This topic came up recently in a workshop I was leading on job offer negotiations. I wanted to answer a student’s question regarding how to be sure as a woman, you are paid the same as men by an employer making a job offer. The answer is… you can’t, even though it has been the law since 1963. BUT, there are things you can do to help with the issue of income disparity, including your own.
Be aware of what is systemic:
Research the organizational culture. Are there women in leadership or management positions? Does the organization say they are interested in diversity? Does the organization have policies which support issues that might affect your work if you have family responsibilities? (such as flex-time, maternity leave). Are the organization’s policies for promotion clear? For example, you can read a recent article on Goldman Sachs diversity initiatives.
Be aware of your own responsibility:
One reason women may not earn as much as men is they may be less likely to negotiate and advocate for themselves. The best time to negotiate is when you have an offer but before you have accepted a position. Here is more information on negotiating offers. Learn strategies to negotiate compensation based on your value to the organization and then try. Learning how to negotiate well is a skill you can use throughout your career – this is important no matter your gender. Take credit for your own efforts and results, even as you recognize the contribution of others.
Do what you can do to be informed and make change:
Look outside yourself to mentors in your department or company, and through professional organizations such as Catalyst. Here is a directory of women’s professional associations: http://www.quintcareers.com/womens_networking_organizations.html
Be aware of current data and trends. You can read articles or studies, or support organizations that are making sure this issue is in the news and on policymakers’ radars. This is a good place to start your research on the topic – Wikipedia’s “Male–female income disparity in the United States.” Learn about current news such as the Lily Ledbetter case or the recent repeal of the Wisconsin equal pay law.
Whether or not you are worried how the “wage gap” or income disparity will affect you, the idea that you stay informed on trends, that you understand your value as an employee, and advocate for yourself is crucial to your success no matter your career path, field or gender.