Equal Pay Day events highlight gender pay gap and pay equity

Kim Sponem, CEO and president of Summit Credit Union

“Small gaps at the beginning become significant gaps over time,” was a powerful theme from featured speaker Kim Sponem, CEO and president of Summit Credit Union, while addressing the impact of gender pay gaps to an audience of Madison College students, faculty, and staff.

Sponem’s talk was part of the college’s week-long Equal Pay Day event series, with topics ranging from understanding the real impact of gender pay gaps, salary negotiation strategies, empowering women in STEM, career readiness for students, plus alumni panel discussions.

Sponem focused on the importance of closing gender pay gaps early in one’s career. She noted that while many companies have made significant strides, things like underrepresentation of women in high level roles, undervaluing women-dominated fields, and inconsistent hiring practices still attribute to inequities.

In addition, women still struggle with the ‘caregiver tax’ which penalizes women for leaving the workforce to care for others. “Women shouldn’t have to start back at the beginning when re-entering the workforce after taking that time away,” she said.

Sarita Field, the nontraditional occupations coordinator at the college and director of the Equal Pay Day event series, hoped to highlight these challenges and provide attendees with actionable solutions and strategies for change.

“For our college community and students, addressing these issues is particularly important,” says Field. “We have a responsibility to prepare our students for the workforce and to create an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all students, staff, and faculty.”

By offering events focused on equal pay, particularly in industries where women are historically and currently underrepresented, Field says the college can raise awareness about the challenges women and the BIPOC community often face, It’s important that the college continues providing the support and resources they need to be successful.

Sponem’s talk prompted several questions from women in the audience, and men too. In answering, she reinforced the importance of women asking what a job is worth and to know the full value of their skills and knowledge.

“It’s widely known that women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t have every qualification or skill, so sometimes, women need to be tapped on the shoulder to apply,” she said. Sponem also stressed the importance of hiring managers prioritizing the top skills they need from a position as well.

For Sponem, the ripple effect of women succeeding in the workplace is obvious.

“We know when women thrive, their families and our communities will thrive too.”

This is Career & Employment Services' second year hosting this event series, and the first year hosting in partnership with the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement.

Learn more about the college’s career workshops, advising and work study opportunities.