It costs more to be a woman, but you likely get paid less.
The gender pay gap isn’t dying out anytime soon (not for about 85 years to be exact). On average, working women earn about 78 percent as men, according to the White House. April 14 is Equal Pay Day, which represents the extra months women would have to work to make up the 22 percent gap and catch up to men’s yearly earnings.
The gender pay gap impacts women across all socioeconomic and racial groups throughout a majority of professional fields. It affects women of color at even greater rates, with Latina women earning just 56 percent of every dollar a white man makes, and black women earning 64 percent. To top it off, the wage gap only grows larger as women age, with women earning 90 percent of what men make until 35, after which they are paid 75–80 percent of what men are paid.
Luckily there are concrete things that can be done to close the wage gap and get us one step closer to achieving gender equality. Here are 10 of them:
1. Raise the federal minimum wage. Immediately.
Women working full time, year-round — across all industries and including all races and ethnicities — earn an average of 78 percent as much as their male counterparts. That leaves a wage gap of 22 cents on the dollar. One thing dragging the average down? The high concentration of women in minimum-wage jobs.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage, tipped occupations are also women. “Raising the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage are important steps towards fair pay for women — especially women of color,” reads a 2014 NWLC report.
2. Encourage women to develop negotiation skills.
Research shows 57 percent of men negotiate their salaries compared to 7 percent of women. When women do negotiate salaries, they tend to ask for less money. For example, a study conducted in 2010 found that women ask for an average of $7,000 less than men when negotiating.
As the AAUW’s annual report on the gender pay gap states, “Negotiation skills are especially tricky for women because some behaviors, like self-promotion, that work for men might backfire for women.” But negotiating doesn’t have to feel like a risk. “Knowing what your skills are worth, making clear what you bring to the table, emphasizing common goals and maintaining a positive attitude are some negotiation tactics that have been shown to be effective for women,” the AAUW report states. See? No biggie.
3. Do away with impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the phenomenon “in which people — usually high-achieving professionals — don’t consider themselves qualified for their position and convince themselves that they’ve cheated their way into it,” Ann Friedman wrote in a 2013 article for The Pacific Standard. “It’s hard to negotiate a higher salary, apply for an even more prestigious job, or be a truly standout employee if you’re convinced you don’t belong.”
Women are especially vulnerable to impostor syndrome. A large company’s internal survey found that women “applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.” So ladies, next time you or a female friend hesitate to ask for that promotion because you’re just almost certain you deserve it — remind yourselves of the less-qualified dudes who could be asking for the same thing.
4. Encourage women to discuss pay with co-workers.
While you might be ready to ask for that promotion, you most likely don’t know how much your co-workers are getting paid. How do you know how much money to ask for if you don’t have any context? We need to start discussing salaries. Pay transparency can level the playing field for women. “It’s a very basic check on discrimination,” study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research Ariane Hegewisch told The Huffington Post in January. “If you don’t know whether you’re paid equally you can’t enforce your right.”
5. Pass additional wage equality legislation.
The 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects a woman’s right to take action against pay discrimination, is not enough. Several states have passed the Equal Rights Amendment to ensure that women are treated equally and fairly in all areas of society, including the workforce. But the ERA has not received the ratification required to become law. Currently, the only law that touches on equality for women and men is the right to vote. The ERA would protect every American’s right equally, without regard to sex or gender.
The Notorious R.B.G. (Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) has been outspoken about the need for the passage of the ERA: “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment,” Ginsburg said in 2014. “I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion –- that women and men are persons of equal stature -– I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.” Sounds pretty straightforward to us.
6. Speak out against the wage gap.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to make your voice heard. Even writing to your local newspaper can go a long way. Discussing these issues and educating people on them is part of the path to achieving gender equality.
7. Encourage all genders to help women succeed in the work place.
Men are an integral part in the fight for wage equality. Initiatives like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Together and the UN’s HeForShe encourage men to help women to successfully achieve gender equality, which includes toppling the pay gap. The Lean In Together campaign features tips for men to help women at work, including giving women credit when it’s due and “sharing office house work” such as organizing events and training new hires.
8. Pass paid family leave policies.
Recently, there’s been a big push for paid family leave, but only three states have policies in place guaranteeing both parents to the right to take paid time off of work to care for their children. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for American Progress found that women lose a total of $274,044 and men lose a total of $233,716 in lifetime wages and benefits because they leave the workforce early due to caregiving responsibilities.
Women will stay in the workforce longer when they know they can leave for a certain amount of paid time to care for their children. This ensures a longer and higher earning career for women with children, that is traditionally reserved for men.
9. Ensure access to affordable childcare.
When women — especially women making minimum wage — have access to affordable childcare, they’re able to stay in the workforce longer. President Obama discussed how important affordable childcare is to U.S. progress in his 2015 State Of The Union address. “In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever,” he said. “It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”
10. And, obviously, smash the patriarchy.
Smash. Smash. Smash.
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