Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to overcome the gender wage gap

It’s no secret in today’s society that women earn less than men, on average, in practically every profession in which both men and women work together. In fact, it has been said that the actual number is as much as 81% of what men make. This is an enormous discrepancy in a society in which it has been proven time and again that ladies are as capable, if not more so, of doing the jobs traditionally held by men. Is it a simple case of gender bias, though? Overcoming the wage gap and earning exactly what you deserve to earn means overcoming much more than gender bias. It can mean overcoming your own preconceived notions about your chosen career.

In a recent study conducted by Universum, an employer branding firm, MBA candidates were asked what they expected to earn in their first jobs out of college. By their data, female respondents on average reported that they expected their first paychecks would be nearly $7,000 less than their male peers.  Undergrads expected a salary of just $47,237 compared to male expectations of $55,000.

Is it the testosterone talking? While the researchers go on at length about “benevolent sexism,” It may be a more simple matter than that. Men may just be asking for more when they apply for those jobs, while women may well be taking a more realistic, conservative view and actually asking for less.

That might well mean that overcoming the gender wage gap could be as simple as negotiating your starting salary from a moderately less realistic and more idealistic point of view. Basically stated, start high and let them work you down a little. 

For instance, let’s say that the starting salary for your particular chosen career is $30,000, on average. You can find this information on sites such as or Rather than a set-in-stone number, these sites give you a range of salaries that you can expect for that position based on your geographic region, experience level, etcetera. The range for that position might just be between $25,000 and $35,000. Rather than asking for the average, $30K, and letting the employer beat you down to $27,000, start at the top range. Ask for the $35,000.

Different research has determined in many cases that the first salary coming out of college tends to help determine what you will make throughout your career. The average loss due to this has been found to be as much as $500,000 over the course of a career. That means that as soon as you graduate, you’ve got to get on track as quick as possible. That, in turn, means playing hardball with your first job. Have a dream company you want to work with? If they offer you $5,000 less per year, you might want to rethink that dream, because chances are good most of your raises will be between 6% and 8%, and picking up that initial $5,000 as well as whatever make-up you should have made over the interim won’t ever happen. Additionally, even if you stay with that company, they’ll base any promotion raises you receive on that number, rather than the national average of what that position makes, all the while saying “sorry, but we just have to offer you XXX for right now, but your raise is coming up, and you can get that!”

Putting an end to the gender wage gap isn’t a matter of marching in the street or even suing in court. It’s a matter of knowing what your education and your time are worth as soon as you walk in the door, and being willing to accept not a penny less than exactly what you deserve. Sure, that dream job might pass on you, but you’d be surprised what another corporation might be willing to offer! All you have to do is ask.

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