Young girls and women hear they can achieve anything they want. The woman suffrage and Me Too movements strengthen this message. Prosperity and success are within reach, but women still have barriers to break.
The gender pay gap plagues women’s economic independence. Though women make up almost 50 percent of the labor market, full-time female workers earn 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men. So why is the gender wage gap perceived as myth? The Equal Pay Act of 1963, a labor law aimed at abolishing wage disparity between the genders, makes it illegal for employers to pay women less. But the pay gap is complex and multi-layered.
So why do women face income inequality? The International Labour Organization’s Women at Work: Trends 2016 report suggests gender discrimination, the undervaluation of work, and career breaks for parenting attribute to this disparity. The motherhood wage penalty, a disadvantage in hiring, salary, and perceived competence relative to childless women, costs a wage loss of 7 percent per child. We need massive policy changes and cultural shifts, and a GDP that values unpaid domestic duties, for women to have equality in the workplace. The pay gap isn’t expected to close for another 70 years. That’s a long time to wait, which means you must continue to use your voice and advocate for yourself. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Prepare yourself. Learn to negotiate and ask for more money. Before you apply for a job, research the company’s mission to see if it fits your values. Do they offer flexible work schedules, paid leave, and breastfeeding locations? Don’t share too much. California’s 2018 pay equity law 432.3 prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. “This is a game changer for women. It will help women earn a little bit more,” says Rosanna Hayden, vice president of membership at PASCO and chief executive officer at Artizen Staffing. Before your interview, visit glassdoor.com for a salary analysis of your job title. Be ready with facts and figures and then ask for it. Make it a non-emotional business transaction. If they reject your offer, express your disappointment and reiterate your value. Nicole Smartt Serres, Co-Owner and President of Star Staffing suggests keeping a work journal to log your wins. "Know why you deserve that promotion...Don’t leave your career in the fate of others.”
Mentors can help you move into leadership roles and encourage pay raises. The good news is that some employers offer women mentorship programs. For a business owner, a life coach or career coach can help you stay on track. Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In” and leader of #MentorHer emphasizes the value of men leaders and encourages them to mentor women. Women can be competitive with one another and a male mentor can counterbalance this distrust. Young girls need mentors to build self-confidence. In my twenties, I told my dad, a businessman, that I wanted to start my own business. He said it was too hard. I was devastated. Before he passed away, he retracted and said I would achieve great things in my life. I wish he was here to be my trusted adviser. If you need support, SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners achieve their goals, offers free business mentoring. Women mentors are hard to come by in the tech industry. The Entelo Women in Tech Report states that women hold 18 percent of positions. Even worse, they endure harassment, discrimination, and family-unfriendly policies. Seek mentors outside of the workplace. Find someone you admire and make the ask.
Women leaders boost the bottom line. The Peterson Institute for International Economics study reports that when a company goes from zero women in corporate leadership to a 30 percent share, it contributes to 15 percent profitability for companies. That’s a win-win. Not every employer will support your road to the C-suite. Look for companies with internal hiring and employee recognition programs. Take advantage of the 2018 California bill SB 826 enacted by Governor Jerry Brown and sit on a board. The law has opened leadership doors for women, which requires at least one woman on a board of directors by the end of 2019.
It’s challenging to balance work and family when you are the primary caretaker. Consider Bay Area companies that recruit moms and offer telecommuting, part-time jobs, job sharing, compressed workweeks, flex hours, and open, paid-time off. The American dream is for women, but we have barriers to break down. Gender discrimination and the pay gap are real, but know that you’re worthy of achieving your goals. The question is no longer if you can fulfill your potential, but will fight for what is yours?
Mary R. Murphy is a marketing consultant and writer who helps women leaders and their businesses build brand loyalty and gain visibility through effective and powerful written communications. Mary is a former executive recruiter and career specialist and a certified human resources manager. She writes marketing content for female executives, their companies, and employer brand. You can contact her at email@example.com.
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