Trends Female Adda
1 year ago
Don't Just Get Mad at the Pay Gapâ€"Get Ahead of It

We’ve all heard the awful numbers: Pew research pegs the pay gap at 84 cents to a man’s dollar; a White House report has it even wider, with women at 78 cents. And apparently, it will be 118 years—nope, not an exaggeration—before men and women earn equivalent salaries for the same work, the World Economic Forum estimates. We say: not acceptable.

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A growing number of companies agree and are already implementing change. Gap made its figures public in 2014; shareholders of Wal-Mart pushed for greater salary transparency last year. And global consulting firm Accenture now identifies pay discrepancies, guides women through all stages of their careers, and has pledged to grow the percentage of females it hires to at least 40 percent by 2017.

Legal reform is on the rise too: California’s Fair Pay Act, which went into effect in January, puts the burden on public and private companies to prove they haven't discriminated against women. If two people do comparable work, companies will be expected to pay them the same. “The law makes it clear that you have to look at the substance of what people do, not just their titles of positions,” says Jennifer Reisch, legal director of Equal Rights Advocates. (The new law has employee’s backs in another way: by ensuring that they can openly discuss salaries with coworkers without fearing for their jobs.) Following California’s lead, New York enacted the Achieve Pay Equality bill last year, says Reisch, and Washington, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island to do the same soon.

"The law makes it clear that you have to look at the substance of what people do, not just their titles of positions."

All good news, but ultimately the onus is on you to understand—and level—the playing field. Start by educating yourself. Resources like Glassdoor and payscale can give you a baseline for your industry, as can talking to your peers. Yes, we’ve been socialized to view discussing wages as gauche, but it can provide much-needed context. “Women are hesitant to ask,” says Margaret Ann Neale, a professor of management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “They don’t want to feel bad if they’re underpaid, and they don’t want their friends to feel bad if they make more. But this fear maintains our disadvantage.” Make a pact with a few trusted pals on you career path to continuously share details about your compensation. Neale did just that with a group of 10 women who earned Ph.D.’s in business 25 years ago. and vouches that the openness has benefitted each person.

"[Women] don’t want to feel bad if they’re underpaid, and they don’t want their friends to feel bad if they make more."

Then comes negotiating. Men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise, which can snowball over time, as higher starting salary predicts subsequent salaries and, thus, accumulated earnings. Maddeningly, we often get punished for using the same exact words—verbs like earn, deserve, justify—as male counterparts. Getting around this status quo is a matter of collaborative problem solving: “Present ideas that help your manager while also getting you what you want,” Neale advises. When she was negotiating with Stanford, she noticed that the department was having trouble securing jobs for grads. She proposed lab space and other benefits she would need, in addition to a salary, and explained exactly how the resources she requested would solve the university’s issue.

For more on how to smash that glass ceiling, pick up the March 2016 issue of Women's Health, on newstands now. 

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