This year, Equal Pay Day finally cracked its way into March instead of April. Yes, it just squeaked in on March 31st but hey, progress!
The date of Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into each new year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous calendar year. The date is even later in the year for women of color and women with disabilities.
Put the numbers in different terms, and they’re just as concerning:
The gender pay gap, as it’s known, is the disparity between what women and men make for doing the same jobs. The estimate hovers around 80 cents (women) to the dollar (men) on average, with different sources putting it as low as 79 cents or as high as 82 cents (yay?).
In the long run, a 20-year-old female entering the workforce full-time will lose $418,800 over a 40-year career compared to a male worker, which means she will have to stay in the workforce 10 years longer in order to earn the same amount.
At the current rate we are going, according to an estimate published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the wage gap in the United States will not close until 2058. The UN recently reported that the worldwide wage gap will not close until 2090 at this rate. But women do not have a lifetime to wait for pay parity.
With all of this knowledge, there are a few things we can do to reduce the gender pay gap in our own communities.
Stand up for the women in your office.
Share your salaries with them.
If you’re in a position of authority, mentor and promote them.
Sponsor them for opportunities they wouldn’t hear about otherwise.
Amplify a woman’s voice in a meeting.
Examine your company’s hiring practices - are the pools of candidates all from the same schools, societies, and previous companies? Fight for parental leave policies.
Finally, be an ally. Women should not have to bear the burden alone of trying to create a more equitable society.
Many cities and states have banned employers from asking about previous salary history because women historically did not negotiate and therefore started their careers at a lower salary, which then kept them at a lower salary throughout their careers when a prospective employer asked about the previous position.
Before negotiating, do your homework on a website like Fairygodboss, Glassdoor, Payscale, or Indeed. Find out how your salary compares to the salaries of your peers, both male and female, not only in your company but across your industry. This preparation is key to making your case.
Write down every single thing you do that is above and beyond your current job description. Be exhaustive. Get testimonials from colleagues, even if you feel awkward asking. Tie all of the work you’ve done to results for the company’s bottom line.
Ask for your latté on the house, your credit card’s annual fee to be waived, or a voucher for future travel from an airline that didn’t meet your needs. Role-play with a friend as your boss.
Really practice the delivery, and your poker face. You need to be confident and firm while not appearing rude or unyielding. Make statements and don’t turn them into questions by letting your voice go up at the end.
Think of it like selling a vacuum; you believe in the product (your work), you believe it’s worth this price (your raise), and your job is to get your potential “customer” (your boss) to see it as worth that same price by rooting your pitch in what it can do for them.
You can negotiate for more vacation time, a flexible schedule or location, a new title, a leadership coach, increased benefits, childcare options, and plenty more. You can also ask for a performance-based review at an earlier interval, like 3 or 6 months instead of 12.
Remember that it costs them so much more money to recruit, hire, and train a new employee and have them get comfortable with culture and other intangibles than to give you what you are asking for, so it is in their best interest to keep you and keep you happy.
Everyone needs to work together to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces because economic power is freedom.
Money may not buy happiness, but it buys therapy, healthcare, food, shelter, education, and opportunity. When you have financial stability, you don’t have to rely on someone else for permission to make decisions. You can leave a bad living situation, an unfulfilling job, a neighborhood you feel unsafe in, a city that you don’t love, or a school that isn’t meeting your needs. You can buy organic food, seek regular medical and mental health care, join a gym, become a member of social groups, travel, and try new things.
Financial freedom is a right that we all deserve to have and acknowledging the gender pay gap and ways to close it are steps in the right direction for all of us.
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Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, EdM is a clinical therapist and leadership coach, published author of "Forward in Heels," and podcast host of "Feminist AF." She works with women all over both NYC and the world to uncover their own value system and learn to design their dream lives through her methodology. She wants all badass women to figure out what having it all means to them so that they can excel at what they do, stand tall, and own their worth so they can light up the world.