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Redefining gender equity with Amy Cross

, | Nov 1, 2022 2:15:00 AM | By

In the latest episode of High Growth Matters, we talk about what gender equity is — and isn’t — and how HR leaders can reimagine its operationalization in their companies. Our guest, Amy Cross, is the founder of Gender Fair — a marketing and corporate social responsibility platform that showcases companies that serve women well, earning recognition as “Gender Fair” organizations.

This blog is adapted from that conversation and covers:

  • What companies are doing wrong when it comes to gender equity
  • How Gender Fair works with companies to operationalize pay equity
  • The most important steps employers can take to eliminate gender pay disparity

To hear the full episode, visit this page, or subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Don’t miss the full episode: Redefining gender equity with Amy Cross

Common company mistakes regarding gender equity

Many modern companies claim to be working towards equity. Often, this includes investing in the recruitment of underserved populations, reporting diversity, and organizing teams to run Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

While these are great steps in the right direction, they are not as comprehensive as a holistic solution needs to be, says Amy

Gender Fair determines who is worthy of their brand name with a measurement system that tracks and assesses the effectiveness of equity efforts across organizations. Inspired by the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, this test assesses leadership, employee-friendly policies, advertising and diversity reporting, and philanthropy.

According to Amy, there are common mistakes companies make in each category. Here are those common mistakes and Amy’s advice on employing the Gender Fair practices to effectively operationalize pay equity:


There are not many women thriving in leadership positions in most modern organizations, says Amy. As you climb the hierarchy, fewer and fewer women find success. Some organizations have recognized this trend and have instilled training programs to support more women climbing the ranks.

But to Amy, it’s clear that leadership training isn’t what women need. In fact, women’s leadership programs, perhaps counterintuitively, further gender equity gaps in some ways.

“I’ve rarely heard of massive men’s leadership programming in companies,” she says. “It just doesn’t happen.”

Gender Fair companies have recognized that leadership training for women isn’t the answer. Instead of doubling down on what isn’t working, “we have to reformulate systems and train the people who aren’t sharing leadership positions,” Amy explains. Businesses need to stop training women to be leaders and start training existing leaders to share leadership positions.

Employee-friendly policies

Organizations — particularly in the US — still struggle to create employee-friendly policies. It may be hard to believe, but only 20% of private companies even offer parental leave.

By failing to recognize the importance of parental leave, federal child care, and similar programs in their policies, organizations and governments contribute to systematic financial inequity and continue to place a heavier burden on women across the workforce.

For Amy, the solution is pretty straightforward: Organizations need to stop neglecting parental leave and federal childcare and start adopting policies that enable the same financial equity across gender.

Advertising and diversity reporting

According to Amy, more companies are now reporting employee diversity, which is an excellent step in the right direction.

However, most are not reporting metrics with enough specificity to identify equity gaps — which means they aren’t doing the work necessary to change hiring and recruitment.

“I would like to see more companies really counting who they hired and what communities they are putting money back into,” Amy says. “They need to make goals and prove that they’re making a difference.”

Many companies also make mistakes in their advertising efforts. The majority have caught up when it comes to including women and people of color in most, if not all, of their ads. But the same companies are failing to represent the true state of their company — in ads, women and people of color are being represented in leadership roles, which, in actuality, they don’t really hold within the organization.


Most people and businesses agree that companies should do good by donating to causes and efforts that support women and girls — as the UN stated in the very principles that inspired Gender Fair.

Unfortunately, most businesses are not transparent about where their money actually goes when it comes to philanthropy. Combined, only 1.9% of giving capital goes to women. In fact, more charitable donations go to pets than to women and girls.
When businesses aren’t transparent about the communities they give back to, says Amy, there is no way to recognize the potential issues. Without transparency, any effort to eliminate inequity is doomed before it starts.


Crucial steps in eliminating gender pay disparity

Earning the Gender Fair moniker can help operationalize pay equity effectively. By addressing each principle and correcting common problems, gender equity gaps can be revealed and addressed.

Amy offers guidance for those aiming for pay equity.

1. De-bias pay and promotion decisions

“The more you take away human bias, the more likely you are to create fairness,” she says. Assess employees based on experience and performance — and do so before they speak out.

Once pay gaps are revealed, there are typically individuals who speak up and request adjustments. While this helps specific people, it often results in the squeaky wheel getting the grease, so to speak. Businesses must make pay and promotion decisions based on performance and experience instead of rewarding only those who are loudest about inequity.

2. Employee advocacy in ERGs

Utilizing ERGs to their greatest extent also plays an important role in earning recognition as Gender Fair. Unfortunately, most existing ERGs fail to consider the needs of their specific people, opting instead for generalized programs and policies. Many companies now have these groups, and Amy stresses that they should be using them to advocate for employee programs. Still, to be truly effective, employees need to get involved and advocate for what would be most meaningful to them.

3. Partner with businesses run by women and people of color

Likewise, while many efforts have been made to represent underserved populations in advertising, businesses can do much more. Companies should also inject finances into groups they aim to represent by hiring agencies run by people of color and women, Amy says. “This moves capital and creates more pay equity towards women and people of color in their agencies.”

4. Improve reporting, implement reviews and budget for inequity

Finally, companies must provide accurate and in-depth reporting on diversity and inclusion, including salary ranges, leadership positions and hierarchy. Then, they should budget for and plan equity reviews in which they address gender pay inequities as they are revealed. At minimum, this should happen once a year, Amy says.

In the end, it’s all about fairness. “Companies should try to treat everyone fairly and, to my mind, the way we measure that is with money,” Amy states.

Creating gender equity is based on strong but simple guiding principles, including fairness, transparency, and the will to do better. As an HR leader, you can help close gender equity gaps by advocating for these values company-wide.


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