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Working Women Must Keep Asking For Equal Pay

Mona Khalifeh |
February 20, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. PST



Call it naïvety or just plain optimism, but I’d like to think that as I prepare to graduate and enter the big, bad workforce, I could receive the same pay as a man who is equally qualified and applying for the same position. It’s 2015 and women make up more than half of the world’s population.

In the words of the self-proclaimed “feminista” Beyoncé, “Who run the world? Girls!” But, as I inch closer to the finish line, I find that equal pay is not as much of a reality as I hoped it would be. On average, women earn 77 cents per every dollar that a man earns. That means that we not only bring home less for the same work, but we have less saved when it comes time to retire, according to a 2015 White House Report. It seems that we are doing less world-running and more running away. Though laws are in place to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 still leaves the equality of that work at the discretion of our employers. So how do we combat this? What can we as women do to make sure we are not gipped out of the paychecks we deserve?  

We do what so many of us are scared to do: ask for it.

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A study conducted by the Center for American Progress showed that men hold more than 80 percent of executive leadership positions. This forces the few women around to turn to male supervisors that have historically promoted and hired men, to ask for promotions and pay increases. The sad truth is the majority of women don’t. While the millennial generation is seeing less of a gap, with millennial women 42 percent likely to ask for a raise, pay is not equal. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, millennial women are inching closer, earning 93 cents to the dollar that our male counterparts make, but many millennials work in settings such as tech companies and start-ups, where there may not be a history of pay disparity based on gender.

But the truth is, much of corporate America is run by an older, white male-dominated generation that is less likely to budge on millennial ideals. While we may be more likely to ask for it, there are many of us that won’t, in fear of not having a job at all. So many of my female friends settle for a pay rate that they do not deserve because some money is better than no money. We are a highly educated generation of women that are far more confident and independent than ever, but if we don’t step outside of the gender-created comfort zone we’ve grown up in, we’ll never get a pay rate that is truly equal.

The best thing we can do as women is research. Before applying to any job, find out what the going rate is for that position and that area. Listen in on conversations if you have to, call competing companies and see just how much a man in that position is making. In most instances, it is against company policy to talk pay rates among colleagues. This is another discouraging factor that keeps women from asking or even negotiating a pay raise, but if you observe office politics, listen to the word around the office, and most effectively, do your own research, you are bound to face any job interview or promotion meeting with a sense of confidence. If you come into an interview with this knowledge, you’ll feel less pressure to accept a low-ball offer and more likely to remain firm when it comes time to negotiate. The fear that your plea for a higher or equal pay will be denied remains however, if we never ask, we as women will never advance.

Many men’s groups will argue that women work less, are granted maternity leave and are treated with leniency if they have children.  Whether those assumptions are true or not, many companies offer or at least are required by law to include paternity leave for their male employees.  Tech companies are at the forefront of paternity leave, offering almost double the leave provided by other private sector companies. Whether leave is offered or not, many of said companies would likely understand if a dad asked to leave early to pick his child up from school, as many working mothers do, without fearing he was losing out on the must-needed paycheck to pay the bills.

READ MORE: Claims Of Reverse Sexism Reinforce Gender Stereotypes

Closing the pay gap between the sexes would alleviate the dark cloud hanging over the term "bread winner," and allow either sex to take leave when a child comes. In addition, with a lessened pay gap, it wouldn’t necessarily be the mother that has to leave work and stay home with the kids: each family could have a choice that has more to do with their individual household and less to do with their pay rate. By remaining in these hard and fast gender roles, we can’t break down barriers that create inequality not only in the workforce, but also in every area of life where women are considered the lesser sex.

While it’s the right thing to do, it’s not easy. Societal constructs label women as “pushy, demanding, and bitchy” for wanting the same things as their male counterparts, but there comes a point when the labels shed their meaning and the disparities become too hard to accept. That is when we stand up as women and fight to inch toward an equal dollar for dollar pay rate between the sexes, not because we feel like we have to, but because it is the fair, moral and right thing to do.

Contact Contributor Mona Khalifeh here.



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