Equal Pay for Equal Work — Eliminate the Gender Pay Gap Now!

The gender pay gap, a.k.a. wage gap, is the difference between the amount of money paid to women and men, often for doing the same work.

This subject is important because it’s time both men and women put an end to the wage gap. The issue of the gender wage gap and equal pay came up at the Women’s Leadership Center‘s Connect, Learn, & Thrive Professional Women’s Event held March 7 in New York. There, I served as a panelist and felt compelled to share my opinion. My answer when someone suggests she is not being paid fairly is to advocate for yourself, now.

Being your own spokesperson is not as hard as you think. Learn how to negotiate better pay wherever you work and regardless of your gender.

First, the Nasty Truth

Sarah Green Carmichael, executive editor at Harvard Business Review, posted an eye-opening article, “Women Dominate College Majors That Lead to Lower-Paying Work,” almost a year ago. Carmichael dives into data from Glassdoor and a series of studies to explore how gender, prestige, and pay are intertwined. She concludes that the pay gap is not as simple as we think. It’s not about women being pushed into lower-paying jobs. It’s about the way we value women versus men. Until that changes, women will never get paid equally for their work.

Underpaid Is Underpaid

We often approach equal pay solely as a woman’s issue. Yes, it’s true that a gender wage gap continues to exist as pointed out by Carmichael. In fact, women earned 23.7 percent less than men in 2016, according to Pay Scale. Similarly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Statistics, women’s median earnings were 82 percent of men’s in 2016.

Research suggests a number of reasons for this, including the types of jobs and industries women enter, the amount of additional work they do in their households, and social norms about how women should behave in the workplace. In addition, many women never receive an education in voicing injustices. “It’s because women don’t negotiate,” wrote Carmichael.

However, there are plenty of men, who feel underpaid, too. This is not a gender issue. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a man or woman. This advice applies to anyone who wants to be paid fairly for her or his work.

Four Steps

Research Pay Figures

The first step is to take to Google and search median and average salaries for people doing the same job as you. Sites, such as Pay Scale, Indeed, and Glassdoor are great places to seek answers. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act requires U.S. publicly traded firms must now share their median employee pay and CEO pay, according to a recent story reported by the Wall Street Journal. More than 50 major companies have complied.

Search and read this kind of content, especially the salary curves. Write a report of your findings and print out the salary curves for your current position and the next two levels.

Keep in mind geography. In other words, try to find salary curves that are comparable to the part of the country in which you work. Make sure you thoroughly research pay figures, so you will have proof for comparison handy.

Know Your Value

Keep in mind women often undervalue themselves. Rasty Turek, founder and CEO of Pex, which helps people find, track, and monetize videos on the internet, realized this was the case when looking at Angellist, a site for finding potential new hires.

Women with the same qualifications were asking for less money than their male counterparts. So, he decided to analyze the available data. “I read studies claiming that women price their work lower than men, but I’ve never noticed it on my own,” he wrote on the Code Like a Girl website. “I wasn’t really sure if I was being fooled by my own head or if it was true, so I decided to confront the data.”

Although he narrowed down the group he studied, he found that women in the Bay Area seeking jobs at startups were indeed asking for much less. “The gap starts around $10k/year for the first year and grows to a staggering $30k/year after 10 years of working experiences,” wrote Turek. Read his article the data is compelling.

Are You an Ideal Team Player?

What is most important is proving your worth. You have to demonstrate your contributions to the company. Do you look for ways to add value and improve your capabilities? Are you a team player? Do you log off or leave the office at 5pm every day? Are you hungry? Do you ask for challenging work? Are you humble? Are you smart? Read Patrick Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player (Jossey-Bass, April 2016) and evaluate yourself.

Regardless of gender you are part of a team. Your company has a vision, and you have personal and professional goals. The ideal team players are hungry, looking for new ways to personally improve, learn, and contribute. Each team member has an important role to play regardless of gender.

What Have You Accomplished? — Make Your Case

Write down your achievements, so you can point to them when you talk to your manager. Show — and not just say — what you’ve done. For example, share stats, such as how much money your new process saved the company or how you supported customers to keep them happy. List any awards or recognition you have received for your work. Talk about the hours you put in on a weekly basis or the special projects on which you worked. Did you set goals and objectives on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis?

Meet with your manager at least monthly. This is the time to show case your accomplishments. Mention the positive reviews co-workers, customers and supervisors have given to you. Basically, be ready to toot your own horn and remind your manager of strengths you bring to the team.

Schedule an appointment to speak with your manager (or whoever determines your salary). Present the facts beginning with the researched salary curves for your job function. Then, describe what you’ve brought to the table as an employee. Make sure you understand where your current salary is on the curve. Be prepared to ask your manager, “What will it take to move along the curve to reach the higher salaries on the curve?”

Listen to the response.

And finally, be prepared to ask for what you want and negotiate accordingly. If you haven’t taken a negotiations course, you should at least read up on how to do it. Be firm but polite. Don’t back down. If you have prepared well by conducting thorough research and outlined your current contributions, and documented what you are committed to doing in the next 30-, 60-, and 90-day period, you should be able to debate your way to a raise based on performance.

Follow Up — Never Give Up

The above suggestions are an iterative process, not a one-time meeting. You should schedule brief check point meetings. Present your progress toward achieving your goals and objectives on a monthly and quarterly basis.

Most companies review employees’ salaries annually. If you ask to meet with your manager at least quarterly, you will have three opportunities for a more formal review to ensure you are on track to achieving your goal. It should be a chance to make sure your salary is on par with others in the industry and the office. The annual meeting is also a great time to find out what your supervisor expects of you and how the company’s needs may have changed. Remember to always advocate for yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.