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Monday, February 13, 2006 VOLUME 3 ISSUE 96  
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Gender Pay Inequity: Myth or Reality?
by Susan Van Dorsten

Forty-one years after the passage of the Equal Rights Act in 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a documented yet inexplicable pay disparity continues to exist between male and female workers. From the eleven titles in Table 1 from the National Association for Female Executives 2004 Salary Survey, the pay gap costs women $30,000 a year on average.  This can cost up to $500,000 over a career (Business and Professional Women, 2005) relative to men in similar positions. Further, this disparity transcends industry, age and ethnicity. The purpose of the article is to raise awareness of this issue, review the published explanations, and offer recommendations to professionals to confront this issue in their respective industries.

 

A History of Gender Inequity in Income

 

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Labor documented a 24 percent pay deficit when comparing female to male weekly earnings in similar positions. The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE, 2004) reported disparity statistics in favor of men in selected positions across twenty-one industries, (Table 1), including Advertising, Retail, Law, Technology, Media, Education, and Library Science. When considering gender and ethnicity, The U. S. Census Bureau, data cited in San Francisco Gate (2005), reported wage disparities to be even greater for women of color with African-American females earning slightly more than 65 percent and Latina women earning 55 percent of salaries paid to males in identical jobs.

 


Table 1: NAFE 2004 Salary Survey Selected Titles

Position/Industry

Female

Male

Accountants

$85,375

$119,314

Accountants (1-5 years experience)

$72,534

$94,314

Advertising Account Executive

$49,000

$56,000

Allergists or Immunologists

$190,983

$254,289

CEO, Health Care

$152,673

$195,783

Lawyer

$73,476

$84,188

Government/Lobbying, Nonprofit

$73,907

$96,655

Managing Editor

$55,983

$62,574

Neurological Surgeons

$337,031

$487,000

Reference Librarian, 0-5 years experience

$38,399

$39,958

Retail Store Sales

$19,864

$31,148

Teachers

$42,848

$46,956

Web infrastructure

$69,850

$87,750

Average Full Time Employee

$97,071

$127,379


Note
.  Salaries vary by industry and include medians, total compensation, average base, average total including salary and bonus.

 

Why Has the Pay Disparity Survived in the New Millenium?

 

Considering the wide availability of data documenting this inequity, one is left to wonder why the pay disparity between women and men who perform the same job persists. Common perceptions include that women “undervalue” themselves, are unwilling to work additional hours, or don’t ask for what they want.

 

The first perception – that women undervalue themselves – was addressed in an article entitled “Women Undervalue Themselves in Setting Pay Rates”, Stanford Graduate School of Business (1998). The study by John Jost, Assistant Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business, investigated the topic of why women value themselves less than men.  The results showed that women valued themselves 18 percent less than men for the same work. The research measured a “depressed-entitlement effect” among women and Jost concludes, “women think they are worth less.” (Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1998, 2). He proposed a number of possible explanations for this phenomenon including that women may believe that their contributions are not as significant as those of male counterparts, some women may not desire material compensation as much as men, women tend to compare their earnings only to other women, or women may use their past lower salaries as a standard for future income levels.

 

A second perception is that women do not want to put the extra hours in, whether evenings or weekends, in lieu of caretaking for children and family. It is an assumption that the majority of women take on the larger portion of raising children and managing households. A survey conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office (2003) addressed the effect of children on compensation for women. “Men with children earned 2.1 percent more, on average, than men without, while women with children were found to earn 2.5 percent less than women without…” (2005, SFGate.com). Societal view of men’s responsibility is to be the breadwinner with less childcare responsibility. However, single women make more than women with children possibly due to a perception that they will be more available for their job. 

 

A third primary and troubling perception is women negotiate less than men. A Harvard Business review article (2003) cites a study of recent MBA graduates from a Carnegie Mellon program. The male MBA graduates starting salaries were 7.6 percent higher than their female counterparts. Seven percent of the women negotiated their salaries versus 57 percent of their male counterparts.

 

Actions to make sure you are getting paid what you are worth

 

1.    Thoroughly research what your position pays throughout your industry.

2.    Make yourself aware of differing pay scales within your company. 

3.    Find a mentor, coach or support system to assist you in devising a strategic plan for your pursuit for a raise.

4.    Carefully create a portfolio emphasizing and quantifying your accomplishments and contributions.

5.    Review your annual accomplishments to build your confidence before discussing your review.

6.    Polish your negotiating skills. 

The pay gap still exists between women and men and the issue will not be solved by outside forces. It is time for women to drive their destiny and champion themselves to close the gap.

 

Susan is the President of Shatter the Glass Ceiling and Global Career Coaching, a certified trainer, executive coach, graduate of Corporate Coach U, an accredited coaching program through the International Coaching Federation, member of the International Coaching Federation, member of the Denver Coaching Federation, member of the National Association for Female Executives and a board member for the Women’s Business Executives.  For more information contact Susan Van Dorsten at:  303.693.7953 susan@globalcareercoaching.com or susan@shattertheglassceiling.com www.GlobalCareerCoaching.com or www.shattertheglassceiling.com

 
References:
Babcock, L., S. Laschever, M. Gelfand, D. Small.  (2003, October 1).  Nice Girls Don’t Ask.  Harvard Business Review, Vol. 81, Issue 10, 14-16.

Chang, Patti.  (2005).  An agenda for women, girls and families.  SSFGATE.com.  Retrieved May 24, 2005 from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/05/02/EDGM7C90J

Equal Pay Day, Business and Professional Women. (n.d.).  Retrieved May 24, 2005 from http://www.bpwusa.org/i4a/pages/Index.cfm?pageid=3586

NAFE Magazine and the National Association for Female Executives, (2004, Fourth Quarter).  2004 Salary Survey.  NAFE Magazine, XXVII, Number 4, 20-21.

Strasburg, Jenny (2005).  Equity Losing Ground More than 40 years after the Civil Rights Act, why do women’s wages still trail men’s?.  SFGATE.com.  Retreived May 24, 2005 from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/01/09/CMGLHAB

Stanford Graduate School of Business.  (1998).  Retrieved May 24, 2005, from http://222.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/hr_women.shtml


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