For many of us money talk can be a touchy subject, specifically when it’s tied to the value of skills and hard work. Candid conversations about your paycheck can leave you feeling financially naked, and to a certain extent, intimidated. So why is discussing your net worth in the workplace such a taboo, and what can we do about it?
The conversation about salary transparency is both long overdue and closely linked to the one about the gender pay gap. It’s an opportunity for millennials to confide in one another about their inherent value and advocate to dismantle gender pay equality, which has systematically hindered the economic upward mobility for women, industry-wide.
Despite millennial women being the most educated generation in the United States, they remain underpaid and underemployed. The snail’s pace efforts to close the wage gap is projected to cost women workers $1 million dollars over the course of their careers, according to The Institute for Women Policy’s Research.
Pay transparency narrows the pay gap primarily because it encourages women to get comfortable with negotiating, even if you’re a beginner when it comes to speaking up about your worth.
“Get comfortable with negotiating, even if you’re a beginner when it comes to speaking up about your worth.”
“Women tend to be more risk adverse than men, which may impact their ability to compete for higher-paying jobs and negotiate salary,” said Bridget Venus Grimes, founder and president of WealthChoice, a financial planning firm tailored for women. “If you feel that you are adequately paid, it reaffirms your value.”
There’s no question women will be playing a long game of catch-up to hit the wage milestone when paychecks will be equivalent to their male counterparts. Those numbers are considerably depressing for black women—and women of color as a whole.
Indeed, arecent survey conducted by Lean In, Survey Monkey, and the National Urban League found that one in three people aren’t aware of the pay gap between black women and white men (where black women earn 38 percent less on average) and only roughly half of Americans are aware of the gap that exists between black women and white women (where black women earn 21 percent less on average).
“Only roughly half of Americans are aware of the wage gap between black women and white women.”
Even more alarming, black women receive less support from managers and are promoted at a slower rate compared with White, Asian, and Latina women. “The lack of awareness about the pay gap at their own workplace, particularly among hiring managers—two thirds of whom say there is none—is an insight we hope drives organizations to take action,” said Sarah Cho, director of research at SurveyMonkey.
With most management positions occupied by men, joining the conversation is crucial to eliminating the gender pay gap and acknowledging that a diverse workforce is much more productive and successful.
“For men in managerial positions, if the goal is to reduce unfair and unjustified pay gap between men and women at the workplace, we know that pay transparency is the proven method of doing so,” said Jake Rosenfeld, an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Washington.
So, if you want to take initiative and be more proactive about discussing salary in the workplace, here are some tips.
Know your workplace
If you are federally employed, be sure to thoroughly review your company’s employee’s handbook or consult someone in your Human Resources department before divulging salary details to fellow coworkers. Even as companies strive to be more open and honest, some employers prohibit workers from discussing how much they make.
“There are a number of states taking steps to crack down on employers that retaliate against their worker who discuss pay at the workplace,” said Rosenfeld, siting his research about the prevalence of pay secrecy policies.
“Penalties can range from disciplinary action to someone losing their job. Retaliating against employees for discussing wages is always illegal, but it’s incredibly common.”
Come correct and don’t get freak out
The last thing you want is for your behavior to come off as “unprofessional,” after finding out your fellow male colleague, with the same experience as you is making 20 cents on the dollar more.
Do your research and have tangible evidence of your work performance before going to your boss. Consider all the benefits included in your compensation package, not just salary.
Join a support group
If your workplace is a no-talk zone for salary, join a support network. Women’sonly networking groups go the extra mile in providing a care-free space for gender issues and equality to be discussed without the fear of judgement. These kinds of groups make it fun, in that everyone wants to rally around you and support your efforts to getting the compensation you deserve.
“No one is really sure what their peers make,” said Grimes. “To encourage women to talk about this, it needs to happen in a safe space where they feel validated.” And if your workplace does not have a no-talk policy, than start talking. It might make a big difference—if not to you, than someone else.