Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Twenty West Chester University students attended a workshop presented by the W.A.G.E. Project, a non-profit whose mission is to educate women about wage discrimination, and to teach them how to negotiate for a fair salary in order to minimize the effects of wage discrimination over the course of their career on Oct. 23.
Annie Houle, The WAGE Project’s National Director of Campus and Community Initiatives, emphasized that a woman’s starting salary in a career is a critical factor in her life-long earnings, and she must be ready to negotiate for a salary that reflects the education, skills, and experience that she will bring to the position she has been offered.
According to the AAUW (American Association of University Women), 2012 data on the gender wage gap released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September stated that the wage gap is 23 cents per hour.
Three small pink bills of fake money lay on white tablecloths, in front of each workshop attendee.The bills resembled the U.S. one dollar bill, but were in denominations of 77cents, 69 cents, and 57cents. Houle held up a real $1 bill up in front of her.
“You don’t get one of these,” she said. “This is what men get.”
Houle then held up a pink 77 cent note in front of the $1 bill, to give a visual representation of the wage gap. About one quarter of the dollar bill could still be seen above and to the side of the pink bill.
Houle said that research shows that women of color on average receive even less of what men with comparable qualifications earn in their position, and demonstrated with the remaining pink bills. Black women may receive 69 cents for every dollar a man earns, and Latina women, 57 cents.
Twenty-three cents may not sound like much, said The WAGE Project’s founder, Evelyn Murphy, when she visited the university on Oct. 2, but women should not let themselves be assured by that small figure. Over the course of a woman’s lifetime, the difference in wages adds up to $700,000-$2 million less earned than a man with the same qualifications as she. Murphy coached her audience of mostly sorority members to say to themselves, “I want my million dollars!”
This past Wednesday, Houle took a slightly different tact. “What would you do with $2 million?” she asked, and made a list of responses on a white board. One woman said she would buy a vacation home. Another woman said she would retire earlier. Another said she would start a family sooner. One student said she would pay off her education loans, a response that solicited a hug from Houle, who claimed that it was the first time she had heard that in the more than 300 workshops she has conducted around the country.
The steps Houle offered toward effectively negotiating a salary can be just as helpful for men, Houle mentioned. In fact, she said, there are usually a handful in attendance at her workshops.
The two most important principles of salary negotiation, according to Houle, are to avoid discussing a salary with a potential employer until you have been offered a position, and to research what companies within the geographic area of the position you are interviewing for are paying someone with a similar job title and qualifications comparable to your own. That way, you can identify a target salary before you enter wage negotiations.
Salary.com generates salary ranges based on geographic region and position, from data supplied by employers.
At the workshop, students worked together to generate a sample “bare bones” budget for someone living and working in Philadelphia. Making a list of all essential expenses, including things like childcare, loan payments, and how much you would spend getting to and from work, can give you an idea of how much income you will need per month. That figure can then be plugged into an online salary calculator (it will account for wage deductions for Social Security and taxes) to generate a minimum salary.
If the person with whom you negotiate does not offer you a salary that you can live on (for whatever reason), be prepared to walk away from a job offer.
“Who knows, maybe you’ll get a call the next day [with a better offer],” said Houle.
In all cases, even if you have negotiated to your target salary (a few thousand dollars more than what you think you are worth in the position), and are satisfied with your benefits package, wait at least a day, but no more than a week to accept the offer.
One explanation for the wage gap is that women are simply less likely to negotiate for their salaries than men. Women have told Houle that they were so thankful for the initial offering that they received, that it hadn’t occurred to them that they might be able to earn more.
That is why it is imperative that women avoid naming a figure whenever possible, and instead let the company representative be the first to name a figure. Sometimes, the initial offering is well beyond a your target salary. If you name a figure that is below what they were prepared to offer you, says Houle, you will likely never recover the difference in the course of your negotiations, and will have potentially cost yourself thousands of dollars.
It is unusual for an employer to make their best offer first, so it is perfectly reasonable to negotiate for a higher figure. Be prepared to justify your request.
Be sure to keep the discussion objective, said Houle. The conversation is not about your wants or needs, but about what your qualifications and abilities will be worth to your employer.
No matter how much you are initially offered, “Always ask for more!” advised a dark-haired lady who was training to present the W.A.G.E. Project’s workshop, $tart $mart.
Ariel Senko is a fourth year student majoring in Political Science. She can be reached at AS789406@wcupa.edu.

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