Starbucks achieved a workplace milestone nearly a decade in the making. The company announced Wednesday (March 21) that it has reached 100 percent pay equity for partners of all genders and races performing similar work across the U.S.

Starbucks’ chief partner officer Lucy Helm discussed the achievement during the company’s 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which took place Wednesday in Seattle.

“Roughly 10 years ago we began serious work to ensure women and men—of all ethnicities and races—are compensated fairly at Starbucks,” said Lucy Helm, chief partner officer at Starbucks, in a statement. “This accomplishment is the result of years of work and commitment.”

Helm added that Starbucks will now work “with deliberate speed” toward closing the gender pay gap in company-operated markets nationwide.

According to the American Association of University Women, it could take until 2119 for the country to close the gender pay gap—longer worldwide. In the U.S. women are paid an average of 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. In retail, it’s even more pronounced: women make an average of 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, Helm said

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Starbucks said it wanted to share how it got to this point in hopes of helping other companies get there sooner. The chain said it would encourage multinational companies to achieve global gender pay equity with the support of Billie Jean King and her Leadership Initiative, as well as other leading national women’s organizations, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the American Association of University Women.

“We believe it is important to encourage others to join us in recognizing the importance of this issue, not just for our partners, but for women all around the world,” Helm said.

“For companies, I think the solution is simple: equal pay for equal work. We don’t have to make it more complicated than that, and several companies have already proven that pay equity is achievable,” King added in a statement. “For those seeking jobs, I would say be your authentic self and bring all of yourself to work every day. Progress is happening, even if it is moving more slowly than some of us would like. We need to stay focused and continue to advocate for what is right.”

Wednesday’s announcement comes after years of analysis, innovation, and commitment, which began with a company-wide compensation study in 2008. Since, Starbucks has regularly checked on partner compensation to identify and address any gaps, it said.

Starbucks also created a collection of tools and best practices for preventing disparities. Included: a calculator to objectively determine target starting pay ranges based on experience. Raises and bonuses are also statistically analyzed before being finalized to ensure systemic bias doesn’t play a role, Starbucks said. The company doesn’t ask candidates for a salary history to avoid importing pay inequities. Additionally, Starbucks will provide candidates the pay range of any given role when asked.

“We tried to create tools to help us approach pay in a consistent and objective way, and remove the kind of subjectivity that can lead to pay bias,” said Sara Bowen, an attorney who leads Starbucks Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility team, in a statement. “These tools affect hundreds if not thousands of pay decisions every year. This work has always been about our partners—and our commitment to create an equitable environment where everyone can flourish and be valued. This is a complicated issue, and it is not about one single moment, but about the ongoing work to make equity a reality.”

Bowen said starting pay is one of the keys to this progress.

“If a woman comes into a company low, she tends to stay low. If a job candidate comes to Starbucks making 70 or 80 cents on the dollar, and we use that as the basis for her pay at Starbucks, we simply import gender inequality into our own system. Prior salary can be tainted and should not dictate how we pay our partners,” she said.

Kimberly Churches, chief executive officer of the AAUW, said in a statement that Starbucks is setting an example for companies around the globe.

“A lot of companies espouse values like fairness and pay equity, but those values end up framed on a wall and not always put into practice,” Churches said. “Starbucks is not only talking the talk but walking the walk, and that sets an example—not only for the retail industry, but for all employers, nationally and globally.”

Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, also praised Starbucks for the milestone.

“If you look at Starbucks policies’ and ongoing commitment in the last few years and going forward, you see a real dedication to helping its workers achieve economic opportunity, promoting the well-being and economic security of families, and ensuring women in this country are able to operate as equal members of workforce and full members of society,” Ness said in a statement.

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