President Obama

WASHINGTON — Nike, Target, Patagonia and Unilever on Friday all signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge, aimed at encouraging companies to advance equal pay policies in their workplaces.

The four companies were part of a group of 29 new employers that added their names to the pledge launched at the first United State of Women Summit in June.

By signing the pledge, companies acknowledge the critical role of businesses in reducing the national pay gap and commit to conducting an annual gender pay analysis across all occupations, reviewing promotion processes and hiring to reduce “unconscious bias and structural barriers,” and incorporating equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives, according to a White House fact sheet.

The four companies are joining a group of major corporate players, including Apple, the Coca-Cola Co., CVS Health, Facebook, General Motors and Anheuser-Busch, and earlier signatories such as L’Oréal USA, Amazon, American Airlines and Staples. More than 50 companies have signed the pledge to date.

President Obama has made equal pay a top priority in his administration.

The first bill he signed into law when he took office in 2009 was the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” which was designed to make it easier for victims of pay discrimination to file lawsuits against employers. The law reversed a U.S. Supreme Court decision and allows employees to sue as long as they file within 180 days of any paycheck deemed discriminatory.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in a case involving Ledbetter, a former Goodyear Tire & Co. employee, that alleged victims of wage discrimination must file a complaint within 180 days of their first paycheck or lose the right to sue. As a result, Ledbetter lost $360,000 awarded to her by a lower court over pay bias during more than 20 years at Goodyear.

“Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses to attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy,” the White House said.

Target said in its pledge that it “believes diversity and inclusivity make teams and Target better.”

“To achieve our goal of pay equity, we’ve implemented meaningful business practices, including continued leadership training designed, in part, to reduce the likelihood that leaders’ decisions are improperly influenced by bias or stereotyping,” the retailer said. “We also use other internal measures, such as a comprehensive annual pay audit process, to ensure compensation is fair and equitable across the organization.”

Target’s chief executive officer, Brian Cornell, joined forces with PepsiCo ceo Indra Nooyi to co-chair the Network of Executive Women’s Future Fund, an industrywide campaign aimed at achieving gender parity in the workforce, the company said. The retailer has also been listed in the “Top Companies for Executive Women” by the National Association for Female Executives for the past four years.

“We are proud of our internal initiatives and external partnerships, and we remain committed to improving pay processes and policies that ensure equality and fairness for all,” the company said.

Nike said in its pledge that it is proud to add its voice to a “movement that we hope will inspire positive change.”

“At Nike, diversity is about acknowledging and valuing our differences and appreciating that everyone brings unique experiences, perspectives and ideas to the team,” the company said. “In keeping with our culture and what we stand for as an organization, we remain committed to equitable pay and rewarding performance across all roles, for all Nike team members.”

Patagonia founders Yvon and Malinda Chouinard “have worked hard to build a culture where women and families thrive,” the company said. “Today, Patagonia continues to value and honor our working women with equal pay and opportunity. We believe women shouldn’t have to make the unnecessary choice between family and career and they can grow a career at the same pace as a family.”

The company offers on-site child care and allows new mothers and fathers to take paid time off to bond with and care for infants.

“We have an equal number of women and men at every level of the company, including among executive positions and the boardroom,” it said. “Women and men are paid equally for comparable work. All of these things amount to a work environment where 100 percent of women return to work from maternity leave, 100 percent of dads take paid time off from work to bond with their new babies and the business thrives as a result of the working families we support in our business.”

Rose Marcario, ceo of Patagonia, said, “Women will never be able to effectively ‘lean in’ without the proper economic, social and community support for the most critical work of all: raising children.”

Unilever has a “sustainable living plan” that aims to empower the lives of 5 million women by 2020.

“We strive to create a bright future and believe business has a critical part to play in closing the national gender gap,” the company said in its pledge.

The company said over 70 percent of its consumers are women, who “play essential roles in our value chain.”

Over the past six years, Unilever has sought to establish a balance between male and female employees, the company said. It is at 49 percent “gender balance” for managers and above in North America.

“We consider the advancement of women’s economic inclusion a business priority and by promoting the formal and active participation of women in the economy we aim to transform lives, families, communities and economies and in turn, have the opportunity to grow our markets, brands and business,” the company said. “We are proud to have developed an inclusive culture and respect the contribution of all employees regardless of gender, age, race, disability or sexual orientation.”