Unfair pay doesn’t make you a victim…

Unfair pay doesn’t MAKE you a victim. But it IS your wake up call to stop BEING one.

While there is really no reason for women in the US to make 77 cents to every dollar made by a white male…well, it’s still happening*.

Let’s go big…Charlize Theron recently negotiated a deal with Sony Pictures worth over $10M in order to equalize pay with her male counterpart, Chris Hemsworth, in their upcoming movie. (And, yes, I’m Hollywood naive so I even had to look up who he was…he’s Thor!) Theron was alerted to the inequality because of the Sony email hack — so not all bad?

In the famous Lilly Ledbetter case, she allegedly found out about her pay being substantially less than other men with the same seniority when someone slipped her a handwritten note.

And similar situations happen every day in “normal” workplaces. Women don’t receive the investment funding, female CEOs are paid 12% less than males, women are less likely to earn tenure even with the same research productivity as men.

The Problem is Money Talk

So, the real problem is…we just don’t have information at our fingertips. Money seems a worse topic than sex and religion. We certainly don’t teach about it in school other than seeing pictures of nickels and dimes as we learn to count.

I was raised in a rather “gender neutral” Northern California hippie town in the 70's. I was not explicitly taught I was worth less than the boys, but as it turns out, I did make $0.20/day less than they did on the same paper route. I didn’t think that mattered at all. That was less than a quarter!

At the ice cream shop during high school, I was told I made $1/hr less because I had less experience dealing with cash than the guy hired at the same time. He ended up in jail for robbing a bank 5 years later so it was probably a valid point.

In college, I made less than the men because I couldn’t be a “closer” — meaning staying until the close of business which also means getting paid more, longer hours and late night tips as a cocktail waitress — because “it wasn’t safe for me to leave by myself with all that cash.” At the time, I really thought “Hey, yeah, they’re trying to take care of me. That’s sweet.”

AND…I was a math major! But if you don’t have all the information, you can’t add up the right facts and reach the right conclusion. And the point is, no body helped me understand that this is not right. Why? Well, no body talked about money.

“Victim” of Circumstance?

I didn’t grow up thinking of myself as a “victim”. But once I learned of all the inequalities, I had to wake up and take responsibility! I taught myself about business, about financial transactions, about my relationship to money (e.g. all the feelings it brought up about having too much, too little, more than, less than, privileged vs hard working…)

And now…now…I can’t be quiet about the inequalities. I hear other women saying “PLEASE stop talking about all the inequality…you just add to the problem and make it worse” and “…no body MEANS to discriminate…but women make a lot of choices about leaving work to have kids, or put their career first…so they will end up getting paid less!”


The hard part: there IS some validity to the points about our choices. We often do leave a job to raise a family. Or we don’t put our career in front of a lifestyle. Or while we may be able to really fight to progress our career, then end goal just doesn’t look all that interesting.

The Solutions

Who doesn’t like a clapping baby?

CEO Mark Benioff of SalesForce.com is leading the way. Benioff told the Huffington Post “My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement,” he said, but “…when I’m done there will be no gap.” And while I LOVE that he’s doing this, only time will tell if it’s a publicity stunt or if it leads to real reform. Hence…baby claps.

My suggestion to other employers is to make the news and outpace him. Stop throwing your one female engineer onstage to highlight your product or speak about how fair your company treats her (yes, we all see through this!); stop putting together pink shirts and volunteer committees for the Breast Cancer awareness (well, OK, DO this, but stop calling it your women’s initiative!); stop putting together women’s engagement communities and asking women to work in them in ADDITION to their full-time work and then call it an ‘honor’.

Do look at your pay scale. Immediately. And correct where necessary. Now.

And for women reading this…take a sales course, take a negotiation course, learn the secrets to asking for what you want.

Oh…some Republicans argue that saying that women earn $0.77 for every dollar paid to men is misleading because “the number comes from the average earnings of women in all positions and contrasts it with the average earning of men in all positions”. That’s interesting, too.

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