In June 1963, JFK passed a bill into law prohibiting discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages. Why? Because at the time, women and men working the same jobs weren’t being paid the same wages. For every dollar earned by a man, a woman would make 59 cents, even if the two were working in the same position, with the same hours and education. Known as the gender wage gap or just as the wage gap, the idea was to make sure women weren’t paid less because of their gender. Although the wage gap is closing slower than it should, the Equal Pay Act, as the law is known, has been effective in curbing wage discrimination based on gender.
The Current Gender Wage Gap
In 2019 the wage gap stood at 81%, meaning that for every dollar earned by men, women were making .81 cents for the same jobs. But of course, it’s not that simple. Because that 81% statistic is for Caucasian women. Women of colour make 82.8% of what Caucasian women make, earning a median wage of $691/week compared to the $835 made by their white counterparts. And Asian women make more than both. No matter her race however, what should a woman do when she suspects she is making less than what her male coworkers are making? According to Gillespie Shields Law, the first step is to research the current rates of pay for the professional and region.
Doing the Research
When a female worker suspects a gender pay gap exists, Time also suggests using online resources to help confirm her suspicions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the best resource for this information, as it provides extensive information about rates of pay. For example, say a mental health counsellor in Wyoming is working full time at $18/hour. She suspects her male colleague is making more, although they have the same degree and work the same hours. Her first step should be to search the BLS website to see what mental health workers are making in Wyoming on average. In this case, the median hourly wage is $25.65/hour for her field. Her wage seems low for the area, so her next step should be to talk to her boss or human resources department.
Talking about wages is tricky, especially for women, as society has long stigmatized women who attempt to advocate for equal treatment. Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, suggests approaching the conversation from a fact-based, unemotional state, with the goal of collaboration. This means going into the conversation armed with facts:
- Wage information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
. Documentation of excellent work achievements
. Sales records
. Awards from professional organizations
Knowledge about the company’s policies on the advancement
These types of information are ideal to bring to a discussion about wages, as they give female workers negotiation power. Ideally, negotiations end in the employee’s mind being set at ease, with either a pay raise or clear information about why her pay rate seems low and how she can advance both her career and her salary. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the result. When wage discussions further convince a female employee that a gender pay gap exists, her next best options are to either get the advice of an employment lawyer or consider looking for another job.
Image Credits: Clay Banks