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What women must do to narrow the pay gap and gender inequalities

The fight women have today is not against a single entity or a single bad guy – the gap in pay still exists and it is up to each independent woman to fight against the inequalities that continue in today’s workplace.

How far we’ve come and how far we have to go

For years, the pay gap between women and men has been narrowing, but progress has been extremely slow, despite a softening of international attitudes toward women in the workplace. In 1914, Berlin University Professor Hans Friedenthal published a paper about what would happen if women entered the workplace, noting that “brain work will cause [the ‘new woman’] to become bald.”

Barely 100 years later, women account for 46 percent of the American work force1, but 59 percent of that portion make under $8.00 per hour2, representing a disproportionate amount of opportunity. Add to that the fact that Hispanic women make 52 cents to every dollar of a white male in America, and even a bigot would agree the playing field is not level.

I am encouraged by the fact that women business owners now employ 35 percent more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined3. I remain discouraged that four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management4, despite women outnumbering men in management positions in female-dominated industries like education, health administration and human resources.

How women must narrow the gap in 2012

So what do women have to do to narrow the gap, earn equal pay, and be seated at the executive board room table? I have personally advocated loudly that women need to pull their own bootstraps and push their way into the board room, but with the case made above, much of the gap is cultural and cannot always be solved just because a woman has moxy. I published a controversial column about my own treatment in the workplace as a young woman, and I pushed the agenda that women need to worry less about being called a “bitch” and more about not playing into the “overly sensitive” role some men continue to impose on women – it’s well meaning but misguided.

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In 1905, President Grover Cleveland said, “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” So what did women do? They banded together, they marched, they published articles, they held rallies, they educated others, they fought, which is exactly what women have to do today. Do you need to pull out your poster paint? No, because you can’t just go scream at Washington to change things for you, and in this case, they’re not the bad guys taking rights away from you. Ladies, our fight today is an independent fight fought at the individual level.

The only way to make change is to persevere, challenge assumptions and keep forging ahead. Don’t pour the coffee of your male peer when you know damn good and well they would be offended if you ask the same of them, don’t pout when you’re reprimanded or fail to close a deal, don’t cry sexism when you get passed over for a promotion. Ladies, you get revenge and get ahead by succeeding and outdoing everyone else in your company – that is your 2012 protest sign and your modern rally cry.

1 10 facts about women in the workplace
2 Charting the wage gap
3 Women business owners employment levels
4 International Business Report

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. David Larson

    April 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Lani,

    I strongly agree with your point that women can fight back if they are willing to do so at an individual level.

    Much of what makes the gender pay gap exist is outside of the control of the average woman. Entrenched problems like socialization of women, the “Old Boy’s Network”, and various structural issues are not going away any time soon.

    However, there are some things women can do on their own to break the pay gap. Among these, the top priority is to immediately ask for a pay raise (but do it the smart way).

    A recent study out of CMU shows that men are up to 4 times more likely to ask for a pay raise than women are.

    And because men are more likely to negotiate a pay raise EVERY SINGLE YEAR, their pay raises compound on themselves making the pay gap even wider.

    The same goes for negotiating salary.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way!

    Tomorrow, if every single employed woman in America walked into her boss’s office and negotiated a 1% raise, the gender pay gap would actually decrease overnight by a little over 3% (assuming women are currently paid 77 cents to each man’s dollar).

    To make it more interesting, studies have shown that because they are currently underpaid compared to men, when women do get up the nerve to ask for a raise (and they do it the right way) they are typically given a larger raise than the average man gets. So the money is out there just waiting if you know how to ask for it.

    I have written some articles on my blog negotiatingsalary.com that will help women learn the tricks and tips they need to negotiate better pay raises and higher salaries. Here is a good place to start

    Hope that helps!
    David Larson

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