The Gender Wage Gap Exists: 5 Ways You Can Help

Are female candidates being put forward for influential roles in your office?
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By: Caroline Ceniza-Levine

The gender wage gap is a persistent economic problem. In 2014, the hourly wage of the median woman ($15.21) was 82.9 percent that of the median man ($18.35)…..The gender wage gap exists at every decile in the wage distribution, at every level of educational attainment, and in the majority of occupations….Women of color are disproportionately affected by wage inequalities: As compared with the hourly wage of the median white man, the median black woman earns 65.1 percent as much, and the median Hispanic woman earns 58.9 percent as much. – Alyssa Davis and Elise Gould in Closing the pay gap and beyond, an Economic Policy Institute report
the annual pay for women only now equals the amount men were earning TEN YEARS AGO – World Economic Forum in Ten Years of The Global Gender Gap
Not only do men get promoted faster, but both the controlled and uncontrolled gender pay gap increase as job level increases – Payscale in Inside the Gender Pay Gap

I have coached many female professionals on negotiating starting compensation, promotions and bonuses, and even severance. When I read reports like this, I get discouraged both for myself as a female professional and for my female clients. However, discouragement isn’t productive. Statistics are generalized over a population. If each of us individually work towards closing the gender wage gap for ourselves and our female colleagues, clients and vendors then we can change those statistics one data point at a time.

Here are five ways individuals (male and female) can close the gender wage gap around them:

Hire women into decision-making, influential roles

If you work in HR, have direct reports on your team you need to hire for, or interview candidates on behalf of your colleagues’ openings, then you have a say in who works at your company. Are female candidates being put forward for decision-making, influential roles? Are they given due consideration as managers and leaders or are they penalized for being aggressive or having “sharp elbows”? If you’re part of the hiring committee, advocate for a slate of candidates that represent both genders. Watch for subconscious bias that penalizes women; speak up if you witness anything. Help foster a workplace where women are hired into roles that are senior enough to change the culture, including the compensation culture. This is something female and MALE professionals can both do.

Advocate for the women on your team

In addition to advocating for new women coming into the company, advocate for the women on your team. I once was managing a superstar, and I went to my boss to lobby for increased compensation for her. She ended up with additional stock options as a spot bonus. She didn’t ask me to do it (an example of a female professional not asking for more!), but I was glad to do it – she deserved it, and I wanted the company to acknowledge her contribution. Is there a woman on your team or in your department that you can advocate for – i.e., encourage her to ask for more herself, nominate her for a company spot bonus, recognition award or leadership program, or lobby directly for her to receive a bonus, raise or promotion?

Stay up to date on the salary market

For yourself and for people on your team (both women and men), you want to make sure your salaries are marked to market. If there are people who have been in the company for years, their compensation may have fallen behind. Many people don’t even think to negotiate for more in the jobs they already have. Be the proactive one, get current salary data and if it supports higher compensation, share it with management. You may just help, not only yourself, but your colleagues get a raise.

Model good negotiation skills

If you are comfortable with negotiating, help others do the same. Let your colleagues know how you find salary information. Encourage your colleagues to prepare for their performance reviews and to ask for more. Share articles on negotiating, such as how to make more money before the year ends. If you know of a colleague preparing for a raise request, role play with them and give them some live practice with the negotiation.

Be a mentor

I teach salary negotiation at Barnard College, a single-sex college, and some of the students I teach are the first in their families to go after a corporate role. They are unfamiliar with the specific elements of an offer package, much less how to negotiate for the best one. So I explain the different ways a bonus can be paid, the different types of benefits, what vesting and eligibility dates mean and why they matter, and basic offer information that everyone may not know but that everyone needs in order to know what to ask for. You don’t have to teach a formal class to share what you know. Mentor an up-and-comer and help them get paid what they’re worth, help them navigate and maximize their total compensation package, and coach them as they get promoted and need to negotiate titles and raises.

While the statistics still show a gender wage gap, there are things individual professionals (both men and women) can do to help close the gap right where they are. What are you doing to ensure gender wage parity?

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. She has coached executives from Amazon, American Express, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, Tesla, and other leading firms. Her latest book is Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (Forbes Media, 2015). She also writes a weekly advice column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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