Moving Beyond the Pay Analysis Group and Towards Systemic Analysis

By David S. Garber, Ph.D.


OFCCP and the EEO compliance community have long expressed strong interest in identifying and resolving systemic discrimination in pay.  Yet, the analytical methodologies used by the Agency (and, thus, influencing those embraced by federal contractors) do not actually address the systemic nature of the question.  The continued focus on and debate over the OFCCP Pay Analysis Group has distracted the EEO compliance community from its original mission.  In this piece, we think about the meaning of systemic discrimination, the mismatch between prevailing methodology and the systemic perspective, and a proposed course correction. 

Content of the article:

  • Part 1:  A Primer 
  • Part 2:  Systemic Pay Equity as Prime Objective 
  • Part 3:  Weakness of Prevailing Assessment Methods 
  • Part 4:  Moving Towards Systemic Analysis 

Part 1: A Primer

Let's begin with a seemingly basic but crucially grounding question:  What do we mean by a systemic pay disparity?  Oxford Languages defines "systemic" as “relating to a system, especially as opposed to a particular part.”  Merriam-Webster’s defines “systemic” as: “of, relating to, or common to a system.”  It then elaborates: "


Systemic describes what relates to or affects the entire system. For example, a systemic disease affects the entire body or organism, and systemic changes to an organization have an impact on the entire organization, including its most basic operations."


It then reasonably follows that a systemic pay disparity is one that: 

  1. results from an employer's pay system (its mechanics and application) common to the employees whose pay is being compared, and
  2. is observed as a pattern across most or multiple units of the workforce rather than as an isolated occurrence.

Part 2: Systemic Pay Equity as Prime Objective

Identifying and remedying systemic compensation disparities has been a running theme throughout OFCCP's history. We can see this in the titles of key OFCCP guidance documents. . . . 

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