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Today is the United States of Women White House Summit, a rallying cry for gender equality. There's a huge list of speakers, including famous faces like Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes, Amy Poehler, and Mariska Hargitay. President Obama gave an inspiring speech in which he referred to himself as a "feminist"; and later on today, Michelle Obama and Oprah will join in conversation on the topic (follow along here with the live stream).
But beyond conversation, there's some real action being taken: 28 companies are taking the Equal Pay Pledge, including several fashion, retail, and beauty companies. Gap Inc., L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson, and Amazon are among companies that have committed toward closing the pay gap between men and women.
That includes conducting an annual gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias. The goal is to help close the national wage gap and ensure fairness for all workers, with concrete results.
"The pledge is to actually take action," Tina Tchen, executive director for the White House’s Council on Women and Girls, told the Wall Street Journal.
Women hold 43% of manager and executive positions combined at #JNJ, and represent 30% of our Board of Directors. - Gorsky #StateOfWomen— Johnson & Johnson (@JNJNews) June 14, 2016
"I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like." —@POTUS pic.twitter.com/kwZQ4dXO5S— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 14, 2016
"Imagine the economic power that women will have when they are paid the same as men doing the same job." -@MaryKayHenry on the #StateOfWomen— US Labor Department (@USDOL) June 14, 2016
Along with amazing panels, the fashion at #StateOfWomen is ON POINT pic.twitter.com/t3yLkZsA2N— Katharine Zaleski (@kzaleski) June 14, 2016
That's especially meaningful at companies where women are at the focus — as leaders and as customers. Speakers at today's White House summit included SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan, Nicole Baldwin of Biao Skincare, Miki Agrawal of underwear brand THINX, and Carol's Daughter founder Lisa Price.
Even in the fashion and beauty worlds, however, women are the customers but not always the powerful leaders at the helm. That applies to high fashion (think of the biggies: Dior, Saint Laurent, Chanel, Gucci...) as well as mainstream retail: According to a October 2015 report by Mic, all 15 mass-market apparel companies on the Fortune 500 list have male CEOs.
For the women who do make it to the top, the least they can hope for is payment equal to their male counterparts.