Women are severely underpaid, regardless of their profession, level of expertise, experience, qualifications and even their level of fame. While the degree to which we are underpaid certainly varies by age, ethnicity and other influencers, the fact remains that across virtually all industries women are getting paid a small fraction of what our white, male counterparts are making. From award-winning actresses to corporate employees to teachers to the U.S. women’s soccer team (who are back-to-back World Cup champions, in case you forgot)… women are paid a small piece of what men are paid to do the same exact damn thing. It’s mind-blowing, and it’s been the norm for far too long.
The good news is that we’re finally talking about this inexcusable gender pay gap because if we don’t address the inequality we’re faced with we can never expect to see any change. Public figures are talking about it. Politicians are discussing this inequality in their campaigns and as a part of their platforms. Celebrities are using their fame to raise awareness and fight for equal rights. At the recent Emmy awards actress Michelle Williams used her acceptance speech as an opportunity to urge everyone to listen to women when they tell you what they need to do their jobs. “The next time a woman — and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, male counterpart — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her. Believe her,” Williams said. Her Emmy’s speech deserved an Emmy of its own.
A shift is on the horizon, so it seems. Time is mother freakin’ up. That’s the good news. And the even better news is that there are steps you can (and should) take to ensure you’re getting the salary you deserve. And it turns out that asking for the money you are entitled to is not nearly as scary as you might think.
To take control of your salary and to realize your full earning potential, sometimes you need to be willing to take matters into your own hands. If women have learned one thing over the many (many) years of being undervalued, under-appreciated and take advantage of, it’s that we need to be our own advocates, and we need to be willing to step up and ask for what we deserve. We see celebrities lending their voices to this mission, standing up for women’s rights and equal pay, and there’s even a day dedicated to fighting the gender pay gap. Progress is being made. Steps are being taken to make a change. And women across the globe and across a wide range of career paths are fighting for the pay they have earned.
The first step to joining this movement and earning the money that you are entitled to is to understand the gender pay gap, and then creating a plan of attack to ensure that you do not become a part of that statistic.
Facing the Facts About the Gender Pay Gap
The pay gap has been present and persistent for decades, but it’s been a particularly hot topic ever since celebrities, successful businesswomen and female entrepreneurs have spoken up and blown the lid off the salary secrecy. All of a sudden women are waking up to the facts and the sad reality that men are paid significantly more than females for performing the same work. Regardless of qualifications and performance, women earn far less than our white, male counterparts for the same jobs. It should go without saying that this is just flat-out not okay. And yet, here we are in 2019, finally fighting back against the gender pay gap and unifying to bring about change for women everywhere.
First, we must face the truth: this pay gap is a real problem for a lot of people, not just for women but also for the entire country. Not only does a gender pay gap hold women back — holding them back in terms of financial security, the ability to support a family and the ability to progress at work — but it is also bad for business. Underpaying, and therefore inherently undervaluing, women limits the diversity and innovation of companies. And yet, this gap is still prevalent.
Despite the fact that women make up more than half the workforce in this country, and they are more likely to graduate from college than men, the average woman makes 82 cents on the dollar compared to the average man. While that gap might not seem significant when you just look at the dollars and cents, trust us, over time it is very very significant. It’s the difference between living in debt or feeling financially secure and able to provide for your family. It’s the difference between owning a home or struggling to make ends meet and pay rent each month. It’s working several months just to come close to earning the same amount as a man in the same position. It’s significant, and it’s not fair.
Leanin.org reports that on average, women in the U.S. are paid 20% less than men. For every dollar a man earns, women only earn 80 cents. As bad as these statistics are for women across the board, they are dramatically worse for women of color. If you break it down by race and ethnicity, the gap is even more disturbing. Surveys show that in 2018 black women were paid 39% less and Latinas were paid 47% less than white men.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the second quarter of 2019, these numbers haven’t changed much, it’s still worse for women of color and the pay gap exists for women at every age. In fact, CNBC reports that men’s “salaries continue rising for over a decade after women’s have peaked: Women hit their peak earning age at 44, while men achieve their highest earnings at 55,” based on data from a recent PayScale report. In addition, women’s salaries don’t just peak at a younger age, but they start off at a significantly lower number. “At 22, they bring in a median salary of $40,400, while men take home a median of $53,500.”
How is it that we’re still here, fighting for equal rights, equal respect, and equal wages? Sure, there has been some progress, but not nearly enough if you ask me (or literally any woman fighting for equal pay).
The question of whether or not the pay gap is real is not even a question at all — it’s a reality. The real question is what can we do about it. And while change needs to occur on a larger scale for this country and for women around the world, if you want to start somewhere, start with your own compensation and your own level of respect at work. Start by demanding what you deserve, and fighting for your worth.
How to Earn The Money You Deserve
The reality of the gender pay gap is disappointing, to say the least. But here’s the other harsh truth: if you’re not fighting for equal pay, you’re never going to get it. You can’t get what you don’t ask for. If you don’t know and value your own worth and demand what you believe you have earned, then no one else will do that dirty work for you. Paychecks don’t often fall in your lap, and if you want those paychecks to be representative of your work and your worth, you really need to step up to the plate in more ways than one. Here are some steps you can take to earn the money you deserve.
