Hiding Gender Gap Won't Make It Go Away, Activist Investor Says

(Bloomberg) -- Show, don’t tell.

That’s the simple message that Arjuna Capital has for the public companies it targets, from Silicon Valley to big banks and beyond. Too few corporations make public any useful detail on what they pay men and women, says managing partner Natasha Lamb, speaking at the Bloomberg Business of Equality summit today in New York.

“The reason for transparency is simple accountability,” Lamb said. “The real source of the problem is that we’ve had this conversation locked up in a black box for decades. There’s a reason for that. Because where there is money, there is power, and all of these conversations are about power and shifting the power balance."

For the first time this year, companies in the U.K. were required to give the overall pay gap across their companies, revealing disparities as large as 59 percent at big banks such as HSBC Holdings Plc, Britian’s biggest bank. Companies in the U.S. have no such requirement, and most still don’t reveal much, if any, information on U.S. pay.

Arjuna started by pushing for eBay Inc. to close the pay gap and was among the investors that prompted Apple Inc. and Intel Corp. to publicly disclose the data. This year, under pressure from the activist investor, American Express Co., Mastercard Inc. and most of the big U.S. banks have also agreed to disclose their gender pay gap and to take steps to narrow it.

As part of Equal Pay Day this April, Arjuna issued rankings on 33 companies based on their gender-pay-gap disclosure, giving Apple and six other companies an A-, the top grade, and 11 companies received a grade of F, including Facebook and Walmart for not disclosing enough information.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Lamb said. “If we can really expose what the issue is and we can fix it.”

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