That Ole Glass Ceiling Still Isn’t Cracked

by Shonali Burke on June 16, 2010

You know that pay gap that our Feminist friends have been battling for decades now? It’s still there.

I’m not especially shocked by this revelation.

However, what I am a bit shocked about is that contention that the foundation of gender pay disparities rests on a woman’s ability to negotiate salary increases,

so much so, that they require a “toolkit” to work their way around this issue.

Reporter Tara Siegel Bernard, who writes about negotiating strategies in this New York Times piece, explains that “part of the pay gap” can be easily explained by women’s departure from the workplace to raise a family (leaving them with less experience than their male peers) or that men “tend to work in higher-paying occupations.”

Yet, she still quotes a source that claims that about about 40% of the wage gap is unexplained, which is accounted for, at least in part, by women’s negotiating skills (or lack thereof).

Her advice? Be proactive and prepared (great advice) but more importantly, “tailor” your negotiation.

This means that women not only need to explain why their request is appropriate but also be sure not to harm their work relationships. Hence, a woman should frame her request based on the company’s needs rather than her own.

Additionally, a woman should reexamine how her raise (and theoretically greater responsibility) might affect their home lives.

Say what?!

What year are we living in? And why should women be expected to negotiate merit-based salary increases in a way that is soothing to their bosses?

Isn’t this a strategy that ultimately perpetuates the gap and glass ceiling and gender inequities?

When I worked in the corporate world, I was averaging 2o% salary increases on a yearly basis. Those increases were based on merit, performance and the amount of business I was running on the company’s behalf.

I did not mince words, massage my requests or consider if rewards for my hard work would negatively affect other commitments in my life.

Granted, the days of large salary increases are long gone. But so should the days of granting rewards based on gender be gone.

Bernard also writes that women who leave the formal workplace ultimately end up with less experience than their male counterparts.

In a day and age where women (and men) are increasingly entering the world as work-at-home consultants or telecommuters, the experience argument goes right out the window.

In fact, I recently read that more and more people prefer to consult on a shorter-term basis, moving from job to job or field to field with ever greater ease.

Finally, while many women choose lower paying career paths, many do not. In fact, according to a recent global survey (which I wrote about late last year) women own 40% of all US businesses and about 51% work in high-paying management, professional and related fields. (U.S. Department of Labor, 2008).

The imperative

I believe that it’s imperative to provide women with proper guidance and education that empowers them and helps them lower that glass ceiling and narrow disparities in the workplace.

Let’s start by fighting the stereotypes and treating them as equal players on the field.

What do you think?

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This post was cross-posted with permission from Flashfree. Image: LudoBC‘s Flickrstream, Creative Commons

Regular contributor Liz Scherer is a digital writer and consultant specializing in health/medicine/wellness. She produces Flashfree which brings her closer to her goal to engage, entertain and provide women in midlife with the tools to make informed decisions about their health. In addition to her blog, you can find Liz on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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