According to the most readily available statistics, in 2020, women make $.81 for every dollar a man makes. The gender pay gap is alive and well, and females still have a long road ahead in the fight for equality. While there are plenty of factors contributing to this societal and economic disparity, one of the biggest is the difference between a woman’s salary expectations and a man’s. Joy Altimare, chief engagement and brand officer at EHE Health puts it best when she says: women should expect the same salary as a man for the same job — full job.
What contributes to the varied opinions and approaches to negotiating for the income they deserve? Many aspects starting from childhood, impacting all communities. “Disparities between men’s and women’s wages in the United States hinders economic growth by constraining family incomes and spending power; and ultimately, heighten the risks of financial stress and inadequate retirement savings at times of economic shocks,” Altimare continues. “Pay and gender wage inequality is a universal issue. But, since it more heavily affects low-income, single-income and families of color — it’s a racial and socio-economic issue, too.”
Here, where these ideas come from:
1. Women base their salary expectations on their level of past experience.
When applying for jobs, it’s essential to have the ideal salary in mind if a recruiter and/or a hiring manager inquires. The process of arriving at this figure varies based on sex, according to certified executive business coach Ivy Slater. As she explains, women tend to base their salary expectations on their level of past experience. “They evaluate their qualifications based on what they have already done and don’t take into account their current salary might be way off base with respect to their skillset,” she continues. “Instead of believing they are ready to take on new challenges and are worthy of a pay increase, they might not go forward or not be confident in asking for more money if they do go forward.”
On the other hand, men aren’t afraid to bump up the number exponentially, regardless of whether they believe their past merits warrant the income. Slater says women should do the same, and focus on their positive attributes, rather than worrying about where they lack. “If women know and highlight the value they bring to the table, they can confidently expect their salary to match their expertise and won’t settle for less,” she adds.
2. Women are brainwashed to think they can’t earn as much as a man.
A not-so-great fact, on average, women settle for $4,000 less than men when they are fresh out of college, according to Altimare. A significant reason for this is how society has brainwashed women to believe that they are not likely to earn as much as their male counterparts no matter how smart or successful they are. Sometimes this is credited to the fact that women will potentially become mothers, and thus, be forced to leave the workforce to care for their infants. The truth, though, Altimare reminds is that plenty of accomplished, trailblazing female executives have mastered both, from Cheryl Sandberg to Malin Akerman, and other influencers. “Women have proven that not only can they successfully juggle motherhood with executive leadership — but they probably should outpace men’s earnings since they are doing two jobs successfully,” Altimare adds.
3. Women are more likely to prioritize flexibility and benefits.
Similarly, women think more about work and life balance than men do. And they make a company’s benefits package part of their decision to accept an offer or not. It’s a perplexing and sexism trend since by now, we all know it takes two to parent effectively. “Even though it’s 2020, and even though we’re seeing women leaders all over the world handle the coronavirus really well, we’re also seeing that household labor is not even close to being split evenly between men and women right now,” Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, the CEO of EnrichHer shares.
Because they know they will have a ‘second shift’ when they wrap up their paid work of the day, women are more attracted to gigs that have some wiggle room. “If they know that they will be the person in the family expected to stay home with a sick child or take an aging parent to the doctor, it follows logically that they would value flexible schedules or a great insurance package more than someone not under those expectations when negotiating salaries,” Dr. Novellus continues. “This is one reason having women in leadership positions is important — greater representation can help change policies that reward workaholism and do not expect people who are good at their jobs also to have familial obligations. Equality could deepen both at home and at work if that type of thinking shifted.”
4. Women shy away from negotiations.
According to Slater, salary expectations differ when women receive an increase in pay when moving to another position. They are often satisfied enough to receive more compensation and don’t try to negotiate for an even higher amount. When females hear what they consider a fair market rate, they accept and move forward. Conversely, men rarely consider the first offer the final one and will typically always push for more.
5. Women experience occupational segregation.
Altimare says women harbor lower salary expectations thanks to ‘occupational segregation.’ As you can guess from the name, this is the concept that females go after traditionally women-led careers — like teaching or nursing — and aren’t as included to pursue industries where men are often the leaders, like banking or engineering. “While there’s truth to this phenomenon, the goal would be to truly look for ways to excel at your chosen career and strive to break the earning barriers across gender,” she shares. “You’ll want to fight vertical segregation even more by working towards promotion into more senior roles, hence better-paid positioning.”
6. Women are socialized to play nice.
Last but definitely not least, Dr. Novellus says that women are generally taught to be agreeable, kind, and grateful. And when they are confident in their abilities and ask for what they’re worth, they are often labeled as pushy, aggressive, or worse. “This stereotype is dangerous and outdated, and workplaces who want to fight it have a responsibility to be transparent about who is getting paid what and why,” she adds.