Pay Equity Requires Negotiation? Part 2

April 10, 2008

In part 1, I discussed the signatures of companies that value diversity and equity. Part 2 identifies personal attributes that drive advancement.

On the Job

Seek a mentor. Men are more likely to develop a relationship with a mentor than women are. One probable, not-so-good reason is that there are currently more men in leadership positions. In time, we will see a more representative mix of female and male leaders, but for now, don’t lose the opportunity to get advice and counsel from a man who has the company’s and your best interests at heart.

Broaden your skills and talents. In today’s business climate, an employee’s value is a function of the variety of ways she can contribute to a company’s success. Willingness to take the risk associated with accepting new challenges is a key attribute that leads to advancement.

Prepare for leadership. Recognizing the characteristics of a successful modern leader requires some study. Some of my favorite authors are W. Edwards Deming, James A. Belasco, and Bill George. They explain that the traditional meaning of management is obsolete (we manage projects, not people) and that companies are most competitive when they eliminate power-based hierarchies by providing resources and decision authority to the teams responsible for making the product.

Be visible. If you’re not broadly known as a contributor, it’s going to be difficult for a supervisor to justify an above-average salary increase. Favorable visibility doesn’t need to be forced. It usually develops naturally when an employee readily accepts challenging assignments and develops a broad, collaborative network of associates.

Have fun. How does this relate to equity? Well, an equitable workplace cannot exist if people dread going to work and are tied up in knots when they return home. There are times when the culture can be changed to have some fun. If the culture resists change, it’s time to consider moving on. See Fish! for one set of ideas on how the workplace can be both enjoyable and productive.

Finally, the pay gap does exist, but many companies view diversity and equitable treatment as a competitively important value. Women’s interests are best served when they seek employment with those companies.

By:   |   April 10, 2008


  1. “Women need to recognize that in the corporate world they are being hired to work for less pay.”

    THINK it’s because of our skills, college education, and energy….but it’s about money saved by the employer that we are being given the advantage. I hardly think this is what the UK Suffragettes and USA Suffragists envisioned for us.

  2. With there being 6 million more women in the world than men, never has the time been more ripe for women to change the status quo. One of the ways she can do so is to take business classes while yet in college, so she can become her OWN boss. I have taught both of my daughters to start their own businesses. Read my article on the MBA Philosophy and you will know why there yet exists a glass ceiling. My Status of Women blog also addresses the religious beliefs (Judeo-Christian) which are never discussed… that perpetuate the belief in our secondary status starting with Genesis.

    Women need to recognized that in the corporate world they are being hired to work less pay. They are being given the “advantage” but at what cost to their paychecks and their daughters to come?

    Rosanne Ferreri-Feske, CEO
    The NEW Tennessee Woman

  3. Anna says:

    This is a very interesting (disturbing) topic. I think it’s very dis heartening that in the 21st century we’re still dealing with this type of discrimination in the workplace. I thought this article series was very well written, and I have a couple of things to add from my own experience.

    First, I have never experienced myself, or known of any other woman personally, that has had ANY success getting a mentor on the job. In fact, even those who were hired and given an “official” company mentor were not developed or helped by these individuals at all. In all of these cases, the supposed mentor was competitive and concerned that they would be replaced by their protegé. Either that or on a personal power mission, looking for a country to rule. Such is the tone of the workplace today.

    Second, I think the topic of salary negotiations is a good one — and best used upon initial hire. My experience is that once a company gets you to accept a certain salary, these days you better save the CEO’s life to get anything more than a cost-of-living-like bump. The job market has been so tight for so long, and real wages in the US have stagnated. Managers know this, and take advantage of this shamelessly. I’ve gotten my very best pay increases upon initial hire when they’re excited about you and really motivated to bring you on. This is the time to do your research into your industry’s compensation and work out a way to justify the money you’re asking for.

    Third, I don’t believe wage discrimination will be remedied by more legislation — although I applaud and support AAUW’s efforts. We have many labor laws now that deal with overtime pay, working hours, etc. that go entirely unenforced. It doesn’t matter how many laws you have, if no one is committed to (or interested in) policing them. Besides, how can a woman know whether or not she is being paid less, and by how much, when no one in a company will ever discuss their compensation! The biggest tragedy in white-collar work is the fact that it’s considered taboo to discuss your pay — and most companies actually have written policies prohibiting disclosing your compensation. Convenient, isn’t it? And we all go along with it. It has become socially unacceptable to discuss your pay in polite company. We’re practically Victorian about it. Most American women I know have no problem telling a group of coworkers all about the intimate details of their love-life, but would never dream of telling anyone how much she makes.

    Lastly, more and more companies are looking to hire women precisely because of the wage gap. I know of a company who hires women almost exclusively so they can save money on salaries — and they speak openly and pat themselves on the back about this strategy. The only men in this company are in the top two spots, and a couple in sales. They routinely fire people who are earning more pay, and replace them with younger women at half the cost. And there’s plenty of women in line to take these jobs.

    How can the government police a company like this? What’s the solution? I wish I knew.

  4. Bonnie,

    AAUW’s position on FMLA states,

    “…Public Policy Program supports ‘greater availability of and access to benefits and policies that create a family-friendly workplace environment,’ which are critical for women for ‘equitable access and advancement in employment.’…

    Despite the FMLA and a patchwork of state laws and employer-based benefits, family and personal sick leave remain elusive to many working Americans. And despite the relative wealth of the United States, family-oriented workplace policies in this country lag dramatically behind those in much of the rest of the word, including all high-income countries and many middle- and low-income countries as well. For example, of the 173 countries surveyed by Harvard and McGill University researchers, the U.S. is one of only five countries that do not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave, a distinction it shares with Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. 2 Clearly, there is still much room for improvement to make our workplaces more family friendly.”

    To read the complete position statement, go to

  5. You go Dave! I would love to see more info about workplace culture and how we can make it more human and balanced for everybody. I loved the book “Games Mother Never Taught You,” but probably it needs to be updated. Does AAUW have a position on family and medical leave? I should know that already…

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