Today is Equal Pay Day, highlighting an ongoing earnings gap between men and women. Not only do women dominate low-wage jobs and still get less pay than their male peers, but women from the C-suite to sports to Hollywood earn less for their work than their male counterparts. On average, women earn 77 cents to the dollar, which may seem like a small gap until one does the math: The disparity can equal thousands of dollars a year that women are not taking home.
So what can we do about this? Equal pay advocates are pushing for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill which has been rejected twice already. The proposed legislation is a broader form of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gave victims of discrimination access to the courts for legal redress. With sentiments like Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the challenges are numerous:
“Take me through exactly what would have to happen, with a specific example of a man and woman, where a man is being paid less than the woman,” Alexander asked during a Senate hearing. “Because this law is not just about women—it’s about men and women.”
Add that to the fact that women are found to be less likely to negotiate or even know whether they are being paid fairly. According to Linda Babcock‘s book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change,” 46% of men always negotiate salary following a job offer, compared with just 30% of women. And 39% of men are apprehensive about negotiating (compared with 55% of women.)
I must admit, this is not something even I was taught as a teen or young woman. I’d often learn by seeing. I once witnessed a guy negotiate not only for more money but better technology at his workstation. The tech request was a deal breaker for him. He was accommodated.
I was so taken aback by that, thinking to myself, “Wow. He just asked and thus, he received.” I’d never thought to do that. I’d been more inclined to be a performer who just worked with what she had.
So today, on Equal Pay Day, I’d like to challenge all millennial women to make at least one of the following boss moves:
1. Know your salary and what you should be earning based on your location, job title and industry. Utilize salary calculators and get a sense of what peers with similar job titles and duties in your industry are earning. Keep up to date with the fiscal health of your company and industry to ensure you’re earning at least a competitive salary.
2. Make a promise to never… ever… ever take a job offer as is. I learned this later in my career after seeing others negotiate for perks and bonuses in the past and actually get them. Even as a fresh-out-of-college graduate landing that first job, you should at least know what a top package looks like for the company you’re working for and how you can work toward positioning yourself to earn it. As with anything in life, silence can breed inaction. You won’t know unless you ask. Use discernment and be strategic, not arrogant or demanding.
3. Become an advocate. Learn all you need to know about bills that are on the table that affect equal pay for women. Get involved by hosting events, including advocacy information via the Web, volunteering or contacting your local and state legislators, and rallying for change.
4. Teach a young girl the do’s and don’ts of knowing her worth and fighting for it. I can’t say it enough: Help another young lady at least know that her talents are worth being paid equally for. In my case, I think it’s a generational thing: If grandma is not teaching daughter, then daughter doesn’t teach her daughter. As a youth, I knew nothing about negotiating, salary packages, bonuses and prepping myself to ask for what I wanted in terms of earnings. These are all things I learned as I transitioned throughout my career. I wish I’d know these things earlier. So, take on a young girl and share knowledge about negotiating and knowing the market value of her talents.