If we want equal pay, we women have to be our own best advocates

It has been 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and, still, there is much disparity to overcome for us who demand equal rights. To research this issue means to encounter many different mathematical equations for measuring just how big the gender pay gap is, but all the research agrees on one fact: all women consistently earn less than men, and the gap is wider for most women of color.

An article published this spring by the Center for American Progress analyzed the most recent Census Bureau data from 2018, finding a clear loss for women:

Women of all races earned, on average, just 82 cents for every $1 earned by men of all races.

There are many reasons for this gap, and I’m positive you have your own theories. Let’s explore just a few, beginning with the Center’s top concern, called occupational segregation.

“So-called women’s jobs, which are jobs that have historically had majority-female workforces, such as home health aides and child care workers, tend to offer lower pay and fewer benefits than so-called men’s jobs, which are jobs that have had predominantly male workforces, including jobs in trades such as building and construction.”

Some other big reasons for a pay gap aren’t necessarily menacing on the part of employers, but are still frustrating when we look at societal expectations of women.

For example, women often have less years of experience in a field than men. That makes sense when we consider that women often take a break from the paid workforce to raise children, making their cumulative years of service less than a man’s.

Furthermore, women who continue working during child-rearing years have tough decisions to make: chase higher-paying roles and opportunities with more responsibility or seek out jobs with a schedule that can accommodate returning home to families.

Simply put, women sacrifice more to be present figures inside the home.

In my own opinion, it’s no wonder men can do “whatever it takes to succeed,” therefore securing a greater earning potential, because women are dependably picking up the slack at home.

Men can certainly “have it all” if their wives are home raising kids, cooking food, and cleaning the house.  In my mind, these jobs are absolutely as necessary as what the primary bread-winner is doing, we simply aren’t respected as much for doing it (by both men AND some other women, though this is a whole other blog post.…).

Analyzing the problem can go on forever so let’s switch gears and focus on the solution.

In light of all the above, we women must dedicate ourselves to making our own best case for earning the best salary possible.

This week I joined a non-profit named WomenWerk for an Instagram Live interview. I was one of a panel of guests who discussed equal pay for women of all races. I loved brainstorming about this important issue!

Everyone offered fantastic insights over the course of the week.  One particular conversation focused on the power of language in helping women advocate for change. Here are the top five take-aways from the conversation:

1. Aways negotiate your first offer.

You may not get exactly the money you ask for, but it’s important to open a dialogue with your employer about what you would like. Sometimes, you may accept a lower salary because you really need the steady work, and that ok, too. Voicing what you would like to earn allows your boss to know that you value yourself at a certain level and will work to prove yourself.

2. Keep track of your deliverables.

I recommend making a list of what you accomplish, from the number of customers or investors you bring in, to the critical relationships you build. Did you meet your goals? Did you invest extra time and energy above what was expected of you? These all matter when it’s time to re-negotiate your pay. Listing your accomplishments makes it easier for your employer to say yes to a raise.

3. Closed mouths never get fed.

A viewer posted this in the comments during our talk and it truly says it all. I have talked about this before in another form: You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. So, ask for more responsibility. Ask to learn skills that go above your job description. Ask for more speaking roles so you can become more visible within your team. If you let your boss and colleagues know you are there to grow and succeed, you have a better chance of doing just that.

4. Fake it until you make it.

No one feels 100% all the time, but you still have to show up as if you do! Whether it’s a pair of false eyelashes or that extra cup of coffee that helps you feel ready, go for it. The point is, don’t let a bad night of sleep derail your performance. Don’t let an argument with your children cause you to jeopardize your success the rest of the day. As hard as it is, I believe it’s important to compartmentalize other aspects of our life when it’s time to shine.

5. Stop fearing failure.

Failure isn’t the problem. Wallowing in the failure is! Grow your tolerance for accepting your mistakes because the rebound is far more important.

I’m grateful to WomenWerk for hosting me as part of their week-long discussion on equal pay.

Also, thank you to Linda Sarsour, activist, organizer, and fellow mother, for sharing her strategies and brainstorming with me during our live conversation. You can view the full dialogue at @womenwerk.

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