Higher-paying salaries for females: If you like it, you should be negotiating

The Paycheck Fairness Act may be stalled in the Senate, but women in the workplace need to act on their ability to stand up for their salaries.

The Paycheck Fairness Act may be stalled in the Senate, but women in the workplace need to act on their ability to stand up for their salaries.

kathryn lopez

Any ladies want $1 million? Getting it isn’t in fates’ hands to give you a lucky lotto win. It’s in yours – and all you have to do is negotiate.
Approximately 75 percent of women lose as much as $1 million over the course of their lifetimes, which they could earn by doing the exact same jobs.

Women who don’t negotiate their salaries, on average, lose between $500,000 and $1 million by the time they reach 60, according to an article on Bust.com. Additionally, men are four times as likely to negotiate their first salary.

Bust.com also cites a study in which “eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries.” Those men increased their salaries an average of 7.4 percent – approximately $4,000, suggesting that, “the gender gap between men and women might have been closed if more of the women had negotiated their starting salaries.”

So, what’s up, ladies? We’ve made tremendous strides in the past century, but if only a quarter of us are willing to stand up to the man – literally – how are we going to get anywhere?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to amplify the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in January 2009 when she was still a New York senator. The act would lend protection to women who attempt to negotiate their pay. The bill increases the law’s “coverage of sex discrimination in employment and increase[s] the penalties for violating the law,” associate political science professor Michael Hagen said.

While the bill was subsequently passed in the House of Representatives that month, it has been stalled in the Senate since.

The Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension held hearings and recommended it for consideration in March, but it has yet to be scheduled for debate, Hagen said. The bill is sponsored by 41 Democrats and zero Republicans, which means the bill would be difficult to pass, Hagen added.

“For that reason, and because the Senate has been consumed with some very high-profile issues … for several months, the Democratic leadership has been reluctant to push the Paycheck Fairness Act forward,” Hagen said.

While this may make it seem like the 75 percent of women losing out on their salaries are simply waiting for legal protection, Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said it also has to do with male and female personality traits and the propensity of men to negotiate for higher wages.

“Research suggests that women are less Machiavellian, more agreeable and more altruistic than men, with negative consequences for their earnings,” Folbre wrote in a post on the New York Times’ Economix blog. “These personality traits may impair women’s success in bargaining for higher pay.”

While Folbre asks, “Shouldn’t we try to reward nice behavior?” I think we all know no one was ever rewarded simply for being “nice.”

Until this bill is passed, and even then, women have to not just negotiate, but also fight for their salaries. If we want to defeat sexism in the workplace – and in American society – we have to learn to play on the same level. Our generation grew up listening to the Spice Girls; let’s not forget “girl power” now that we face adulthood.

“This has significant impact not only on women in the work force but also on American society as a whole,” Elizabeth Hanson, a senior political science major, said. “I would encourage everyone – not just women – to educate themselves on equal pay as they enter the workforce, and to support this legislation. Make it known that it’s long past time we made equal pay for equal work a reality.”

Hanson suggested calling your senators and getting involved in events such as Equal Pay Day, which was April 20 this year.

These are important steps to take, but we must also take a stand as individual women when discussing our salaries, especially as graduation approaches and we enter the workforce ourselves. As Clinton said herself, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard.”

“Get involved, and make it clear that this is a priority for young women and men,” Hanson said. “Because really, it is our future that is at stake.”

Kathryn A. López can be reached at kathryn.lopez@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. At a university graduation ceremony a few years ago, over 90% of the graduates of hard-science majors were men, and over 90% percent of the art-history majors were women. Guess which group will earn more in their lifetime?

    To put women’s pay equity in perspective, see:

    “The Next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020” (http://tinyurl.com/yab2blv). That’s how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone.

    Now see “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

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