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Mind the Gap

This week I took a little road trip to Lindsborg, Kansas to speak at the Kansas Women Attorney Association conference. Wichita attorney, Gaye Tibbets and I led a breakout session on the gender wage gap and how we can work to close it.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women still make only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. Unfortunately, in Wichita the gap is even worse. A Wichita Eagle article in March, reported Wichita ranks in the bottom 20 percent of similar sized cities for wage equality.

Gaye presented some eye-opening statistics. Although the Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay different wages for equal work, requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions, Gaye showed us how the disparity still exists. Even in cases where the demographics, such as marital status, number of children, and universities attended are the same, one year out of college women still earn only 82 percent, compared to men in similar jobs. The most discouraging statistic to me is how this is getting worse, not better. According to trendlines set in 2001, it will be 2152 before there will be equal pay, if things continue on the same as they are now.

So, what can we do? One thing we can do is learn to be better negotiators! Did you know that 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even when they know they should? When women do negotiate for salaries, they’re less optimistic about how much is available, so they typically ask for and get less – 30 percent less than men. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this gender pay gap is all on us and our ability to negotiate, but this is one of the most powerful things we can learn and practice.

Part of the reason I started the Finishing School for Modern Women, is to help women own their power. Financial power is a big part of that. Our class on negotiating, Getting What You Want, is one of my favorites because of all the success stories I get from women who take it. We don’t have to negotiate the same way as men do, even when negotiating with men. We have different strengths that we can use to our advantage. For example, our superpower of insight into others’ feelings, is an important negotiating skill.

Just like everything else, preparation is 90 percent of what makes negotiations successful. We must know what we want, before we can negotiate for it. A good place to start is researching the Kansas Department of Labor’s wage survey, which gives pay rates for experienced and entry level positions throughout the state. This will help determine where to start negotiations and what the walk-away point will be. Sure, it will be five or ten minutes of discomfort to bring up the conversation, but it could pay off in hundreds of thousands of dollars over your career.

I’ll be in Lawrence, Kansas next weekend to do two classes to help women own their professional power: negotiating and entrepreneurship. I appreciate your help in spreading the word to the women you know in Lawrence, by sharing this blog with them. We are more powerful together!

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