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Hilton partners with White House on Equal Pay Pledge

MCLEAN, VA—Closing the gender pay gap across all industries has been one of the White House’s ongoing initiatives. As bureaucrats work to remove inequalities from the overall system, Hilton has taken it upon itself to partner with the Obama administration by committing its full-service hotels and resorts to the White House Equal Pay Pledge.

Including Hilton, 29 additional employers signed on to the White House Equal Pay Pledge, bringing the total number to more than 50 companies and organizations. Launched at the first-ever United State of Women Summit in June, the oath promotes the need for American companies to take action toward closing the gender wage gap.

Hilton isn’t the only lodging-focused company recognized on the pledge; Airbnb and Expedia committed to the White House’s initiative back in June.

“As defined by our values, we have a long history of supporting and empowering women at every level of our organization,” said Laura Fuentes, SVP of talent, rewards and people analytics at Hilton. “We’re proud to commit publicly to the work we have been doing all along. Signing the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge represents one of the many ways we’re committed to advancing our efforts in ensuring equity not only in our pay practices, but also across recruitment, learning and development, benefits and our overall team-member value proposition. In doing so, we continue to deliver on our promise of a great environment, great careers and great rewards for all of our team members.”

The pledge itself doesn’t provide employers with any specifics, just overarching initiatives. It outlines the history of President Obama’s commitment to ensuring fair pay for all Americans and acknowledges successful equality efforts in countries worldwide.

“We believe that businesses must play a critical role in reducing the national pay gap,” the pledge reads. “Towards that end, we commit to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations; reviewing hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers; and embedding equal pay efforts into broad enterprise-wide equity initiatives. We pledge to take these steps as well as identify and promote other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.”

There’s a significant difference in pay between genders in the hospitality industry. Women working in the sector made $620 less than their male counterparts (this represents a loss of 5.3% of the mean income of $11,271 per year), according to a 2015 study published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. Penalized even heavier, women in managerial positions earned $6,617 less than their male peers (representing a loss of 21.6% of the mean income of $30,577). The study’s researchers controlled for several factors: differences in educational attainment, hours worked and structural forms of discrimination.

“A lot can be done just by making sure someone is paying attention,” said Michael Sturman, the Blanchard Professor of Human Resource in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. “The pay levels of new hires can be easily monitored, and it would not take much effort to ensure decisions are not being influenced by the gender of the applicant. Having a clear compensation structure, and ensuring that those in charge of hiring are well-trained, will also go a long way to help combat wage inequality. But all of this requires more than making managers aware of the problem and telling them, even training them, to do better.”

Women still remain under-represented in industries with higher-average wages; however, they represent more than 50% of employees in industries with lower-average wages—leisure and hospitality being one of them, according to a 2015 brief issued by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Paying attention to the ways employees are recruited from the beginning can help diminish any unintentional biases in the workforce later on. “Companies need to ensure that their recruiting efforts bring in a diverse set of qualified employees,” Sturman said. “Companies also need to ensure they get diverse applicant pools when hiring at higher levels in the organization.”

He added: “If you rely on word of mouth, or otherwise recruit the way you’ve always recruited, you’ll get people who look like the people you’ve already gotten. If your workforce doesn’t have many women in managerial roles, then chances are you need to change how you recruit into those positions.”

Actively engaging in human resource analytics is one way hotels and brands can monitor existing pay inequality and reduce wage gaps between genders. “Addressing wage inequity requires more than a stated commitment to do better,” he said. “It requires digging into the data, looking for problems and using the right analytical strategies to find and address problems as soon as they arise.”

Choosing the right programs to analyze collected data is of the utmost importance for hotels reviewing pay within their organizations. “You have to move beyond charts and graphs,” Sturman noted. “If your system can’t take your data and let you run a regression on it, you need to get a system that can.”

Hilton has been monitoring its pay to identify any difference in wages between genders for the past few years, Fuentas acknowledged. Women make up more than 50% of Hilton’s global workforce. The company has been implementing equal pay efforts into broader, enterprise-wide equity initiatives, as well.

“Hilton provides a wide range of opportunities for women, such as our Women’s Team Member Resource Group, Women’s Executive Networking Program and Women in Leadership Excellence Program in partnership with the University of Virginia,” she said. “We are also committed to offering family-focused benefits across our hotels and offices, including our industry-leading maternity leave policy, flexible working environments, 10-day advanced scheduling, paid time off and educational assistance.”

“Wage inequity is bad for the employees, bad for the company and bad for the country,” Sturman said. “The pledge helps ensure that companies make combating wage inequality a priority. And as more companies sign the pledge, it helps keep the spotlight on this issue.”

“Diversity and inclusion are at the core of Hilton—it’s in our DNA,” Fuentas said. “As a global hospitality company, it is important that our workforce represents the many different cultures, backgrounds and viewpoints of our guests, which includes supporting and empowering women at every level of our organization.” HB


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