Women, Work, and Resiliency: Thought’s About the Pay Gap
At the height of World War II, a gifted group of US university students were recruited by the Federal Government for a crucial task: cryptography. Lauded for their mathematical prowess, these young “cryptologists” crafted code for the military designed to keep communications safe from the enemy. They also deciphered intercepted code, revealing the enemy’s troop, ship, and plane movements. I should mention, proudly, that many of the brightest cryptologists were women. While a lot of the “Code Girls’” stories were not celebrated as robustly as their brothers’ stories, their contributions to an allied victory are unquestionable.
A Month that Honours US
Women’s history month, underway right now, arose from a Sonoma Valley California celebration launched in the 1970s. In March of every year, we set aside time and space for intentional conversation about the sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who inspire us through stories of resilience, resourcefulness, and remarkable achievement. In arenas from athletics to medicine, activism to education, women continue to trample the roadblocks established by centuries of patriarchy. Today, Kamala Harris serves as Vice President of the United States, Ketanji Brown Jackson is the latest judge to join the United States Supreme Court, and Mary Barra is the head of General Motors Corporation. Women excel in the classroom, on the racecourse, in the boardroom, and out on the battlefield while raising families, supporting partners, and enriching communities. Despite these successes, do you know what bothers me those most? Gender bias, representation and inequality is still so pervasive across many organizations and Boards. While I cannot begin to address all the obstacles my sisters encounter across domains, I can – and will – spend some time offering some insight about a challenge faced by women in the workplace: the pay gap.
Work to be Done
A 2022 study conducted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found that women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Compared to White men, the pay gap encountered by women from all backgrounds showed even greater disparity. The study notes, “for every dollar earned by White men, Hispanic or Latina women earned an estimated 58 cents (a pay gap of 42 cents on the dollar), and Black or African American women earned an estimated 63 cents (a pay gap of 37 cents on the dollar), while White women earned an estimated 79 cents (a pay gap of 21 cents on the dollar).” There is no shortage of other studies out there that affirms the GAO’s findings and provides data points to back what women continue to report anecdotally about the pay gap. The question is, what do we do about it?
If you feel the compensation offered by a current or potential employer is not up to snuff, it’s probably not. A critical step in negotiation is to trust your gut. While research about the market and the job skills and associated pay is important, gut instinct in the negation space will help you determine if negotiation is even possible.
Know the market, understand your value, and have clarity on what you want even before you enter the negotiation. If you’re looking for $250K and the current offer is $160K, you’re probably not going to bridge the $90K with a friendly conversation about a “bump.” Save your time and energy for an offer elsewhere.
Also, it’s vital that you enter negotiation without an air of desperation and focus on your VALUE. Moaning about expenses, revealing too much about your finances, or constantly referencing your current salary for s comparable will not impress the person conducting the interview or offering you job. Instead, do the research. Know what the job makes in a cohort setting. Understand the scarcity of the skills and experience that you bring. Write down ideas that offer alternatives to purely base pay. Can you negotiate more vacation time, deferred comp, or professional development and network memberships? There’s always wiggle room if you are willing to be creative. If possible, get the hiring manager on your side. If they are very excited about your candidacy, they will do whatever they can to get you hired.
A final thought or two: It doesn’t take a cryptologist to tell us that gender bias and its pay gap cousin continue to wreak havoc in the workplace. Let the contributions of your sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers inspire you to fight for what you deserve.