the date that represents the point at which a woman reached the same level of compensation that her male peer would have reached by Dec. 31 of the previous year.

This is a date that should be marked in red for the advertising industry, since a 2016 study from Foresight Factory revealed a huge gender-based gap in perspectives on the issue of equal pay. According to the study, only 23 percent of women in media, advertising and creative positions believe that their pay is equal to their male peers; while only 12 percent of men in the same categories think their pay isn't equal to their female peers.

This means that 77 percent of women in our industry believe they are being undercompensated compared to male peers—and while the actual figure is likely far lower, the perception in and of itself is detrimental to organization effectiveness, and therefore is not sustainable. As the saying goes, perception is reality—which is why these findings speak to two critical mandates around the issue of pay equality, whether in the advertising industry or in any business.

The first and primary need of course is to correct the real imbalance. But there is also a concurrent need for employers to openly, honestly and consistently communicate their commitment to pay equality to their employees, for that is the only way that the perception of pay equality and the reality of the issue, can be brought into alignment.

So if your organization has committed to equal pay, this message is for you: Great work. Keep going—and know that you're at the forefront of change. As of December 2016, more than 100 industry leaders like Amazon, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Salesforce publicly embraced gender-equal compensation and signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge.

Their actions—both committing to equal pay and making that commitment public—are shining examples for companies of all sizes. And, by communicating that commitment to their employees, they've created a competitive advantage for their companies.

You can do the same. And you can start today by jettisoning the assumption that equal pay messages are only relevant to women.  As recent study by Unruly EQ, showed, men can be equally—and in some cases even more—responsive to pay equality message as are women.

You have an organic opportunity to start delivering those messages every year—so moving forward, plan to recognize Equal Pay Day with your employees.

Tell them why equal pay is an important part of your company's philosophy, tying the issue back to your core values to reinforce your organizational culture.

Make your commitment to equal pay public. Unfortunately, publicly committing to equal pay is the exception, rather than the norm.

Taking your message to your blog and social media can make you a leader in your community and your industry.

Integrate your equal pay messaging into your recruiting process, in job descriptions and in job offers to give new recruits additional confidence in their new employer's values.

And most importantly, talk about equal pay the other 364 days, too. Equal pay is too important a social issue to relegate it to just one day.

Compensating men and women equally for the same work benefits everyone. And it can benefit your company, too.

Lisa Samara is president and COO of Domus.