I used to think that people who pored over numbers and stats were geeks, and largely irrelevant to my life, my career, my small corner of the universe. And then I came upon a statistic the other day that made me want to write a letter of apology to all the statisticians of the world: Women still make less than men for comparable work. Less is a nice way to put it. From the ages of 18-44 years, we make about 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. What’s worse, once we reach the age of 45, the wage gap widens to just over 70 cents on the dollar. Then we’re basically stuck with that magic number – an average disparity of about $20,000 per year – until we retire. What’s the point of complaining about equal work for unequal pay if we’re not willing to do something about it? I know that I didn’t start asking for what I wanted until I had a full reservoir of confidence, was already a mom, had worked for years at several different jobs, and was, frankly and finally, fed up with getting coach-class treatment in the compensation department. Funny thing is that when I did start asking (with only a modicum of edge and attitude), I found that most employers were willing to step up to the collection plate. Maybe they were just too shocked to say “no.”
The point is that I had to ask for it.
And there’s the rub. As women, we don’t like to ask or demand. You know it. I know it. Let’s just say it out loud: We assume that our achievements and our efforts speak for themselves. Who are we kidding? That’s not how it works. Not yet, anyway. In fact, our distaste for asking is such a gender-embedded phenomenon that two female professors wrote an entire book on the subject titled Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Check out their website womendontask.com – it has some interesting facts, articles and interviews.
My point is that we, as women, have some catching up to do when it comes to equal pay. Sure we should deserve it, but we also have to demand it. Even in an economic recession, we should ensure that we’re being treated fairly, whether by our clients or our employers.
I can hardly believe that I used to sneer at statistics. Now I’m all over them like static on a silk dress. Mostly because I refuse to become one.