Wednesday, November 9, 2011

There Is No Gender Gap

That's right, I said it.

I have read countless books marketed towards the professional woman, warning her to watch out for sexism and salary inequalities. I have read tons of the research concerning this argument. I took gender theory classes in college. Two months into my very first job, I discovered that a male peer hired on the same day and likewise lacked experience was being paid 10% more. 

And even after all of that, I still assert that there is no real gender gap. 

Yes, women may be paid $.75 for every man's dollar (a discrepancy that, as a former senior colleague informed me (however jokingly), is because maternity leave requires an absence for a fourth of the year, therefore justifying that we surrender a fourth of our pay.)

As much fun as that theory is, I think the reality is: women ask for this difference in salary. 
Or rather, don't ask for it to be eradicated.

Now, before we get up in arms with one another, let's consider some key points:

Get Hungry For It
In articles and books that discuss the 75% pay debacle, many go on to later admit that most women don't appreciate the value of money, meaning that when they're asked what drives them, fewer women than men answered "wealth." (As a rule, I actually reject most stereotypes. I particularly do not identify with this one, being a woman who expects to be compensated for the value she offers. That aside, this may very well be true for most women.) So, let me ask you: are you hungry?

Ask and You Shall Receive
When women don't put the same value on money, they don't fight for it - but men do. I frequently read research stating things like "women say they feared to negotiate when offered their first position... even women who are firmly entrenched and recognized for their achievements continue to take new positions without negotiating."(1) Ladies, listen up: accepting a job offer is like buying a car. The sticker price is never the "real" price at which the dealership is willing to sell the car; the salary a company offers is never what they're willing to pay you.

Fake It Until You Make It / Act The Part
I am an advocate for being conscientious about your appearance. You may not want to judge a book by its cover, but everyone does. That's why first impressions have so much weight. When you're going to work, what you wear sends signals to those around you on how they should perceive you - and, incidentally, how they should treat you.

I am endlessly surprised by the number of women (of all ages) who stride into work wearing short skirts, sky-high heels, fluorescent nails, blue eye shadow... the list goes on. If we do not take ourselves seriously, nobody else will. If you expect to be paid six digits, present yourself as someone worthy of that salary. If you'd wear it to a club or on the couch when you're hung-over, don't wear it to the office. (And this isn't sexist: if men rolled into the office on a Monday morning with their top three buttons undone, bright red shoes, or jean shorts, they'd probably be making 25% less too!)

In Short: Wake Up!
If the gender gap is alive and well, it is because we as a whole have fed it. Women apparently tend to be more complacent than men. Some of us also don't take ourselves as seriously as our male counterparts do. Just like many of you, I have been subjected to lower wages and being addressed as "sweetheart" in the workplace - but I refuse to accept this as the standard of my career progression. I know I'm worth more. 

I'm not saying you won't have to work twice as hard as your male colleague at least once in your career - we all probably will. But if you see yourself as making 100% of his salary, and present yourself that way, I do not believe that there's a reason it won't be a reality.

(1) - "Be Your Own Mentor" -Wellington

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