- Company will include stock awards in calculating disparity
- Number of shareholder actions jumps against tech companies
Expedia Inc., joining the growing ranks of companies trying to close the gender pay gap, said it will produce a report comparing the salary, bonus and equity awards of its male and female workers.
The agreement was announced Thursday by activist investor Arjuna Capital, a division of Marion, Massachusetts-based Baldwin Brothers Inc., which has submitted proposals at several technology companies this year.
Expedia promised to provide “an all-inclusive report, that looks at not only base pay and cash bonuses, but also the equity component,” said Natasha Lamb, Arjuna’s director of equity research and shareholder engagement. “That is very important in Silicon Valley.” Expedia will release its findings by October, she said.
Arjuna is among a handful of investment firms pushing companies to close the gender pay gap. So far this year, they’ve filed 11 actions against 10 companies, including Apple Inc. and Intel Corp., up from just two in the 2015 proxy season, according to John Roe, a managing director at ISS Corporate Solutions, which advises company boards and management on governance issues.
“Diversity increasingly is falling into the spotlight,” Roe said. “It’s been shown that it leads to better company performance. You can’t have diversity without equality; they’re inextricably linked.”
The U.S. gender wage gap is closing so slowly that pay parity won’t be reached until 2058, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington. Women on average make only 79 cents for every $1 that men do in the U.S.
In an effort to bring more transparency to the wage gap, President Barack Obama has proposed requiring all U.S. companies to submit pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Companies already provide race and gender statistics.
Expedia, which employs more than 18,000 people in 30 countries, called pay equity a core area of focus. “We remain committed to fostering an inclusive workplace for all employees,” said Britta Wilson, vice president of inclusion strategies and cultural integrity at Expedia. Arjuna said it was withdrawing its Expedia shareholder resolution seeking the pay gap study.
“We are now seeing real movement to address gender equity in tech and Expedia is among the companies leading the way,” Arjuna’s Lamb said.
Among the companies Arjuna targeted this year, only Amazon.com Inc. tried to fight the proposal, Lamb said. The company, writing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Arjuna’s proposal was “vague and indefinite.” The SEC disagreed. The company should be able to determine “what actions the proposal requires,” the regulator said.
Amazon, in just such a report released Wednesday, said women working in the U.S. for the company earned 99.9 cents for every $1 men were paid for doing the same jobs in 2015. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant said it hired an independent labor economist to conduct the report, which reviewed base pay and stock awards.
Lamb said she was pleased the company had produced the report and Arjuna would withdraw its resolution from Amazon’s June shareholders meeting.
“It’s exactly what we asked them to do,” she said.
Apple and Intel reported earlier this year that their gender pay gap either is already closed or will be shortly. As a result, Arjuna withdrew its action, Lamb said. The firm is also in discussions with Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. about their gender pay gaps, she said.
Technology isn’t the only area where shareholders are making equal pay an issue. Boston-based Trillium Asset Management LLC is sponsoring a similar resolution requesting a report on gender pay at Citigroup Inc.’s April 26 annual meeting. The bank opposes the resolution. Its proxy documents call such a report “costly and time-consuming,” which “in light of our many efforts in this area, would not offer shareholders meaningful additional information.”