A: There are things women can do to close the income gap between themselves and their male counterparts.
The first thing is, don’t sell yourself short. There’s an old adage about a man and a woman who look at the same list of 10 job requirements. The man will look at the 10 requirements and if he has just two of them he’ll think, “Wow, that job is made for me.” A woman will look at the 10 requirements and if she has six of them she’ll think, “I have to get the other four before I apply.” So again, don’t sell yourself short. Absolutely look at the position and say, “I can do this,” and put yourself in the running for it.
The second thing is, men will typically go into a salary negotiation.
Here’s how a man might typically approach a job offer. If he’s moving into a deanship, say of a school of education, he’ll look in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, or at CUPA-HR, and find the average salaries for deans of schools of education, the median salaries and the salaries in the region he’s looking at. So when the offer comes, he can say, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate this job offer and I’m so thrilled at the prospect of working here. Let me just share with you some of the statistics I have on what deans of schools of education are typically paid.”
If there’s a gap between the actual offer and the position’s typical salary, a man might say, “I think there are ways for us to close this gap.” He may ask for a signing bonus. He may ask if there’s some other kind of remuneration they can offer.
If they can’t offer any financial solutions, then a man might still ask if they’re willing to look at a set of performance indicators based on what he feels he can achieve that first year, and ask to have another salary discussion at that time. The point is, men usually ask for more. Women usually don’t.
The system is still not wired to have the initial offer come to us in a way that is always equitable. I don’t think people are intentional in the bias, I think it’s just the culture and the system. So because men are typically a little more engaged in this notion of how to move forward in both rank and in salary, it works in their favor. Women need to do that.
I recommend that before you engage in any negotiations, you dig as deep as you can to understand the typical salary options for any position you’re seeking. In higher education, for example, the faculty ranks are different than the staff ranks. You need to understand and appreciate where you are in the hierarchy. If you’re asking for additional benefits, it needs to be level appropriate. In the state system, those salaries are public so you can look up what your predecessor earned. On the private side, private colleges and universities, salaries are not as transparent.
In addition to sources like salary surveys, I actually talk to men and women who are in the position I’m currently seeking.
I might ask, “Can you give me a salary range of what you think is appropriate at your level?”
“Can you give me an understanding of what kind of experience fits that range?” “Did you negotiate when you went into your job?” “If you did, could you give me some pointers?” These are all conversations we are very, very willing to have. I may not want to tell you the exact dollar amount that I earn, but I’ll give you my range and I’ll tell you what I did to get there.
So women have to be particularly active in doing their homework and appropriately confident about moving into a conversation about the offer. Once you’ve done your homework, here’s how you might open a salary negotiation, “We want this to be a win-win. So let’s talk a little bit more about salary.”
Those are the ways that women can close the income gap between themselves and their male counterparts. Also, I think that it’s important for women to know just the general data around women in the workplace.
Women are still overperforming and being underpaid.
Women need to know that. And if that gets us a little riled up, well good, because then we’ll advocate even harder for ourselves.