March is coming to an end, and we are inching (slowly, but surely!) towards summer. Several of us are looking to graduate and join new jobs for full time positions. Some others are eyeing summer internships and co-ops, while many of us may be closing out yet another fiscal year at our current organizations. As you finalize your contracts and get excited for your new roles, remember to do your research into understanding how your pay compares to market standards.
And today is a GREAT day to do so!
Did you know that March 24th is Equal Pay Day?
According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn as much as men earned the previous year. Essentially, this translates into women working an EXTRA 3+ months this year to earn equal to what men made last year!
There are several reasons for the wide gender pay gap. Among many others (like these highlighted by the International Labor Organization), women typically have lower likelihood of access to resources (such as schooling, or ability to be part of unions), face occupational segregation and stereotyping which impact their career trajectories, are likely to have several interruptions to their careers (e.g., to have/raise a child) and are also more likely to face pay discrimination.
While there has been some progress on bettering pay parity, the United Nations reports that at the current rate, it is still going to take over 250 years for women to be paid equal to men. Disproportionate pay impacts women in nearly all fields of work. A study by UN Women found that, globally, women earn only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men for work of equal value. While this inequality may seem distant and improbable to affect engineering roles, data shows otherwise. CNN Money reported how female computer programmers are earning only 72 cents for every dollar that men in similar positions may be making.
While pay discrimination needs to be addressed through legislative and organization-wide reforms, here are three ways in which individuals (and thereby, teams) can take a step towards becoming Equal Pay Champions:
1. Introspect – then negotiate!
The first step one can take towards championing pay parity is to educate oneself. Learn about how the pay gap may impact your profession. A good way to begin is by looking up market reports for pay for positions like yours at comparable locations. Next, if you are not already doing so, schedule performance management conversations with your manager or skip-level meetings to identify potential skill gaps that you may have in your profile as well as understand possible opportunities for future growth. Finally, talk about compensation and benefits with Human Resources at your organization, as well as others in your professional network to understand the wide range of options for benefits that you could avail and negotiate.
Armed with market data and equipped with a deep understanding of your organization’s requirements, you will be better equipped to negotiate pay and promotions. A report by CNBC suggests that 60% of women say they’ve never negotiated their salary – and many quit their jobs instead. A contradicting study highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, however, indicates that there may not be as pronounced a gendered difference in negotiation and that women are just as likely as men are to ask for higher salaries, but may be less likely to get what they ask for. In such situations, it is critical to rely on a network – both inside your organization and outside, who can support your professional growth and help as you strategize negotiating better pay; find sponsorship for greater visibility and higher impact projects; and seek camaraderie, friendship, and solidarity as you bounce ideas, share resources, or even vent frustrations. Which is why the second step highlighted below shares how you yourself can be an ally for others, and thus build a network to support everyone fighting pay disparity.
2. Learn to be an ally and advocate.
The second step one can take towards championing pay parity is to understand that, like with many other things in life, the wage gap affects different individuals differently, and although you may currently not be facing the brunt of the disparity, others in your circle might. It is essential that we learn to be allies for others and advocate for Equal Pay as much as we can. Dr. Rosh Rupani, in a recent talk at SWE-NY, remarked that while it is important that we tackle inequality at an individual level, it is imperative that we also bridge the gap organizationally and systemically. Based on the 2019 U.S. census data, AAUW reported that women who identify as African American/Black earned only 62 cents compared to every dollar their white male colleagues take home. This gap exacerbates over time to staggering disproportionality. For instance, SWE found that if the wage gap were eliminated, a Black woman working full time would have enough for 22 more months of rent, 2.5 years of child care, and 156 more weeks of food! Similarly, sexuality, caste, nationality, motherhood, and other aspects of a woman’s identity have been shown to further impact the gender pay gap. The pandemic has further exacerbated the challenges faced by women from marginalized communities – resulting in greater rates of dropout and turnover. It is thus imperative that we all learn to be allies for those who are facing a heavier burden due to the already disproportional gender pay gap.
Research suggests that women often tend to better negotiate for others than their own selves – a trait that can be exploited to our benefit if we wage a fight against the pay gap, by helping one another in our circles/networks to negotiate pay raises and promotions. The gender pay gap has plagued us for decades, and while negotiating higher compensation and promotions are steps in the right direction, it is also important to think longer term, and navigate this disparity using unique solutions catered to our own growth and career advancement. Which brings us to step three below which elaborates on how we must not stop at pay parity but aim instead at equal opportunities.
3. Think beyond equal compensation to equal opportunities.
The third step one can take towards championing pay parity is to go beyond thinking about compensation and think longer term in terms of career trajectories and equal opportunities. Kelly Grier, US Chair and Managing Partner for EY, in a recent conversation with Moira Forbes as part of an Equal Pay Day and Equity at work event organized by Forbes on 23rd March 2021, emphasized on going beyond merely equal compensation. She urged women and allies to demand equal opportunities for all, beyond pay, for ensuring promotions, growth, learning and advancement. It is also important to understand pay (specifically, month end, take-home pay) as just one aspect of the entire compensation package. For instance, an article on salary.com highlights how individuals could focus on things such as transportation reimbursement, housing subsidies, more vacation time, childcare and other benefits, among others. Understanding what one’s own priorities and wants are can help you better customize a compensation package to suit your own career trajectories, interests, and opportunities for growth. For example, it is not unusual for organizations to offer tuition reimbursement and opportunities to support lifelong learning. Seeking out such opportunities can help you better position yourself in the competitive job landscape, while also meeting your own goals for career advancement and success.
The fight against pay disparity may seem like a long one, but we are more likely to win when working together and as parts of strong, supportive, global networks.
Together, we can, and we will slay the pay inequality beast!
This article highlights three out of numerous ways that one can show up to champion Equal Pay.
What are some of the ways you are going to #ChampionEqualPay today, and in the future?