The waging war against the wage gap
With the sixth season of “Mad Men” airing this summer, it is time to take a moment and examine our own culture. For almost seven years, this series about an ad agency in the early 1960s has displayed blatantly sexist behavior in the office that, when juxtaposed with today’s society, should seem out of place. Ironically, though it may not be splayed among Go-Go boots and glasses of Scotch, it is still a prominent issue in the modern work environment. On June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act made it illegal for employers to pay women “lower wages” strictly on the basis of their sex. According to a news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year, “Women who usually worked full time had median weekly earnings of $707, 82.2 percent of the $860 median for men.”
Although this may seem like a far cry from Mr. Draper chasing a “skirt” around his desk, we have not yet reached gender equality. In a year under our first African American president where professional sports players and military members are free to be openly gay, diversity should be second nature.
So, what is it that separates educated women with work ethic from secretaries with sex appeal? Is it ethical boundaries? Was there ever really a paradigm shift?
Although Mad behavior is not far behind us, studies indicate that an equal future is years ahead of us. The Huffington Post said that, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “If things continue to go the way they are going, it will take another 45 years for women to catch up to men.”
Unless the plan is to receive raises in the same year we start withdrawing from our 401k’s, something has to be done. But, how do you fix something that has been radically fought for over fifty years? Kim Keating, founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, suggests that one solution to closing the gap is simply asking for a raise.
Keating said that she is guilty of not billing for her own time, although she would expect another female to charge her. She references “a study of male and female veterinarians,” who had their own practices, and could bill their own time in which women charged less than their male counterparts.
Why? Researchers suggest that women’s pricing strategy is based on our relationship with a client, motive to maintain that relationship and how amiable we find a client. Being more assertive about fair compensation means raising women’s wages and lowering the gap. Keating suggests six steps to do just that.
Find out when salary decisions are made and plan to talk to your manager about three months before salary reviews. After you have set a mental date, be honest, and list out your accomplishments over the past 12 months.
Gather market data for comparable positions: similar size and location that require your experience, performance and education. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor, talk about your contributions and anticipate potential objections. Focus on understanding your compensation in relation to the market date you have collected.
Obviously, these are not immediate solutions. It does not account for all causes of the gap or eliminate sexist/misogynistic behavior. But it is a start.
If all else fails, award-winning actress/comedian, Tina Fey has a few “unsolicited words of advice to women in the workplace.”
“When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: Is this person in between me and what I want to do? If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”