7 things the U.S. women’s hockey team can teach us about winning equal pay

Witnessing the U.S. women’s hockey team rally for fair pay and equitable treatment — and win — offers valuable lessons for all working women. And staying positive about your potential to earn your fair share also helps. Eventually it may eliminate the pay  gap.

“In these political times, it’s safe to say there have been doubts about how women would move forward in American society. An early answer has now arrived, from a most unlikely location: The sport of ice hockey,” writes USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.

Noting the threat to boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Michigan was real an imminent, the women’s team insisted in their less than playful negotiations that being paid a total of $6,000 for six months out of the four-year training period leading up the Olympic Games is neither acceptable nor fair. Nor is the lack of a development program for girls in the sport, comparable to the one for boys.

And because they persisted, they won because they demonstrated their power to ask.

According to Brennan, they won an “equally unprecedented four-year deal with compensation of about $70,000 per player per year, a stunning jump from the equivalent of the pathetic $1,500 per year the players were getting. Throw in the new performance bonuses USA Hockey agreed to pay the players and their income could rise to six figures annually if they win the Olympic gold medal or world championship.”

At least 20 U.S. senators signed a letter to USA Hockey prior to the negotiation stating: “These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics.”

With the hashtag #BeBoldForChange and the social media slogan of “1 Goal, 1 Team, 1 Dream,” the hockey team models the efforts of every woman trying to get paid what she is worth and close the pay gap.

True, you are likely not a professional athlete headed to the 2018 Olympics, and an individual’s salary talk with an employer or client does not make sports headlines, but the women’s hockey team’s quest for “a reasonable path forward” to close the pay gap is at the heart of every sit-down about money and the future.

“By failing to routinely negotiate our salaries, we lose more than $1 million by the time we retire,” according to She Negotiates, a powerhouse in resources, training and events for women looking to be paid fairly.

And who isn’t?

While many states are working toward that goal, all women in America earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns for the same work with the same title.

According to a press release about a recent study in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, “Women underestimate their earnings prospects, leading to lower expectations and little inclination to push for higher wages or promotion, or seek a better paid position.”

And they take what they’re offered. So the pay gap remains.

“If low female expectations in terms of pay is fueled by a pessimistic outlook, then even without discrimination and progression-related issues, women will continue to underestimate themselves and continue to inadvertently accept pay inequality,” said Dr. Chris Dawson, senior lecturer in Business Economics at the University of Bath’s School of Management.

To counter that trend and mimicking the women’s hockey team’s tactics, here are the top 8 recommendations to raise expectations for earning what you deserve and closing the pay gap as soon as possible in your life.

1. Dig deep

Just as the women’s hockey players knew all the stats and numbers on comparables for the male players in the field and in other sports, do the big picture research on the field you are in, the location, the company, the job title.

Payscale offers a personal salary report for you when you answer a series of questions. The site also delivers a wealth of solid resources and a negotiation guide as well as a Salary Survey.

2. Be calm and firm

The women’s hockey team stayed above the fray and didn’t resort to negativity, even after saying no to the first offer from the USA Hockey’s board of directors, requiring a return to the drawing board and another vote after 15 months of negotiations.

Yes, we get it, you likely do not have that kind of time and not an option for a boycott, but know that in your polite, firm response to the first offer, there is a chance for compromise.

3. Say maybe

So many of us get excited about a job offer, are appreciative, feel it is a good fit and want to close the deal on the first offer. No. You don’t want to risk losing the offer, but you do want to express that you need to think about it.

It is fine to say, “Oh, I was planning to earn X, and I believe I am worth X, and I can prove to you I am worth X.” According to SheNegotiates, if you have a script ready (and the site offers those and many more resources), you will feel prepared to have a conversation continue on the topic of money. Chances are the company will come up to where you are, or meet you in the middle.

4. Know how your narrative fits

Be ready for any and all questions about your work, your story and how you fit in to the company’s mission and best practices. This creates a narrative of you and the company together. See who is in the “about us” section of the website. What do you bring to the table that is different from what others offer, and what value can you assign your expertise and offer as a commodity?

In Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools, telling your story is Power Tool # 9. Know how to explain in a concise narrative where you have been and where you are going. Know what you have done to get to this point and know where you plan to be in five or 10 years. Express that you are a forward thinker, not just someone who is here in this job for the time being. And articulate precisely how you intersect with the goals of the organization.

5. Gather your allies

You may not get a letter signed by 20 U.S. senators urging the employer to hire you and pay you the better salary, but make sure you have letters of recommendation coming in by email and snail mail to support your worth.

The letters do not have to state any salary number, but a signed letter or email from someone with a great title and impressive credentials who knows your work and vouches for you as a valuable hire is priceless.

6. Be positive 

This is a path on the way to fairness, so consider it a samba, according to BetaKit. You have to work with your employer, so start out with a dance. If this is a job you have been in for a while and are looking for a raise, positively approach a salary review with all the good you have done in the past year and all the good you will do in the coming year.

And if it’s a new opportunity, positively communicate your stellar performance. The women’s hockey team is doing the same.

7. Get the ‘Close the Gap’ app

Designed by Take The Lead’s Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president; and the founders of She Negotiates, this app guides you through the process of defining your goals, communicating your value, building your support network and negotiating your salary. On your phone. It’s another tool in your negotiating tool box.

Kudos to the women’s hockey team on their win, a substantial win for women working everywhere, as they shifted the dynamic of “power over” into the “power to.” And on Equal Pay Day and every day, knowing you have the power to ask in order to be paid what you deserve is the goal.

This article originally appeared on Take The Lead.