Are Women Worth Less?
For more than half a century women have taken a back seat to men in salaries and other compensation. The March 2011 Women in America report prepared for the White House Council on Women and Girls describes the current scorecard this way; “At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent as much as their male counterparts in 2009.”(Women In America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, page 32).
Historically, women have been taught that if they work hard and are patient they will be rewarded for their efforts. The facts challenge this belief. It has taken women 30 years to narrow the pay gap between women’s and men’s wages (it was 62% in 1979) by 13%! It’s time we remove the word—patience— from our business lexicon because it places women at a huge competitive disadvantage.
A male’s view of why the huge pay gap exists between the genders is simply that men choose higher paying jobs, work longer hours than women, and select jobs that require different talents. It is true that relatively few women seek jobs where they may be at a physical disadvantage such as construction, maintenance, transportation, and manufacturing. However, women outnumber men in the categories of sales and related occupations, office and administrative support, and service occupations—all categories that are growing not disappearing. (Women in America bar chart page 33).
Men have been content to rely on these explanations for years in hopes that the cat never got out of the bag—but she has arrived. The solution starts with your very first job: by negotiating for comparable starting salaries and benefits, asking for raises and promotions, and understanding how to use self-promotion throughout your career—these are the steps women can take to close the pay gap.
Wake Up and Speak Up
• Inform your prospective employer that you expect to get a salary package that matches those of all others doing similar work. If you fail to do so from the beginning, your pay will trail behind your male counterparts your entire career.
• If your first employer balks at giving you equal pay be prepared to push back and stand your ground, even if it means rejecting the proposal and looking for a more equitable situation elsewhere.
• Keep track of your weekly accomplishments and give your boss a brief recap in writing on a regular basis.
• Make sure your superiors are aware of your educational accomplishments by putting them on paper and presenting this information to them—sooner rather than later.
• When others are being considered for a promotion and you believe you are qualified, let your boss know you are interested in the position and put together all of your accomplishments at work that can substantiate your qualifications.
• Never be afraid to self-promote and be as assertive as you would be if you were making a sales call, because you are selling the most important product you have—yourself.
Susan T Spencer is an entrepreneur who owned and ran companies that were in male- dominated industries , is an award winning author , (Briefcase Essentials, Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated Workplace), and former GM and minority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.
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