The Current Gender Pay Gap

April 12th was Equal Pay Day and many media channels and politicians quoted the statistic: “Women make 79¢ for every dollar men make.”  Gender pay gap has been a popular topic recently and Glassdoor has even published a study that shows the top 10 jobs where women earn less, 10 jobs where women earn about the same, and 10 jobs where women earn more than men.

The thing that stood out to me the most was that the pay difference in the top job where women earned more than men (7.8%) was much less than the pay difference in the top job where women earned less than men (28.3%).  These jobs were the following:

Top job where women earned less than men:
Computer Programmer
28.3% base pay difference
Women earn $0.72 for every $1.00 men earn

Top job where women earned more than men
Social Worker
+7.8% base pay difference
Women earn $1.08 for every $1.00 men earn

Another thing is that a percentage base pay difference doesn’t really tell us how many dollars someone is losing out on.  For example, a 10% pay gap between two workers could mean Worker A is making 50k/year and Worker B is making 45k/year, so Worker B is losing out on 5k.  However, if Worker A is making 100k/year and Worker B is making 90k/year, the Worker B is losing out on 10k per year.  If you put that extra 10k into a retirement account each year for 30 years, growing at a modest 7% interest rate, you would have $1,010,730.41 in the account!

Negotiation can help close the gap

The gender gap has been a popular topic of discussion, but it’s difficult to point to only one reason for the gap.  However, I feel that negotiating is something that can help narrow the gap.  Studies have shown that women are less likely to negotiate than men.  I didn’t negotiate my salary for my first job out of college.  Shortly after I joined the company, I learned that a few other coworkers who joined around the same time were earning up to $10k more than I was and I was a bit upset at myself.  The initial offer they received had been lower but they had simply asked if our employer could do better than another higher offer they had received.  And upon asking, they were rewarded.

After this experience, I decided to learn about negotiation so I could use it them in my future job searches.  Negotiation doesn’t just apply to your salary when you are looking for a new job.  There are many times you will want to or may have to negotiate throughout your career.  I recently read the book: Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains by Deborah Kolb.  I think it’s a great negotiation book for those who have already started their career.  It really opened my eyes to how to negotiate for things such as a promotion, not having to relocate, telecommuting, or the conditions upon which you would accept a new role offered to you.  It made me realize that you don’t have to just say “Yes” to every opportunity you are offered just because you feel obligated but that you can say “Yes, and..(here’s what will make me accept).”  The “here’s what will make me accept” could be a salary increase, a title change, or that your boss will help you get another position you really want in a certain number of years.

How to Negotiate

  1. Know what you want.  You have to know what you want to get what you want.  You may also want more than one thing or there are few ways to reach you goal.  Then you can prioritize what you want.  Perhaps, you can’t get your first choice item, but you can get the second.  For example, your goal is to get higher compensation.  You might first try to get an increase in your base salary.  Maybe the company won’t budge on the base salary, but they can give you a higher sign on bonus.  Or maybe the company is willing to evaluate your performance after six months for a raise.
  2. Prepare, do research, and collect data.  Get an idea of how feasible your asks are.  Has someone you know successfully been to able to achieve the same?  What is a reasonable ask?  For compensation related data, in addition to people you know, you can look on Glassdoor or Quora.  For students who are looking for their first job, university career offices often have data on the average salary that previous graduating students in your sector were offered.  Also, if you have an idea of how the person you are negotiating with will respond or concerns they may express, you can think ahead about how you would respond to such statements.
  3. Ask for what you want.  You may want to role-play to practice negotiating, but ultimately you will just have to be brave and execute your plan.  Even if don’t get what you ask for or you don’t get everything you ask for, you’ve already accomplished a lot in making others realize you will speak up to try to get what you want.  Perhaps, you can reflect and find areas you need to improve on.  I’m still trying to improve my negotiation skills too.  You will become better with practice!

Learn to Negotiate at free Boston workshops for Women

For those who live in the Boston area, the City of Boston is offering some free negotiation workshops for women.  Here are the upcoming workshops in 2016.  You can register here.

Date Time Location Address
Wednesday, April 20 6:00–8:00 p.m. NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts at Simmons College 300 Fenway
Boston, MA 02115
at Main College Building (Room C-311)
Thursday, April 21 5:30–7:30 p.m. Charlestown Public Library 179 Main Street
Charlestown, MA 02129
Monday, April 25 6–8 p.m. Suffolk University, Sargent Hall Law School 120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108
Tuesday, May 3 5:30–7:30 p.m. South End Public Library 685 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118
Wednesday, May 4 5:30–7:30 p.m. Simmons College Office of Alumni Engagement 300 Fenway, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02115
Thursday, May 19 5:30–7:30 p.m. West Roxbury Public Library 1961 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02132