Women Do Their Part to Reduce the Wage Gap
I want to start by saying that I ask for what I want, and I think all women (all people!) should do this. I ask for promotions, I actively try to grab new responsibilities, and I ask to be included in things that seem like good opportunities. I’m proactive about career growth and I’m absolutely unafraid of asking for things. Well, sometimes I’m a little afraid, but I push through that fear.
But I don’t think it is true that women don’t ask, especially in fields that are male-dominated. Women KNOW they have to ask, so we do it. Yet somehow, applying the same techniques, we don’t get the same results as our male counterparts. It is important to note this is still true when you take out potentially skewing factors like kids. Single women still don’t make the same as men for equivalent work.
Is it outright discrimination? Absolutely not. Almost no one intentionally is paying women less or intentionally favoring men. Everyone tries to be fair. But the gap is real, and I think we do a disservice to ourselves to say that the reason it exists is just because it is our own fault for not asking. (Or rather, it is “their fault”, them being those other women who don’t know any better.)
It feels nice and smart to say we can avoid this problem by negotiating “like a man” to get what we deserve. This feels good, for ourselves at least – never mind those weaker women who simply won’t ask! But it isn’t the whole truth. We still are coming up against cultural biases. Women are treated and perceived differently at work. That is a fact.
So then, what CAN we do about it? It is sad, but there isn’t much that can be done quickly. As women rise through the ranks and become more represented in high level roles, the stereotypes and biases will diminish (somewhat). But this will take a long time. Everyone already works hard to be fair, yet we can’t seem to actually achieve fairness. What is the solution? It beats me, but here are my recommendations, which is basically the same as Meg and FB.
- By all means, ask! Use all the techniques men use!
- When appropriate, talk about this issue in non-personal ways. This is what I’m doing now. Share the facts with others, let people know it is real, and encourage people to think about how it affects them.
- Never play the gender card at work. Do not tell people you feel you are treated differently because you are a woman. Even if it is true, nothing good will come of it. Unless perhaps you can prove it (unlikely) and you are up for a lawsuit (no thanks!)
- If you are in a leadership role (man or woman) be aware of the social biases and actively think about how it affects your perceptions of your people.
- Let your accomplishments be known. This is career advice 101, but really, you have to do this. It is your only chance. Plus, if you tell your boss what you did, it really makes her job easier. She probably has to just ify your promotion to someone else, and reminding her specifically why you deserve it will help with that.
The point isn’t that we shouldn’t do these things, but that we should remember that just because we do these things that doesn’t mean the problem is solved. It isn’t solved for us individually, and it is not solved in general.
Do you ask for what you want at work? Do you think most women do?