Let’s be honest: Many employers still pay employees the minimum they can get away with. A major issue impacting women in Philly is the fact that most businesses have a negotiation-driven culture that inherently favors men. Boys are taught to fight for what they want; girls are taught to compromise and put the needs of others before themselves. When employers use negotiation culture as a basis for pay, women — especially women of color — are denied hundreds of thousands of dollars across our lifetimes.
Equal Pay Day started in 1996 to highlight pay gaps, yet nearly a quarter century later, women are still closing them. A recent PayScale study found that at the start of their careers, white women earn $0.81 for every dollar earned by a man. Black, American Indian, and Hispanic women in the same stage make $0.77 for every dollar earned by a man.
Knowing that we won’t see the end of imbalanced pay negotiation anytime soon, here are ways we can advocate for ourselves.
Know your worth: Before your first interview or performance review, research the data on the average local salary for your job.
⋅ The Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) lists wages for over 800 occupations. Large cities like Philly have data specific to that metro.
· Any company that employs H-1B visa recipients must report their salary, which is publicly available on www.h1bdata.info. If your company or job isn’t listed, try searching for a competitor.
· Can’t find data specific to Philly? Use a salary calculator that will convert national data or the numbers for a larger city like New York. Nerdwallet.com’s cost of living calculator is a good start.
· Find someone in your network, like a mentor who’s been in your field longer than you have, who is willing to talk about salary benchmarks.
Advocate for yourself: That money number you came up with thanks to research is an average—but you’re better than average, right? List your accomplishments and any measurable data that backs you up. Did you increase beverage sales by X percent? Did you decrease employee turnover by Y percent saving the company $Z? It can be daunting to come up with these figures when it’s time to rewrite your résumé; try keeping a running list of milestones throughout the year, even a bulleted list in your email drafts.
Practice: Have a mock interview with a friend or former co-worker you trust to give concrete feedback. Just like anything in life, negotiating gets easier the more you do it.
Speak your Number: Now that you know your worth and it’s time to discuss compensation, get your number ready. The best advice I’ve heard is to think of the highest number you can say out loud without laughing. Some people choose to give a salary range instead; if you do this, make sure your lower number is what you actually want to get paid.
Know your options: Sometimes an employer isn’t able or willing to give you your number. Ask yourself: A year from now, will you resent that you accepted a number that’s lower than what you’re worth? Also consider other benefits that could make up for the lower salary. More vacation? An education stipend? Work from home options? A relocation package? As for a signing bonus, keep in mind the IRS may count it as “supplemental income” that’s subject to taxes — over 20 percent. You can also ask for a review in six months to reassess your value and salary, but get this in writing via email and put the review date on calendars to hold the company accountable.
Trust your gut: If the company isn’t budging on their less-than-stellar salary and benefits, ask yourself: Is this really the company you want to work for?
Once you know your value, go tell it to others — and get paid.