Because We're All Worth It (with apologies to L'Oreal)

Posted by: Laurie Dowling on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Welcome to the National Utilities Diversity Council’s first blog post.  Our goal with this blog is to share with you research, articles, and posts we’ve read recently, along with our thoughts on the topic.  Because our mission covers supplier diversity, workforce diversity, language access/ customer service, governance diversity and philanthropic diversity, we’re trying to focus each blog post on a specific topic.  For today we’re looking at an aspect of workforce diversity.  Future posts will focus on other areas of diversity, we promise. 

April 12 was Equal Pay Day.  Except for some disappointing media commentary about Jennifer Lawrence’s undergarments (more on Ms. Lawrence later), there was a lot of trending communication about equal pay for equal work.  That’s HR speak for paying similarly qualified and experienced workers the same, regardless of gender and race. 

MTV has illustrated the pay gap with an alarm that a woman can set to go off when a worker is no longer paid for her work. For a Caucasian woman, that means at 75% of the workday she has been paid all she will get.  The rest of her day is a donation to her company.  For an African American woman, she begins donating after 60% of her day.

If We Don’t Ask We Don’t Get.  But Why Don’t We Ask?

Dr. Lisa Barron, of the Merage School of Business at the University of California at Irvine, points to 5 key components of salary negotiation, 3 of which involve subjectivity on the part of the employee:

  • Assessing your value/worth
  • Comfort with the value/worth concept
  • Feeling entitled to this level of compensation

There are numerous studies and anecdotal reports showing that women tend to negotiate well for their companies (and direct reports) but negotiate poorly for themselves.  If Dr. Barron’s insights and the salary studies about women hold true, it seems that women have a challenge in the ability to ask for what they feel is appropriate and to set their value to the company at a rate comparable with male colleagues.  Here’s something to think about.

According to a new study published by the data science team at Hired, a jobs marketplace for tech workers, the average female candidate sets her expected salary at $14,000 less than men.

Related or not, 69 percent of the time, men receive higher salary offers than women for the same job title at the same company. (On average, employers pay women 3 percent less for the same roles, though some companies offer as much as 30 percent less.)

According to Hired, once employees know the salary expectations for a certain job, whether male or female, they tend to ask for the same amount, and they get it. “When people know their worth and set it appropriately,” says Kirkpatrick, “they get what they are asking for.”

Jennifer Lawrence (As Promised)

You may remember the hack of confidential material from Sony Pictures’ email server.  What you may not remember is that detailed information about casting and salary negotiations was included in the information made public.  In her newsletter, Lenny, Lena Dunham asked Jennifer Lawrence to share her thoughts about what she learned – about herself and her professional environment – which she does with candor. (Note, we have removed certain anatomical references but the full text can be found at the link below.)

When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid… I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early…

But if I'm honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem "difficult" or "spoiled." At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being "difficult" or "spoiled." This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I'm sure it's both. But this is an element of my personality that I've been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don't think I'm the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? We've only been able to vote for what, 90 years? I'm seriously asking — my phone is on the counter and I'm on the couch, so a calculator is obviously out of the question. Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn't "offend" or "scare" men?

All of this is not to place the burden solely on women for the fact that we are not paid equally.  It is unfair to compensate people with equal ability and experience in an inequitable way. Period.  All of us should behave equitably toward our employees and new hires.  And there is enough data about the value of women employees, managers and executives that employers should value women as highly as their male counterparts.  But salary negotiation is usually a two-way street and very few employers are going to offer you more than you ask for on the assumption that you’re under-valuing yourself.  Perhaps women have the knowledge and the power now to do something about whether we accept the situation. 

Okay, Then What Do We Do?

Well, a little light on the situation can always help us see it better and knowledge, as they say, is power.   Organizing also is power.  Gather together with your women colleagues at your career level and have a frank conversation about what everyone makes.  And I can promise you; some of you know what your male counterparts make.  This will help you gauge value for the work being done.  Not subjective value, “I work harder than he or she does,” but objective value for a person at the same lateral level.  Have similar conversations with women (and men) who are trusted contacts at companies of similar size and scope.  Now you have important data. These conversations, at least in California, are now legal; in fact it is unlawful to try to ban them.  Sites like Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and also can provide industry and company salary information for comparison purposes.

Equal = Fair

At the heart of this post, we’re sharing some recent reportage on pay equity, not focusing on best practices for negotiating your salary.  That may be for a future post, webinar or other interaction. 

But for now, in honor of Equal Pay Day and, yes, Jennifer Lawrence, we are calling out some useful insights.  After all, she may be a four-time Oscar nominee and multi-millionaire, but she’s also just 25 years old and yet has the nerve to point out something that is very important for us all to keep in mind.  And it’s important to keep in mind that in June it will be 96 years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.  Isn’t it time that we close the pay gap?


Other Articles We Like

STEM Education


Executive Readiness/Job Search


Workforce Preparation


NUDC Board Recognition –

Congratulations to NUDC Director Janice Bryant Howroyd - .Vxq11ONKdMk.mailto


Congratulations to NUDC Director Joan Kerr

and NUDC friends Fernando Hernandez, Ajamu Johnson, Jewel Smith and Oliver Turman

Thanks for joining us in thinking about diversity.

  • Got topics you’d like us to address? Email Laurie Dowling at
  • Got questions about NUDC? Contact us at 323-982-7223.

This is the first of a blog series.  There will be a summary of each blog available to the public, but the full content of all NUDC blogs will be available to our member/donors.   For more information on becoming a member/donor, please click here.


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