Amazon Review Finds No Pay Gap, But Is That the Whole Story?

Less than a week after the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected Amazon’s request to omit a shareholder resolution on gender pay equality from its annual ballot, the company has revealed that an analysis of its employee compensation shows no meaningful pay gap between men and women working in the same role, as Reuters reports:

The Seattle-based online retailer disclosed the results of its study after pressure from Arjuna Capital, the activist arm of investment firm Baldwin Brothers Inc, which has been pushing it to prepare a report on gender pay equity. Arjuna withdrew its original proposal after Amazon announced the results of its gender pay study on Wednesday. …

Amazon, which estimates that women made up 39 percent of its global workforce and 24 percent of managers as of July, said a review of compensation including both base pay and stock compensation found that women earned 99.9 cents for every dollar that men earned in the same jobs. The survey, which was conducted by an external labor economist, covered Amazon workers at various levels of the company’s organization in the United States. “There will naturally be slight fluctuations from year to year, but at Amazon we are committed to keeping compensation fair and equitable,” the company said in a statement.

But “no pay gap among workers with the same jobs” isn’t the same thing as “no pay gap.” Glassdoor’s latest research, released just yesterday, shows that most of the gender gap is explained by correcting for position, education, industry, and employer, but explaining it doesn’t make it go away: If men make more money than women because they hold more senior or better-compensated positions, the gender equality conversation becomes about why women are underrepresented in those roles, and how to get them there. HR Grapevine highlights another new report from Korn Ferry that focuses on this precise problem:

“I’ve spent a lot of time screaming at the TV because a lot of the analysis and data that is put out there is misleading,” Ben Frost, Global Product Manager at Korn Ferry Hay Group, tells HR Grapevine. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a pay gap, but that a lot of the other analysis out there is approaching it from the wrong angle and failing to identify what the issue is and how to solve it.”

The researchers looked at 292 companies across different sectors. It revealed that overall, there is a pay gap of 28.6% between men and women. “Although, if you compare people at the same job-level, in the same function in finance, HR or marketing, in the same company, then the overall gap in the UK is 0.8%,” Frost continues. … “That being said, the gap doesn’t completely go away. There is still a systematic gap that favours men.”

The discrepancy between overall 28.6% pay gap and the 0.8% gap between people who have the same role is explained by a lack of women in senior positions. Frost argues that companies can close the gender pay gap by actively sourcing for female talent to fill more senior positions.

That’s why Emily Peck at the Huffington Post isn’t impressed by Amazon’s review:

This is great. Obviously, men and women should make the same amount of money for doing the same work. This is called pay equity — equal pay for equal work. But here’s the thing: When you consider how few women work at Amazon, you pretty quickly realize there is simply no way that its women employees make the same amount of money as men. Amazon does not disclose pay data for managers, but it’s safe to assume that managers earn more than rank-and-file workers. Only 24 percent of Amazon managers are women, according to the company.

It’s even harder to spot a woman at the tippy-top, where salaries and stock options are the fattest. The company’s website lists just one woman out of seven corporate officers — basically CEO Jeff Bezos’s senior team. Of those seven executives, the company details the compensation of three in its most recent public filing on compensation. These male executive officers make a ton of money — on average, about $7.5 million each in 2014.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Carol Hymowitz flags yet another new study, showing that women are also missing out on the most lucrative middle-skill jobs:

Women would earn more and narrow the gender pay gap if they got jobs now dominated by men in fast-growing fields such as information technology, welding or truck mechanics, according to a new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The study, which examined 473 occupations, found women in only about one-third of so-called middle-skill positions that pay at least $35,000 a year, even though they dominate in the category. About 80 percent of those women make less than $30,000 a year. Middle-skill jobs typically require some training after high school but no college degree. …

In manufacturing, where more than 500,000 job openings are expected over the next decade, just 7 percent of workers are women, according to an IWPR analysis of government data. In transportation, distribution and logistics, where as many as 1.3 million jobs are anticipated, 9 percent are women; in IT, where about 240,000 openings are forecast, 27 percent are women.

Dig into more of our pay gap coverage here.