Last year during the Oscars, I saw two well-paid celebrity icons — Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep — draw attention to an issue that’s very important to me: equal pay for women. Accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress, Arquette made equal pay for people everywhere a rallying cry, which Steep echoed with a standing ovation from the audience. I was cheering, too. And so was my husband.
Women, in case you haven’t heard, are paid $.79 for $1 earned by a man doing the same job. What’s the big deal? Consider this — a study shows that over the course of their careers, women who consistently negotiate for salaries earned over a $1,000,000 more than women who didn’t negotiate. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! That’s not just about money. That’s about personal power, independence, physical well being, and peace of mind. Since a woman’s salary, even more than a man’s, tends to be spent on her family, what wives and mothers make directly affects the well-being of the men and children who love them.
The final phase of every job search is negotiating compensation. Men seem to intuitively understand this and do their best to get as much benefit from their successful candidacy as they can. Unfortunately, all too often their female counterparts — just as talented, educated, and competent — are so grateful to be hired they skip this phase of the employment process altogether.
This is a huge mistake on several counts. The truth is, most people, including hiring managers, expect good employees to have a high opinion of themselves. (After all, if you don’t think your work is worth paying top dollar for, why should they?) The best strategy is to take 24 hours to decide if a job offer is good enough and then to make a counter proposal if it isn’t. When candidates don’t negotiate, hiring managers may even begin wondering if they made the best decision, because asking for what you want isn’t just about money. It’s about demonstrating your self-confidence from the beginning of your employment.
Please remember, the starting salary from your very first job influences what you’ll be paid for the rest of your life. Think about it. The salary you earned on your last job is routinely used by employers to determine how much they should offer you to take a new position. If you tell a hiring manager your last job paid less than the one you’re interviewing for, they’ll probably offer you less than they would another applicant. What’s more, the fact that your previous employer paid you so little might knock you out of consideration all together. It isn’t just about money. It’s about how much your work is valued.
Your bonuses, raises, future salary with other companies, social security, pension payments — even unemployment — are all dependent on how much your paycheck is right now. It isn’t just about money. It’s about your income for the rest of your life.
That’s why on April 12, 2016, I’ll be joining people around the world to observe Equal Pay Day for Women. Because equal pay for equal work isn’t just about money. It’s about equal rights for everyone — women, men, and the children they support. Hope to see you there!
Wendy Lalli is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency with offices in Chicago and Wisconsin. She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network. Wendy has been the Communications Coordinator of the Equal Pay Day Chicago events since 2012.
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