Equal Pay Day

Posted by: Laurie Dowling on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Because We’re All STILL Worth It

Just Ask Octavia Spencer


Today, April 2 is Equal Pay Day.  Well, for the average of all American women it is.


Today is the first day that the average working woman is paid for her work.  In other words, up until today she’s been working for free for her employer.   That’s an average, however.  For a Caucasian woman, at 77% 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 61% of her day.  An Asian American woman begins donating after 85% of her day, a Native American woman after 58% of her day and a Latina after 53% of her day.  In other words, our Latina sisters are paid for just over half of their day’s work as compared to the level of pay of their white male counterparts.  http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/workplace/fair-pay/americas-women-and-the-wage-gap.pdf


Paycheck Fairness

But here is a happy bit of information, the US House of Representatives last week passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to help close the gap.  Some may say that legislation is not needed to address this problem and that there are non-legislative solutions that are more efficacious.  We’re not about advocating for legislation here at NUDC.  But we do see that pay equity has been moving at a glacial pace and that it’s time we all got a wiggle on and addressed this problem.




Why is This Important?

Well, fairness and equity, that would be our primary answer. But we also know from our favorite knowledge site, the U.S. Census (www.census.gov) that Americans are living longer.  By 2030 25% of all Americans will be over age 65, the first time in our history that older Americans will outnumber younger Americans.  A majority of those elders will be women. Just to keep us on our toes, in 2016 there 82,000 Americans who were over 100 years old.  In just over two generations, however, that number is expected to climb to over 600,000.  A significant majority of those American centenarians will be women. 

If women continue to be paid unequally, especially as we continue to live longer, the potential economic, health and social implications to the U.S. are likely to be enormous.

Asking Doesn’t Always Mean Getting

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 less well for themselves.


If Dr. Barron’s insights and the salary studies about women hold true, it seems that women have been willing to work for a lower wage rate than their male counterparts. 


A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review contradicts the widely held belief that women are reluctant to ask for raises.  Instead, it indicates that women ask for raises as often as men, but are less successful at getting them. A report from Harvard  indicates that if there does not seem to be flexibility on salary, women show a willingness to work for a lower wage.




Octavia Spencer Isn’t Afraid to Ask

A few days ago, Academy Award winning actor Octavia Spencer announced that when negotiating her fee for her role in the upcoming Madam CJ Walker project, she had to reach out to a male ally for help.  In this case, the help came from LeBron James, one of the project’s executive producers.  “When I was negotiating my deal for Madam C.J., LeBron James had to intervene,” Spencer told a panel at Sundance this week. “So we need all our male counterparts to be in the fight with us.”




What Can 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.  The Paycheck Fairness Act of 2019 would make it illegal to ban these conversations nationally.  Sites like Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and Salary.com also can provide industry and company salary information for comparison purposes.



Equal = Fair

It is unfair to compensate people with equal ability and experience in an inequitable way. Period.  And it’s important to keep in mind that in June it will be 99 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?  https://www.forbes.com/sites/roddwagner/2019/03/31/dont-discount-cluelessness-in-the-remaining-gender-pay-gap/#7023962e38a2


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Post Millennials Report – Pew Research Institute



Thanks for joining us in thinking about diversity.

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


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