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5 Ways to Address Unequal Pay in Your Office

How to take power into your own hands this Equal Pay Day.
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Today, April 10, 2018 is Equal Pay Day—and it’s not a holiday or milestone worthy of celebration. Instead, it’s in our calendars as a public awareness event meant to illustrate the ever-present gap between men and women’s wages. Today is about facing harsh realities and creating dialogue around how we can change them. And the date, April 10th, isn't arbitrary: It illustrates how far into 2018 a woman has to work to earn what a man earned in 2017.

On average, women in the U.S. make $.80 cents on the dollar compared to men. And while this fact in itself is frustrating, it doesn't even cover the whole problem. It’s also important to note that while today represents the average pay gap for women, it doesn’t take into account the even greater inequalities at play.

Many women of color will have to work much further into 2018 before they “catch up” with what the average man made last year. breaks down the wage gap by demographic in detail, but here’s just one example to help you visualize: Latinas are paid $.54 cents for every dollar a white, non-hispanic man earns—which means that Latina Equal Pay Day won’t happen until November 1, 2018. 

That's completely unacceptable. We're working for the day when Equal Pay Day lands on December 31 of the same year—for all women.

Now that we've touched on the problem, let's talk about how we can work towards a solution. You have power in this situation. You have a voice. You’re contributing incredible things to your company, and to the economy at large. The work you do is unique and valuable. Now’s the time to make sure you're not being paid less for it. Here’s what you can do to address unequal pay at your office, and the steps you should take before bringing it up to your boss:

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I know talking about money makes most of us squirm, but this is the very best way to know if you’re being underpaid at work. Select three women and three men who are either at your company, in the same or similar role, or in the same industry and location as you. It’s important to talk to men, not just women, because you need to know what kind of gap you’re up against. When you approach them, you can use this script:

“Hi there. I’m doing some salary research and want to better understand the market value for my role, skill-set, and industry. I think you could really help me. Would you be willing to provide me with your salary range? I’d be very grateful for your insight.”

If the person says no, ask another person. Rejection might be part of this process, but you’re tough and you can handle it. Once you get people talking, if you find out that their salary range is higher than yours, try to determine why that might be. Did they bring in a huge commission this year? Have they been working at the company longer?

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Before you go to your boss to ask for a raise, you can confirm further the salary range you should target. We launched The Salary Project, an anonymous salary database that will let you compare your salary, job function, industry, age, location, and more to others who are similar. Browse through to make sure that the six salaries you got from real people are aligned with the averages in your city and industry.

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We’re getting closer to speaking to your boss, but we’re not quite ready. It’s much better to come up with an exact number or salary range that you’re asking versus just saying something vague like “I want a raise.” Based on your research, you should already have at least a range in mind so now you want to turn that into three options:

The High End: First, there's the salary that, after researching, you know you want, but aren't sure you'll get. This is the wouldn't-it-be-amazing-if number.

The Yuck Number: You'll also want to set a walk-away salary. What's the lowest you're willing to go before you decide it's time to apply elsewhere?

The Just-Right Salary: This is a number in the middle that's a step forward for you even if it's not your ideal.

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Set up a time to talk privately with your boss (you can prepare for it by using this salary negotiation script). Practice your ask at home a few times so you’re less nervous when you meet with your boss. Maybe even try running through it with your partner or a friend. Hopefully, you’re feeling very confident about what salary you’re asking for and why, but also please remember this: Your net-worth does not equal your self-worth. You’re not negotiating based on what they think about you as a human, you’re negotiating based on what the fair market value is for your skills. And finding out you’re being paid less than your male coworker should also light a fire under you.

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You’ve researched, you’ve determine your target number, and you’ve practiced your ask. You've got this! Speak slowly and confidently and don’t feel the need to over explain why you’re asking for a raise. If your boss asks where you got your research, be honest that you spoke with current employees and industry experts (without giving names) and then confirmed your range was appropriate with online salary tools. And don’t be discouraged if your boss doesn’t give you a raise on the spot. It may take time for them to get the raise approved, but you’ve sent a clear signal that you’re not going to let unequal pay slide. If they need more time, be accommodating, but make sure to set up a time to reconnect in a few weeks right then and there.

Remember: By addressing unequal pay in your own office, you’re helping address inequality around the world. There’s also an added bonus: The more you get used to asking for what you want and deserve, the more you’ll find that assertiveness shape up in other parts of your life. Give this a try, and let me know how it works in the comments section. And if you have other tips, share them with us! Learning from other women’s success stories is helpful for all of us.

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