Closing The Gap: Equal Pay Is Good For Business

Imagine if your outfit was styled the same way women are paid in the United States. It's obvious when nearly a quarter of your outfit is missing. But what happens when nearly a quarter of your paycheck is missing?

That's the reality for most U.S. women today, who earn an average of 21 percent less than their male counterparts. This translates to women making about 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, with most women losing about $431,000 over the course of their careers due to the pay gap.

What's more troubling is that the pay gap is even wider for non-white U.S. women. For example, according to the National Women's Law Center, African American women working full time, year-round typically make only 60 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts, and for Latinas, this figure is only 55 cents.

Federal legislation was passed in 1963 to establish equal pay; yet more than 50 years later, women's paychecks are still being shortchanged. At the current rate, we expect the U.S. won't achieve equal pay until 2059.

The good news is there are companies like Gap Inc. where pay equality exists today. In 2014, Gap Inc. became the first Fortune 500 Company to publicly report our record of equal pay for equal work, and we've now reaffirmed our commitment to pay equality for the third consecutive year.

We believe pay equality is not only the right thing to do; it's also good for business. That's why we've been involved in helping to elevate the issue and share lessons learned with private and public sector partners. We've been encouraged to see other Bay Area companies like Salesforce, Intel and Facebook also take action.

Below are some of the key ingredients Gap Inc. sees as crucial to achieving pay equality:

First: a commitment to pay equality from the top. In 1969, when Doris and Don Fisher founded our business as equals partners, they created a culture of equality that inspires us today. By taking a public position on critical issues - for example, by calling for equal pay for women and an end to discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community - we can help to shape a broader conversation and create cultural change.

Second: committing to review gender pay data. In 2014, when we decided to go out publicly with our pay equality results, we wanted to be sure that we were crunching the numbers in the right way, since there were no other Fortune 500 Companies doing so at the time. We engaged Exponential Talent, a firm specializing in diversity and inclusion efforts, to validate our methodology and our internal analysis. We were pleased, but not surprised that they confirmed that there is no gender pay gap at Gap Inc. Our culture focuses on paying people based on the work they do, their value to our company, and what is competitive in the market.

Third: establishing the processes and policies that ensure that pay equality remains sustainable. We set company pay ranges based on market data and provide relevant data to managers during our annual rewards process. Armed with this data, each manager is expected to address any equity issues on their team and is given a separate budget to use for this purpose.We also moved away from a system of traditional performance reviews toward an evidence-based system. And as a company that puts inclusion first, Gap Inc. has created an environment where women can get ahead and advance their careers. Today, the majority of leaders at Gap Inc. are women, from brand presidents to store managers to our company's most seniorexecutives.

At Gap Inc., we believe that our business succeeds when everyone has the chance to stand as equals and thrive.

In recognition of Equal Pay Day this year, we launched a new, interactive digital experience to help raise awareness about the impact of the gender pay gap and provide site visitors with resources to help women determine - and share on social media - how much money they stand to lose during their lifetime of work because of the pay gap. The campaign features thought-provoking portraits of Gap Inc. employees styled in outfits missing a portion of their wardrobe to represent the gender pay gap. We invite you to join the social conversation with #closethepaygap.

By making a statement about our commitment to gender pay equality and helping to spark this conversation, we hope to inspire other companies to follow suit.

Pathway To Purpose is a new blog series geared towards exploring why employees are putting a greater value on purpose in the workplace, and how employers are responding. How are you taking purpose to the next level in your workplace? Let us know at PurposePlusProfit@huffingtonpost.com or by tweeting with #PathwayToPurpose.