Updated: Jun 27, 2018
Pay Day is no cause for celebration. There is absolutely nothing joyous about not getting paid what you are worth, and quite frankly as a woman, I’m tired of “celebrating.” With the passage of each Equal Pay Day I keep hoping it will be the last.
Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. This date is representative of how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Think about that for a moment. It is offensive that women must wait until April before their wages catch up to what men made a year ago. But of course, we never actually catch up, hence the problem. Currently women make about 80% of what men make and the numbers drop significantly when looking at the pay gap that exists for minority women. For example, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) indicates that the Equal Pay Day for black women isn’t until August 7th this year and for Latina women they must wait until November 1st, which is almost a full year! Just let that sink in.
Despite increased focus and awareness on gender pay inequality, progress has been very slow. According to the Pew Research Center, the gender gap in pay has narrowed since 1980, but it has remained relatively stable over the past 15 years or so. In fact, several researchers estimate that women won’t achieve pay parity until somewhere between 2059 or 2119, depending on the rate of progress. That is far too long. We need to #PayHERNow!
Even with the sluggish improvement there are some promising indicators that the tide is finally shifting. The AAUW has reported that last year 42 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., presented legislative remedies to pay inequity. And just in time for Equal Pay Day, on Monday, April 9, 2018 a federal appeals court ruled that using a woman’s previous salary to determine her pay for a new role exaggerates disparities in the wages of men and women and it is illegal when the outcome is men having higher salaries. These legislative victories coupled with actions taken by employers such as conducting pay audits, moving toward transparent pay practices, and standardizing the process for compensation should produce results in reducing the gap, albeit slowly.
Women can’t afford to wait for these actions to be fully realized however. Pay inequality is a significant economic issue because it means that women have less take home pay to care for their families and contribute to the nation’s economy. A 2017 study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research underscores this point with its finding that equal pay would add an additional income of $512.6 billion to the U.S. economy even if men's wages stayed the same.
The solution to the gender pay gap lies in a three-pronged approach involving:
1. Fierce advocacy and legislative action
2. Employer accountability and re-tooling people systems
3. Women powerfully and effectively demanding that organizations #PayHERNow
As we have seen there is progress being made on the first two. But what about the third? As it turns out women are speaking up and asking for higher salaries. The joint study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company found that women ask for promotions at comparable rates. In fact, it may come as a surprise, but senior level women ask for promotions more often than senior-level men. So, what gives?
I believe the difference is not whether we ask for a raise but “how” we do it. As women we need to learn “effective” strategies for negotiating our pay. While it should not be our responsibility to make sure that we are paid fairly and treated equally in the workplace, we must realize that if we don’t take matters into our own hands, we may indeed be waiting until 2059 for pay parity. Women of all ages (even young girls) should learn the art of pay negotiation. Strategies such as being the first to put the offer on the table, indicating the specific amount you want, doing your market research, and knowing your worth should be skills that all
women possess. Effective pay negotiation can make the difference in getting commensurate pay.
While we are waiting for our government and employers to make the necessary changes to close the pay gap, let’s commit to acting within our own sphere of control by attending a salary negotiation workshop or training others on how to negotiate pay if you already possess th is skill. If we do this then maybe, just maybe, we can finally stop “celebrating” Equal Pay Day!