It’s estimated that women lose nearly a half million dollars over the course of their individual career thanks to wage disparity. Female workers are paid less than $4 for every $5 paid to men, a 21% difference in earnings.
While the data shows that women aren’t paid as well as men, there is of course also significant evidence that demonstrates the powerful contributions of women in the workplace and economy. In fact, without women in the workforce, it’s estimated that the U.S. economy would be worth $2 billion less than it is today.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, progress towards closing the gender wage gap has slowed in recent years. If the pace continues, experts estimate that it will take until 2059 for wage disparity between men and women to disappear — which, I think we can all agree, is far too long.
Tackling the Issue
The January issue of People showcased 21 female celebrities who are speaking out about the importance of equal pay. This elite list included real-life stories from Ellen Pompeo, Beyoncé, and Carli Lloyd — but they’re not the only ones.
Wage disparity is capturing the attention of organizations as well as celebrities, and some are even making efforts to equip women to break through the gap. Levo, a network for millennials in the workplace, recently started the movement #ask4more, with the tagline, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Organizations like Equal Pay Today support the national Equal Pay Day each year, to further raise awareness of gender pay inequalities.
But it’s also important to ask yourself: what can you do — both to increase your own pay and make a difference in the workplace at large? What can you do to level the “paying” field in your industry?
Start here. We’ve got a few ways you can get the salary you want — and help other women along the way.
Ask for What You Want
It’s long been thought that men are better at negotiating the terms of job offers than women. One study, published by Harvard Kennedy School, found this anecdotal information to be pretty accurate. The researchers studied nearly 2,500 job seekers and found that women are less likely to apply for a job that is listed as having a “negotiable” salary in the advertisement compared to men. Women are leaving money on the table — without ever asking for it.
If you’re considering negotiating for your next salary, make sure it’s a job where negotiation is possible. Some jobs, such as entry-level positions, union jobs, and government or civil service vacancies might not be eligible for talks. But if it is? Ask! Don’t be shy.
If you receive a job offer, request time to consider the proposed wage — and then do your research. Visit sites like Glassdoor or Payscale to compare salaries for similar jobs. If you know anyone who works at the company, ask them about the pay. It might seem taboo to talk money, but if you don’t talk about it, you’re going to miss out. You might also be able to talk to the hiring manager about the position and see if they can speak to human resources or upper management to raise the salary.
Never shy away from asking for what you want. That’s how salaries grow.
Support a Higher Minimum Wage
It’s important to understand how minimum wage affects the gender pay gap. The National Women’s Law Center reports that raising the minimum wage will directly impact female workers at the bottom of the spectrum, which is where the most significant gap remains. Women fill almost two-thirds of minimum wage jobs in the U.S., and women of color are over-represented in this sector. Raising the federal minimum wage might not impact you directly — but it may affect your daughters, friends, or other fellow women.
Empower Other Women
Many employers discourage conversations about salary. The problem is, without open discussions about pay, the progress towards closing the gender pay gap moves far too slowly.
Don’t be afraid to initiate these discussions and encourage others along the way. These conversations can be uncomfortable — be sure to go deeper than basic salary, and discuss things like length of service, job descriptions, and general standing with the boss. If asking about specific numbers seems too hard, start by speaking in broad terms about your own pay. This can help to open the lines of communication with other women.
Remember: You’re Not An Impostor
Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in your career? Or that colleagues will discover that you’re a fraud, and you don’t deserve to be where you are? A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Science reported that some high achieving women believe they are frauds — despite objective evidence of success.
If you relate to this, you’re absolutely not alone. But how can we overcome that feeling? One of the best ways to stop impostor syndrome in its tracks is to simply recognize it when it happens. Call it out. “I’m feeling like a fraud — but I know that’s not true.”
If you still feel yourself worrying about not deserving a raise or promotion, ask yourself one question: “Are these feelings doing more harm than good?” If the answer is that you’re creating more problems for yourself, take a minute to regroup. How can you change your perspective? Staying in a positive mindset about money, salary, bonuses, and raises will help you ward off impostor syndrome the next time it comes around. If you don’t think you’re worth more, it’s likely others won’t believe it either.
But believe me, girl, you are worth it.
Lead the Way
Imagine one day, you’re feeling scared about asking for a raise — but then you hear from a trusted colleague that she already did so. She requested a raise, and received even more than she originally wanted! Would you still be scared? Maybe a little, but most likely this knowledge would lessen your fears and give you a little jolt of courage. We’re always more bold when we see up close what’s possible. This is true in reverse, too. When you act, others will follow. Your boldness could empower another woman down the line — so even if you feel to nervous to do it for yourself, try to do it for her.
Are you ready to level the paying field in your industry? It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s possible — and it better happen well before 2059. The next time you’re faced with a gender pay gap issue, take a breath. Remember all of the women who have gone before you, hold your head high — and fight to level the paying field.