Pay Equality: 50 Years and Counting

pay equalityIn 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act – a landmark law promising pay parity for women. Yet, 50 years later, women are still only paid .77 cents to a man’s dollar (full-time, annually). While more women are attending college than men, women only earn $35,296 to a man’s $42,918 right out of college.

It’s true that the median wage gap has fallen since 2000, but it has currently stalled. And according to one economist – Alan Manning of the London School of Economics – women could continue to earn less than men for the next 150 years. (Yikes!)

While some of the gap is contributed to personal choice – men pursuing higher paying careers in finance and engineering for example (women on the other hand choosing social sciences, education, etc.) – one would have to assume that there is still some gender discrimination in play. The Women’s Bureau was created in 1920 to combat these things – but there is still so much to be done to secure good jobs with good wages for America’s working women. Women earn less than men in nearly every occupation – of the 534 occupations listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn more than men in exactly 7 professions. Yep, I said S-E-V-E-N.

So what does this mean exactly? As a woman, it means you need to know your worth. Your boss is not going to come up to you and say “You know what, I don’t think you make as much money as Joe and you have the same skill level as him. Let me give you a raise”. Educate yourself on what your position pays in the marketplace – there really are some great, free resources out there – salary.com, glassdoor.com and the Department of Labor has several new apps out there dedicated solely to the wage gap that are worth checking out. If you have access to paid tools, CareerBuilder.com and WantedAnalytics.com offer some great reports as well.

Now the hard part – negotiating your salary. Whether you are interviewing for a new job or wanting to negotiate a raise in your current role, make sure you choose the right time to discuss this with your boss (or potential boss) wisely (for example, stressful month-end is probably not the best time). Practice what you are going to say to your boss and include facts about the research that you’ve done for your position and the accomplishments and contribution that you’ve made to your organization. Role-play the conversation with anyone that will listen – your mom, your neighbor, your dog! Women tend to be uncomfortable asking for things in the workplace (we don’t want to seem “needy” right?), so saying it over and over will build your confidence for when the real conversation happens.

Once you feel comfortable with your request and confident in your delivery – go for it! Asking is half of the battle and at the end of the day; the worst thing your employer (or potential employer) can do is say no. Be ready for that response and simply ask for the reason why and what you can do to make the raise a possibility in the future. Pay equality for women may not be able to change overnight, but it doesn’t have to take another 150 years for you to speak up for yourself.

Contributed By: Afton Lucente, Vice President, Marketing & Communications

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