9 Lives for Women Blog

Close the Wage Gap at the Starting Gate | April 18th, 2013

All reporting on the wage gap makes it sound like companies have one pay scale for women and another for men. Though many things in Corporate America aren’t “fair”, I’m sure this is not true—and I certainly did not see any evidence of this institutionalized, across-the-board discrimination during my many recruiting years.

As I read more and more about the wage gap issue, it appears that much of the problem is self-inflicted. When young women begin their careers, they are less  apt to negotiate salaries than their male counterparts…and thus the wage gap begins.  I know it’s not quite that simple and that various forms of discrimination do indeed influence compensation for women. But I also believe that women have it in their power to close the gap.

You have the greatest potential power—and a clean slate–when you are interviewing for a new job. Don’t ever interview from a position of weakness, asking for a “salary range” for the job. Go into the interview from a position of strength knowing the compensation number you want.

Your desired compensation range is a mix of many factors. Your past compensation plays a role, but it can’t dictate what another company will pay you. Before you even throw your hat in the ring, you need to get an idea of compensation ranges at the specific company. This is a tricky process that can best be done through networking. Personal connections will often be more forthcoming with this information—and give you a good sense if the company is above or below the general industry ranges you find on sites like salary.com.

Fairness in compensation is parity in terms of your experience, your industry and your peers. It’s hard to put a specific price tag on your experience because companies have different structures and different viewpoints on expertise need and value. You’re better off focusing on where the company falls in terms of industry compensation trends and determine if your experience reaches to the top of their scale.

When you do your networking research, you may find out you’re out of sync with a company’s range. If this is the case, and it’s likely your desired compensation is far below what your potential peers would typically be paid, don’t bark up that tree. Companies have set compensation budgets and rarely offer much more.  If your desired comp is within the range, however, walk into the interview knowing the number you feel is fair.

It’s all about confidence, research and being prepared. It’s also about rising above statements in the media like a recent Wall Street Journal article that began like this: “Women in large numbers believe they face disadvantages in the workforce, including lower pay than men…” The wage gap does not have to be a foregone conclusion. But just stating the number you want in the first interview or the last is of  little value unless you’re determined to negotiate and win.  —KAS

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