Big banks face renewed pressure on gender pay gap

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Four of the largest U.S. banks are facing renewed pressure to disclose unadjusted pay gaps for employees based on their gender and race.

Arjuna Capital, which describes itself as a sustainable investment firm, said Wednesday that its proposals to force JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Bank of New York Mellon to make further gender and race pay gap disclosures are gaining ground this proxy season.

The issue is whether the banks will disclose raw data on median pay, which could show the extent to which women and minorities occupy lower-paying positions.

“We want to see where the company is and how they change over time,” Arjuna Capital Managing Partner Natasha Lamb said on a call with reporters. “I believe we are changing the landscape of disclosure.”

The banks have previously reported pay data adjusted for job titles and geography. The reports have generally shown that women make at least 99% that men do when they share the same position. Banks have argued their industry in particular can have skewed data on an unadjusted basis because certain lower-paying jobs like tellers are more often filled by women.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission denied banks’ request to exclude Arjuna Capital’s proposal for unadjusted disclosures from a list of shareholder votes, but shareholders at each firm voted down the proposals.

JPMorgan and BofA declined to comment on Arjuna’s new proposals. Bank of New York Mellon and Wells Fargo did not respond to requests for comment.

BofA said in a November 2019 report that it was sticking to its existing approach to disclosure on pay equity after consulting with outside experts.

Citigroup has disclosed its raw pay gap data in the last two years and has shown some improvement. Most recently, the median pay for women at Citi was more than 73% what the median male employee made, according to the bank’s report in January, up from 71% the year before.

The median minority employee made 94% of what the median white worker made at Citi, up from 93% last year. Arjuna Capital has praised the New York-based bank for its efforts.

“That is exactly the kind of progress we want to see year over year,” Lamb said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be solved in a pay cycle or two.”

Earlier this week, Mastercard disclosed its raw gender pay gap for the first time. The payments company said that the median pay for its female employees globally is 92.2% of the median pay for male employees.

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