Ask For it And Be Ready to Negotiate
As we said, if you don’t speak up and ask for what you believe you deserve, no one will know that you aren’t satisfied with your current salary, and no one will make an effort to meet your needs. You need to state out loud, first to yourself and then to your superiors, what you believe you have earned and what you need in terms of your compensation. This is true for anyone, in any position at any professional level or industry, but negotiating is especially critical for women. And studies show that it leads to better outcomes: “women who ask for a raise are more than twice as likely to get one as women who don’t,” according to the Leanin.org and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace report.
And remember that negotiating a salary is not a one-sided demand or rigid decision that occurs in a single sit-down. It’s more of a fluid dance where two parties (you and your employer) are constantly shifting your requests and negotiating until you both walk away happy. It’s an art form and it requires you to be simultaneously confident in your abilities but also receptive to their needs or expectations.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a competitive salary when first interviewing for a job. Or if you’ve been at your current company for several years, you have every right to speak to your HR team or your boss and request an increase in compensation. Just be sure that you have grounds for your request in terms of the current market value and your current contributions to the bottom line.
Do Your Research
In order to obtain the money you deserve, you need to know what your work is worth. And while we’d love to tell you that your worth is completely based on your experience and your individual merit, in reality, that’s not the way the world works. Your worth (where your salary is concerned, at least) is based on what other people in your field, in your position, with the same background, credentials, skills, and zip code are making. You need to know the going rate so that you can respond with a competitive, yet reasonable ask for a salary bump. Remember that what you will be offered is almost always less than you want, so you need to do your due diligence and make sure you have all of the information so that you’re equipped to ask for more fair pay.
To get started, go to a website such as PayScale, which has gathered information from over 40 million pay profiles all over the world, so you can find out the median salary in your city for your job. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the survey and you’ll be far more prepared to negotiate successfully.
Ask For a Salary Range
Experts and headhunters agree that the best tactic when asking for a competitive salary is to request a pay range as opposed to a specific number. First of all, if you ask for a specific number that is too high, it could eliminate you from the pool of candidates right there on the spot. It could also rub your current boss the wrong way. Alternatively, if you ask for a number that is too low, you could be selling yourself short and getting in your own way of earning what you deserve. If you give a range, you are opening the door to discussion and starting the negotiation off with flexibility but direction. According to Dan Martineau, founder of Martineau Recruiting Technology, a firm specializing in IT executive positions, “most companies will meet you in your range, even if it’s the bottom third of that range.” And even if you don’t end up at the top salary in that range, you’re still within your goal. “Basically, if they want you, they don’t want to send the wrong message by not meeting you in that range,” he tells Business Insider.
Map Out Your Negotiating Strategy
The way that you negotiate your salary matters, according to a study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. Researchers Michelle Marks of George Mason University and Crystal Harold of Temple University found that of the 149 professional employees they surveyed, there were five types of negotiating strategies: collaborating (engaging in problem-solving to reach the best possible outcome for both sides); competing (trying to maximize one’s own outcomes with little concern for others); accommodating (putting the other party’s concerns first); compromising (trying to reach middle ground); and avoiding (dodging negotiation altogether). Of those surveyed, those who chose to negotiate salary, rather than accepting the offer on the table, increased their starting pay by an average of $5,000, primarily by using competing and collaborating strategies.
Put In The Work and Be Vocal About Your Accomplishments
You can do everything right — speak up, do your research, request a competitive salary, give a realistic but rewarding range and negotiate appropriately — but if you aren’t putting the work in at work, you won’t be worth nearly close to what you believe you should be worth. You need to actually earn what you are asking for, and that starts with your effort, the quality of your work, and the returns you earn for the company.
It’s important to let prospective employers know what they are getting for their investment in you. What will you bring to the team? What can you deliver that no one else can? Be sure to demonstrate that you are a high performer, or that you’re willing to put in extra work, extra hours, or you bring a unique skill set that others do not. Be vocal about your accomplishments and if possible, attach a dollar sign to those achievements so they know how you will help the company’s bottom line. Be willing to take on a heavier workload or step up your leadership role as a part of the discussion to earn a higher salary. And be sure to use examples of past achievements to drive the point home.
Be Patient… But Not Too Patient
Remember, salary negotiations aren’t a sprint, but they’re also not a marathon. They’re more of a long jog. You need to be patient, and understand that there will be some back and forth involving offers and counteroffers. And sometimes the initial offer or agreement is not exactly what you wanted or hoped for. And that’s okay. If you aren’t given the salary or fee you believe you deserve right away, ask to revisit the topic in a handful of months and resolve to work your butt off until then to prove you are worth every extra penny you ask for. Set a list of goals and specific deliverables you will accomplish by then, and then get it done.
It’s fair to be patient and treat the entire process as an ongoing negotiation; most companies start with lower offers with the expectation that you will want to negotiate up. It can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but it’s the way it goes. Be patient, but also be sure not to let the process drag on for too long. Sometimes dragging out the salary negotiation for too long can frustrate the hiring manager and backfire. If a company can’t (or won’t) meet your salary requirements after a few discussions, move on to new and better opportunities that are more in line with your goals. If you’re currently in a role and you are asking for a raise, and you know for certain that others are getting paid more than you are despite your stellar resume and accomplishments, then don’t be too patient or understanding. Know your worth, know what you have to offer, and take your talents elsewhere.