While I am not overly active in politics, I was fasicinated by last year's presidential election. I watched both national conventions. It was fascinating, but hardly coincidental, that the wives of the presidential candidates had such an important role this election.
They were speaking to the women of this country and trying to win our votes and our hearts. In the 2010 congressional election, 46.2% of women reported voting compared to 45% of men. In addition, women make up over 50% of the work force.
We decide, we work, we run our homes, we manage people, we earn money and we vote. The political parties see the need to connect with us.
However, I hate the thought that the importance of our vote is eclipsing the importance of our pay at work.
As a New York Times Magazine article titled, “Who Wears the Pants in This Economy” pointed out, women are increasingly the major bread winners in their families. And regardless of your politics, that fact that women are paid less for the same work is beginning to hurt the bottom line of American families.
Women earn 77 cents to each $1 earned by men for the same job across industries. And women typically migrate toward public-sector work in their careers, which almost always pays less than private-sector jobs.
This means that in the best case scenario, families are taking home $10,000 less per year because of disparities in pay for women. This doesn’t include the cumulative effect that lower wages has when it comes to investment in 401Ks, personal savings, future raises, bonuses and Social Security payments, if we are lucky to have such a thing when we retire.
What would your family do with an additional $10,000 each year? The real question is how do we close the gap? Clearly, we can’t legislate our way to parity. However, there are four things you can do to close the salary gap that leaves your family struggling.
Know Your Current Salary
It is stunning to me the number of people who do not know exactly how much money they take home each month. Do you know what you make each month? If you don’t know the exact figure, pull out your pay stubs and find out.
Also, review your salary history over the past four years. This includes benefits and bonuses.
What have you made? What is your average percentage of increase over the past four years? The average merit increase over the past four years in the United States has been 4% to 5%. How do you compare?
If you don’t know, start tracking that information today.
Research the External and Internal Salary Market
To find the external salary range for your job, you must research the salary market for your job in your area of the country. Salary ranges are based on cost of living, specialization of your job, degrees required and the number of qualified candidates in your area, among other things.
One of the best ways to find out salary information for your job is to ask a local recruiter. The job of a good recruiting agency is to know the market rate for all of the candidates that they place. While they won’t be able to give you an exact number for any given job position, they can give you a range for starting salaries based on your years of experience.
To find the internal salary range for your job in your company, you should start by reviewing your job description. Most job descriptions outline the pay grade of the position. Each grade has a top and bottom salary. If you don’t have one, ask your HR manager for a copy your job description, and for the corresponding salary range for your job.
If you don’t have a job description, ask your manager the salary range for your position. Your job description will also help you determine if you are exceeding your company’s expectations for someone in your position. It will also outline areas of growth that can merit a higher pay increase.
Does this internal salary range correspond with the external salary market information you were able to find with your own research? How does your salary compare? Is it low or high?
Now you know where you stand. The next two steps are going to show you how to get more.
To find out how and who to ask for more money, you need to understand how revenue is generated and accounted for in your organization. Find out where your salary is budgeted and how the organizations budgets for bonuses. You also need to know who controls that budget. It is probably NOT HR, unless you work in the HR department. This information helps you to understand the funds that are available for your raise.
Next, you need to understand how raises are calculated at your company. Are increases based on merit? What factors contribute to a higher increase? Are they based on the organizations financial performance? How do they calculate bonuses?
If all of this sounds foreign to you, then invite your HR director to lunch, and ask about the financial mechanics of performance management at your company. You will also want to ask your manager or the head of your department.
Lastly, if you generate money for the firm, you need to keep track of what you produce. This can be achieved by knowing your billing rate, understanding the value of the deals that you work on, or the revenue that is generated by a product you sell or develop.
If you don’t produce, then calculate what money you save for your organization. If there wasn’t a reason for your job, you wouldn’t have one in this economy.
This helps you to understand your value to the firm.
Many women are averse to taking the risk of standing out or drawing attention to themselves. Their aim at work is to keep off the radar.
This philosophy will keep you under paid.
After you complete the first three steps, you should know where your salary falls within the external and internal salary range for your position. You will also be armed with the information you need to understand how much money you should be making, and the expectations of your job.
Be sure you ask for more money before your next review period. Let your supervisor know your expectations so they he or she has an opportunity to meet it.
The best way to ask for a raise is to frame your request as options that generate discussion, not as a yes-or-no question. Instead of asking for raise, you could ask for either a higher percentage increase or a flat dollar amount. You could request either a bigger year-end bonus or a spot-bonus for a particular accomplishment. If you work part time, you could frame the negotiation for either better benefits or full-time work.
Be confident and stand in your accomplishments. My article on developing a healthy sense of entitlement can help provide a framework for developing that conversation.
Now for the pep talk
If this seems like a lot of work -- it is. Anything worth more than $10,000 a year usually takes effort.
I know you believe that if you speak out, you will get kicked out. But the real truth is, after you start asking questions and taking an interest in the finances of your organization, your contribution, and your place in the salary structure, people interpret it as commitment on your part. Because it is so rare, having those conversations alone will make you appear like a more valuable employee.
Still not sure? Then commit to taking the first three steps and see what opportunities unfold before you. You will open the door to an influx of information that will help you to clearly see where you stand, financially, within your organization, and what your value maybe to other employers.
Ask questions, do the research, know your value. Become an informed, empowered professional at your workplace. There’s simply too much for you and your family to lose.