Geraldine Carver is an advocate for women’s rights and has long been an advocate of gender equality in the workplace. She is a guest contributor to this blog.
Being a woman today can be a challenge. While more and more women take to the streets to fight for their rights and as Good Morning America outlines how the number of women running for public office reaches historic levels, we still have a long way to go before gender equality. Aside from discrimination and violence against women, another issue that many women continue to deal with is a pay gap compared to their male counterparts.
According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), although the percentages differ from state to state, the problem continues to persist, particularly in the more lucrative industries. For instance, while women earn more than men in the retail industry, men earn about $40,000 more than women in finance, even though women comprise about 45 to 55% of the sector.
However, steps have already been taken to resolve this rather alarming issue. Legislative action has, in fact, been at work for decades. For example, the Equal Pay Act of 1964 signed by President John F. Kennedy mandated equal pay for equal work among men and women.
But the roots of the problem are not just legal, but societal. One aspect of this is the American corporate culture. In most companies, talk about pay is considered taboo. In fact, some companies even expressly tell its employees not to share pay information with fellow employees as this makes them less aware of the inequalities concerning pay within the organization. This veil of ignorance further serves to obscure societal and systemic power relations, one of which is gender.
More importantly, many women don’t feel empowered enough to demand more, and men in power don’t feel obligated to do anything. Aside from the economic inequalities, the whole issue of social expectations and biases have shaped how women and men behave in the workplace.
Fortunately, steps to address the issue from a more empowering standpoint are now being taken. For instance, movements such as #MeToo have allowed women to demand more respect and inclusion. Organizations such as AAUW are also launching workshops and courses that help women and employers negotiate and improve practices.
Moreover, rapid changes across different industries are opening opportunities for women to break away from the gender mold. Take the field of marketing, for instance. According to Narrow The Gap, women market research analysts and marketing specialists earn only 78 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn while doing the same job. This amounts to about $15,392 less per year. But as the field changes, power and negotiating dynamics also change. Women can now take advantage of new developments where the playing field is more open and progressive such as digital marketing. In their article aimed at graduates entering the workforce, Ayima provides tips for anyone considering a career in digital marketing. In this kind of field where innovation leads to advantage, women can leverage their skills and expertise better than in a a more traditional field.
The first step to resolving the issue, after all, is for women to stand up for themselves and claim their rights. As Caroline has previously posted, there is no mind reading in the career world. Working hard is not enough; women should stand out from the crowd, own their power, and design their career destiny. We have the best chances of eliminating the pay gap if we approach the problem both from a collective and a personal standpoint. The best time to do that is now.