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Confronting the pay gap through strangers comparing notes

(EDITORIAL) Pay gap is sometimes a hard concept to grasp until you get a representative from each side to compare notes.

Man and woman back to back representingpay gap between genders and salary transparency.

Pay gap

“Women earn 82 cents to a man’s dollar in the U.S.” Thus opens Glamour’s series of videos on the pay gap. The three-part series focuses on the salary gap between men and women, but also touches on the disparities between Caucasians and people of color and minorities.

The factors that affect pay are wide-ranging and often unpredictable, but the fact remains that, statistically, women are paid less than men are. And as one of the women in featured in Glamour’s video series notes, many of these factors are also governed by systemic inequalities, just like the pay gap.

Other factors

“There might be disparities in terms of education, and I think there are financial issues. Maybe they can’t afford to go a very expensive private school, for example,” she says. Or they can’t afford to take low paying or unpaid internships to gain experience, or they can’t afford a vehicle to commute to an area with more opportunities . . . the list goes on.

Glamour’s videos aim to shed some light on how this gap affects real people.

Each video features a pair of people, one man and one woman, who are employed in a similar role, at a similar level. Though the pairings vary, one thing remains constant: the men are all surprised by either the salary gap, or the general, ongoing struggle of being a woman in the workforce.

Side by side

When two graphic designers reveal their salaries to each other, we learn that the woman (Kelli) is paid about $41,000, while the man (Eric) earns about $62,000. Discussing the pay gap after ‘the big reveal,’ Eric admits, “As a man, you just kind of go your day to day without thinking about it.” But after having an open conversation with someone directly affected by the inequality, he says, “it makes it feel more urgent, more real.”

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In another video, two sales executives (Simi and Tony) have an open conversation about the influence of race and gender on salary.

“There’s a huge wage gap between men and women, but there’s also a wage gap between white women and women of color, and that’s a conversation that doesn’t get brought up a lot,” says Simi, a black woman. She notes that wearing her hair in different styles (flat ironed, afro, braids) has earned her totally different reactions in interviews, and discusses diversity in the workplace: “I’m the only black female on my team in North America. And that’s pretty normal for me, throughout my career.”

‘The big reveal’ turned into a twist ending, where Simi was out-earning Tony by $20,000. However, Tony acknowledged that his “biggest takeaway [from their conversation]is there are so many things I don’t have to think about, it’s crazy.”

He cited a “mental burden” that, as a white male, he has never had to carry.

In a pairing of two digital strategists, the conversation turned toward the effect of raising a family on job opportunities and salary.

Rose noted that in many interviews, she was asked about her children, and her ability to balance her work with her family. “I was actually once told, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t be working right now.’” Danilo confessed that his family had never been discussed in an interview.

After ‘the big reveal,’ Rose explained that her much lower salary ($70,000, compared to Danilo’s $114,000) reflected the time off she took after having her second son: “Years ago I did make more than this, but again, because I took those couple years off . . . it’s almost like you have to start over.” And she struggled with her emotions after the large gap was revealed: “I feel like it’s a reflection of me. But it’s not, it’s not.”

Kelli, the aforementioned graphic designer, expressed similar sentiments.

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“It’s hard to feel like you deserve something,” she said.

“As a woman, there’s this imposter syndrome that you have going into a career, where you feel like . . . what am I doing here?”

And Simi spoke frankly about the way women approach salary negotiation: “Negotiation is a skill. Women aren’t as comfortable bragging about themselves, putting themselves on a pedestal, or even being aggressive, in general, and it’s something you need to do if you want to get what you want.”


Written By

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.



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