Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Congratulations – You’ve been offered your dream job! The recruiter offers you an annual salary is you feel is fair, and more than you make at your current job. However, as you review the formal job offer letter, you notice there is a clause that you will work the first 57 business days of your employment without a paycheck. Your annual salary will be payable over the remaining nine months of the year.
You would never agree to work nearly three full months of every year at no pay! What initially seemed to be a fair offer is now simply appalling.
Reality check. If you’re a woman, and you’ve never asked for a raise or negotiated your salary upon hire, you are likely working the equivalent of three unpaid months out of every year while your male counterpart enjoys nearly 20% more in earnings. This problem has a name – the gender pay gap. While the exact pay gap ranges differ based on the research study, the U.S. Census Bureau identifies that the average woman still only earns 82% of what men earn. This number varies widely based on ethnicity and background. Given today’s reality, a 20-year old beginning full time work today stands to lose $406,760 over a 40-year career compared to her male counterpart.
In fact, March 31, 2020 is equal pay day. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. No woman would ever accept a job offer so blatantly structured like this, so why are we tolerating it today?
Before you walk into your boss’ office and demand you be paid three months salary, let’s take a look at underlying actions that perpetuate the problem. Luckily, these are all in your control. It starts with having confidence in your value and leaving behind the belief you aren’t qualified.
You’re not applying for jobs you're fully capable of doing. A study published via a research at Hewlett-Packard found that women tend not to apply for jobs unless they feel they possess each of the listed qualifications, while men will feel confident about their application matching just 60% of them. The result of this thinking is that men will more readily apply to roles that have a higher salary, because he’ll have the confidence despite not meeting all of the job criteria. Women will find roles they feel 100% qualified for, which can tend to come in at a lower salary band – thus, widening the compensation divide.
Additionally, if women do apply for the same, higher-level job, they tend to possess the belief that they since they aren’t meeting 100% of the job criteria or experience, thus they’ll rationalize a lower salary offer instead of one based on fair market demand or the value they’ll bring to the company. My personal experience as a hiring manager and HR professional confirms much of what the data reveals – women ask for less, hesitate to apply, and negotiate less often than men.
You’re not negotiating your salary
How often have you accepted the first salary offer, simply because it was an increase over your current pay? One of the core reasons a gap exists is because women do not take the initiative to negotiate their salary putting them at an immediate salary disadvantage to their male peers.
According to a study by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, male graduates from Carnegie Mellon University had starting salaries of 7.6% higher than women. While the initial salary offer was similar, 57% of the men negotiated their salary offer as compared to only 7% of the women. Men initiate salary conversations FOUR times more often than women, and when women do negotiate, they ask for 30% less than their male counterpart. Some women tell me that negotiating for more makes them feel pushy. You are not being greedy or pushy if done tactfully and with an honest assessment of how you can help your company succeed.
You talk yourself out of challenging assignments
Women spend far too much time believing the lie they are unqualified, unworthy, or not ready. We can easily list 10 reasons in our head why we shouldn’t take on a new challenge that could result in a promotion, bonus or additional income. A few self-reflection questions that can help you rise confidently above your doubts:
Knowing that men will apply when they only meet a few of the qualifications, what would you apply for or ask for today if you believed you were fully capable?
I hear many of my friends comment that their husbands seem to be fearless when it comes to taking big career leaps and negotiating a great salary. So, in turn I’ll often ask (myself and others), “What would my male counterpart do in this situation?” Often times the answer is: apply for the job, ask for 20% more, or take a leap to a start your own business.
Instead of focusing on what skills you don’t (yet) have, refocus your energy on three ways you would contribute value, using your existing talents and achievements. You are not bragging, you’re communicating your worth and value.
Thinking beyond today into your future, a study by Money Magazine revealed that women’s retirement savings balances are 50% less than men’s – even though they even save at a higher percentage of income! Correspondingly, because a woman tends to make less, it means that if her company offers a matching 401k retirement program, her company funded match is less than a man’s. Simply stated, men get a higher amount of free matching money than women.
Women spend far too much time believing the lie they are unqualified, unworthy, or not ready. -Kelli Thompson
How To Ask for What You Deserve
Feeling motivated by all of this information but still too intimidated to ask? First, practice by asking for smaller wants in your life – like renegotiating your cable bill or securing a better pricing discount with a vendor at work. In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant writes that when we start to act on small behaviors in the direction we want, it gives us confidence and promotes a self-fulfilling prophecy and belief we are successful at that skill. When we realize wins from negotiating the small stuff, we gain confidence to take action on the big stuff.
Second, change your money mindset. Money is an expression of value, it can be abundant resource if we believe it so. How do we know something is of value? Because it communicates its value to us in various ways. We will pay for things based on the value we perceive they have. Organizations will reward you in accordance with the value that you’re willing to advocate for. When we believe in our worth and genuinely express it, others will perceive it as well. What specific actions do you take at work, in your interviewing, or in your life to express your value?
Rise to your salary conversation confidently by journaling on and practicing your response to the following:
What do salary data resources (PayScale.com, Glassdoor.com, state BLS Wage systems, etc.) reveal is fair my role and experience?
What is unique and creative about me that no one else can offer? How can these talents help others?
How can I keep a career journal of my career/education successes, examples and outcomes to build my confidence and self-advocacy?
What would I confidently ask for today if I wasn’t feeling intimated, unqualified or fearful? What’s one step I can take toward that?
Who can help me practice presenting my facts, articulating what I can contribute and asking for what I’m worth? (Hint: friend, spouse, phone video recording, etc)
Visit this page and download the “Give Yourself A Raise” prep sheet. It will help you prepare for and practice your ask.
When we believe in our worth and genuinely express it, others will perceive it as well. -Kelli Thompson
Make the #pledgeforparity and see how companies, men, women and families all win when they advocate for equal opportunities. Follow the conversation socially at #genderpaygap . Most importantly, advocate for yourself!