Happy Equal Pay Day…or rather (Un) Equal Pay Day as Linda Hallman on Huffington Post called it. And she’s right; nothing could be further from the truth.
Women earn 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. African American women earn only 72 cents and Latinas 60 cents for every dollar. According to Evelyn Murphy, president and founder of The WAGE Project, the gender wage gap costs a woman between $700,000 and $2 million over her lifetime. Now if you’re thinking that women certainly must get paid the same wage for the same positions as men, that’s just not so.
President Obama’s first bill that he signed in office in January ’09 was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, landmark legislation that addresses wage discrimination. Named after Lilly Ledbetter (a sweet, humble woman I met briefly at a conference last year), who was discriminated against by her employer, Goodyear Tire. For nearly 20 years, she worked in a managerial position, making substantially less money than her male colleagues in similar roles. When she discovered the wage discrepancy, Ms. Ledbetter fought for compensation for all those years, eventually going before the Supreme Court, which unfortunately, ruled against her case. She never saw a dime.
Thankfully, the law now protects women from wage discrimination. But this doesn’t automatically mean women’s and men’s wages will be equal. Studies have shown that women not only negotiate less than men for more pay but that they are penalized when and if they do. Harvard professor Hannah Riley Bowles and other researchers found that women perform better as negotiators when advocating for an increase in pay on another colleague’s behalf than they do when asking for themselves. Networking is vital to financial and career success; we should indeed support one another and foster relationships. But we also need to value and advocate for ourselves.
As financial guru Suze Orman says in her book Women and Money:
When you devalue what you do, it becomes inevitable that you – and those around you – devalue who you are…You need to take yourself off the For Sale rack. Once you learn to respect your right to be fully valued, you will find it easy and natural to ask the world around you to respect that value. You set your price and the world will meet it.
So c’mon, Ladies…be sure to value who you are and go get what you’re worth!