Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Women Earn Less

On a Sunday back in 2005, I was channel-surfing and stopped briefly on the Book TV program at C-SPAN 2. At the podium was Warren Farrell, the author of Why Men Earn More. I’d seen this topic dealt with in some of my other books, and they all have this to say about why women earn less:

· Lack of knowledge of her true worth in the labor market.

· Lack of accomplishments (or the acknowledgment of accomplishments)

· Lack of willingness to take risks to potentially make more money (through commissions)

· Lack of negotiating skills to leverage true market worth and accomplishments into a higher salary or bonuses

· Lack of knowledge or interest in negotiating a signing bonus or a termination agreement with pay

Notice I said nothing about education levels or family status—ultimately, they don’t matter.

Everybody needs to learn how valuable his or her education, skills, and experience are in the labor market. One place to do that is the Salary Wizard. Once you have this information in hand, you can then compare the national average salary to your current one, and learn just how far behind the curve you are.

With the new salary information in hand, ask yourself what you’ve done for the boss lately—what accomplishments have you made over and above your current job duties that served to boost the company’s bottom line (through cost-cutting, product or system innovation, opening new markets, gaining new clientele, or boosting the repeat buys from existing clientele). Have you made any contributions? If so, have you asked for more money in return as a reward for your efforts? Have you made a record of your accomplishments in your resume’ to use as valuable bargaining chips when looking for a new job?

Men do this all the time, especially executive-level men. It’s time to bring the executive-level tactics down to your level. If you want to make the big pay, you have to deliver the big present, ask for recognition, and get rewarded in return. It’s that simple.

The other play is to go out on a limb and sell for commissions. The more you sell, and the more consistently you sell, the more you’re worth to the boss.

Another issue to keep in mind: the cash flow of the company. If the boss just doesn’t HAVE money to pay you more, then it’s time to look elsewhere. All the accomplishment in the world isn’t going to help if the coffers are empty—ask for it in writing, and put your feelers back out in the market (employing the use of a headhunter for discretion if needed). There’s no need to continue your achievement output if there’s no reward coming in the end.

You need to keep track of your market value and accomplishments throughout your working life, and they won’t become any handier than when you find your next job. You also need to know how to negotiate for that new “base” salary you rightly deserve, plus any signing bonuses and termination agreements—these allow you to make money on the deal coming into the job, at the job, and exiting the job. Making accomplishments doesn’t stop here—you need to continually ask what the boss needs and assess what you can do about it—at every job you hold. This is the new norm in the working world.

Don’t settle for what the job initially offers. Learn to ask for more by being worth more. This is the only way salary gaps will ever be narrowed when working with men on an otherwise level playing field (education and experience being roughly the same). There is no discrimination at work here—you just need to catch up on information and tactics.

Some interesting facts from the working world:

The two highest-paying fields in America = engineering and computer science. With very few exceptions, women make more than men in those fields.

Men who never marry make less than women who never marry. Men who never marry are considered losers, while women who never marry are considered winners.

Businesses owned by women pay women less than businesses owned by men.

Do you know the difference between a person working 34 hours/week and someone working 44 hours/week? The pay is almost doubled.

For further reading on the subjects of salary negotiation and accomplishment pay, please consult the books Negotiate This! by Herb Cohen and Fire Your Boss by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine.


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