It’s Equal Pay Day, yet according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research most women working today will not reach pay equity in their lifetime. In fact, if the rate of increase continues as it has since 1960 we should reach pay equity in about 45 to 50 years. I’ll be in my nineties! I don’t really have that kind of time.
It would be easy to slip into a state of complete paralysis over these numbers. What can we possibly do as individuals to move the needle and close the gap? The answer is: plenty. There are many ways we can take personal action in our own careers and businesses to increase our opportunities, visibility and earning power. And if we can change our own circumstances individually, we can make a greater impact.
This isn’t to suggest that policy and access aren’t important or that bias doesn’t exist, but it’s not the whole story. If we create our own action plan for equity and empower ourselves to be an agent of our own success, we can have greater control over our circumstances and can possibly get equity before we’re in a rocking chair.
Let’s face it: working harder than everyone else and waiting to be noticed isn’t going to advance your career. If you want a pay increase, more opportunity and consideration for advancement you have to step forward. For example, if you own your own business and want a client or referral you have to ask for the business. It’s great to champion and advocate for others but you must also be your own best advocate. Make it known that you want to be considered for an opportunity. Or create your own opportunities.
I had a client from an asset management company who saw a need for a business development position that had never existed in the organization. Together we built a case for how this position would serve the organization, why it was critical at this particular juncture in the market, and why my client was the ideal candidate. She got the position, a substantial increase and greater opportunity for future growth.
In addition to throwing your hat in the ring for opportunities that arise and creating brand new opportunities, make sure your current salary is commensurate with your contributions to the organization. Before you accept a position, do your due diligence. Ask around, talk to recruiters and look at glassdoor.com and salary.com to ensure you are being appropriately compensated.
If your research determines that you’re currently being paid below current market value, create a plan to ask for an increase. I have never had a client lose a job by asking for a pay increase. Nor has a client ever lost a new job by negotiating a higher starting salary. Don’t allow fear about what people might think of you affect your earning potential.
Equal Pay Day shouldn’t exist as just an awareness campaign — it should be a catalyst to take action to earn our worth. When we accept less for ourselves we create a legacy of inequity for women on the rise. Today, take action for yourself so that individually, and together, we can create equity sooner rather than later.
Here are some things you can tackle this week to get the ball rolling:
- Research your salary and make sure you are being compensated appropriately.
- If your salary falls beneath market value, set up a time to discuss a raise. Don’t wait for a review. Present your case based on your findings.
- Challenge yourself to ask for a new opportunity that would advance your career or business. Be enthusiastic about your candidacy for an upcoming project or role. Say, “I would like to be considered for this upcoming opportunity. I’m uniquely qualified and I would love to fully utilize my experience to contribute to this project.”
- Take the time to gather your work product, statistics and relevant data for your next review so you’re prepared to make a case for a raise or advancement. Don’t rely on your supervisor to remember all that you’ve contributed. Tell your story. It’s not about bragging. It’s about educating your supervisor about your value.
This year, let’s not merely lament pay inequity, let’s actively campaign to close the gap. What will you do?
Ann marie Houghtailing is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and performer who has mastered creating a dollar out of thin air and has dedicated her career to teaching others to do the same. She is the author of “How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air” and is producing the documentary Architecting Our Own Glass Ceilings.
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