There many different voices out there speaking for women as to how to fix this gender pay gap we have. First, let’s take a quick look at the issue. In 2013, women with permanent, full-time jobs were paid 78 percent of what men were paid for the same work (AAUW.org). The gap only worsens from there as women age, and if they are minorities. Surprisingly, the gap is present even in female-dominated industries, such as elementary education. To make matters more interesting, women have successfully closed the education gap and currently hold more bachelor’s degrees and more advanced degrees than men.  Yet, the pay gap persists.

Now that we know the scope of the problem, let’s talk about how to solve it. Actually, first let's talk about how not to solve it.  I read an online article recently that gave such horrible advice that I almost swiveled right out of my chair. The article advised that women are more likely to be listened to in a salary negotiation if they “negotiate like a woman” and ask in a “ gentler, more social and friendlier manner”. Yes ladies, that’s what it said. The article even said that it was “unfortunate” that women aren’t allowed to negotiate confidently like men and “maybe someday” it would happen. Or, in other words: We acknowledge the problem, but just keep doing what you're doing and hope that it’ll change someday. Good luck! There are so many things wrong with this advice, but primarily it’s this: That philosophy is perpetuating the exact problem we are trying to fix. It offers women absolutely no real strategy or support for overcoming this challenge. It’s also condescending.

Now that you’ve heard the bad advice, let’s talk about some real advice. Advice that I would be proud to tell my young daughter one day.

    1. Know that you are valuable. Women make up half of the workforce and hold more than half of all college degrees, including graduate degrees. That makes us powerful. The workforce needs women. Women are becoming a commanding force in the corporate world. There is no doubt that a “glass ceiling” still remains when it comes to executive-level positions, but much progress has been made and the workforce cannot survive without you. Having that knowledge is the first step to negotiating with confidence.
    2. Do your research. Make sure that what you are requesting is within the market average for your industry, location, education level and years of experience. There are plenty of reputable sources out there for this, including the Dept. of Labor, the Society for Human Resources Management and more.
    3. Practice ahead of time and anticipate objections. Practice what you are going to say ahead of time. Hopefully, you’ve kept a record of your accomplishments and speak about them with specifics. While you are practicing in the mirror, go ahead and play the role of your boss and throw in some objections. If you anticipate them ahead of time, you can have some solutions ready.

The last one is most important…

  1. Stop apologizing! If you have doubts about what you are asking for, then why should your boss give it to you? It goes back to the old saying that if you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will. What you are asking is to be paid what you are worth. A reasonable boss will respect that. Should you be ruthless and arrogant and threaten to quit if you don’t get your raise? Of course not. Men shouldn’t act like that either. But you should be firm, confident and well-informed.

If these tips don’t work, you can always go back to being gentle and hoping that things will change someday. Let me know how that goes….
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