April 14 is Equal Pay Day – the 104th day of 2015. It is chosen to symbolize the number of days in 2015 that a woman would have to work to earn what a man did in 2014. Numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that for every dollar a man earns working full time, a woman working full time earns 78 cents.
The disparity exists across virtually all occupations—women earn less than men of comparable education, experience, and seniority. From the moment a woman throws her graduation cap into the air to the moment she retires, she earns less than a similarly-situated man.
In 2013, the median annual earnings for women working full-time, year-round were $39,157. The comparable amount for men was $50,033. That $10,876 differential significantly affects the quality of life for women and their families. That amount is roughly equivalent to 92 weeks of groceries or 13 months of rent.
As dramatic as the annual difference is, the gap becomes a gaping chasm over a 40-year career. The life-time wage gap for a woman is approximately $500,000 on average and increases as a woman’s education increases. Women with graduate degrees typically lose a staggering $800,000 over their working lives.
Federal law prohibits pay distinctions between men and women but has loopholes big enough to march a battalion of advantaged men through. The government isn’t going to level the playing field for women. What can you do for yourself?
Learn how to negotiate for better pay.
Don’t let the word “negotiate” scare you. Think of it as a dialogue with your boss. It isn’t a confrontation—it’s a conversation. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by doing your homework. Find out what salaries employees with similar skills and responsibilities are receiving in your industry and geographic area.
- Ask for an appointment with your boss to discuss “expectations.” This isn’t a conversation to have on the fly.
- Practice what you’re going to say. Get your opening lines down pat. Memorize them. You’ll be most nervous at the beginning of the conversation and knowing your lines will reduce the stress.
- Start on a positive note. “I’ve enjoyed working with you.”
- Your pitch should center on what your employer’s priorities are and how you have helped achieve them. Have you brought in new clients? Enhanced the company’s reputation? Provided above and beyond customer service? If you’ve taken on additional responsibilities, mention them.
- Assume you will succeed to bolster your confidence. And remember the man in the next cubicle performing the same job with the same training and experience is probably earning 20% more than you are!