The Wage Gap: How it’s impacting women in the workplace

October 08, 2022 3 min read

written by Theresa Nordstrom, Chief Talent Officer @ Talent Company, Inc. 

According to the World Economic Forum, humans will walk on Mars and we’ll have a colony on the moon before we achieve gender equality on earth. 

With the global gender pay gap estimated to be at 23%, across all regions women are paid less than men. That means for every $100 that a man is paid, a woman is paid $77. In addition, this trend doesn’t look like it’s going to go away easily. iCIMS 2022 College report shows a disparity in salary expectations between graduating men and women. Women college seniors and recent grads expect to earn $10,000 less than their male peers.

In the UK, Women’s Pay Day is “celebrated” (for lack of a better word) on March 4th, because the gender pay gap means that women essentially work for free for the first two months of the year. 

But why does this pay gap exist? Well, it’s complicated.

In her book, Closing the Pay Gap, author Kelli Rae Thompson explains, “In my five years of working in HR, [I noticed that] most women accepted the first offer, while most men negotiated up. 

“The statistics confirm this. 57% of women say they’ve never negotiated their salary and men initiate salary conversations four times more often than women. Even more shocking? 65% of the time, when applying to the same job, women will ask for a lower salary than men.”

My Story

I’ll be honest: I had no idea just how bad the gender pay gap was until about a year or so ago. I was recruiting for a couple of super competitive roles in the finance space – one as a senior finance Manager and the other as a vice president.

In both roles, I found that when I talked to women, they’d ask for salaries about 15-20% less than men. For example, in the VP role women would ask for mid to upper $100,000s. When I spoke to men, they’d ask for $20,000-40,000 more, even though they often had far less experience. 

I learned that men will often throw out a number and if it sticks, awesome. If not, they’ll keep throwing it out to employers until it sticks. Women however will not want to take themselves out of the running so they ‘play it safe’ with their ideal salary.

So what’s next?

I don’t have the ultimate answer to the difficult question of how to solve the wage gap, but I think that a good first step is for us to acknowledge that it exists we can’t fight an invisible enemy. Know your company’s stats counting the advancement patterns, starting salaries and if women are predominately hired in less senior roles. 

Second, post a salary range. I’m a firm proponent of adding salaries to job postings to give applicants a guideline. However, the challenge is that recruiters really need to be ready to manage expectations. Eight out of ten times men would give me the top of the range regardless of if their experience was superior. Hiring leaders need to be ready to make offers based on value add. 

Third, make the best offer the first time and communicate early to avoid negotiations. Nearly 60% of women do not negotiate an offer. So make the best offer upfront versus negotiating pay. Know the market and consider internal equity and decide what is the individual experience valued at. Do the highest number you can and when making them an offer tell the candidate, “we are giving you our best offer.” Negotiate products, not people. 

Last, for things to change, women will need allies of all gender identities to support them as we take a step towards a truly equal society. Pay equity is a leadership challenge. Males are especially encouraged to play an active role in being advocates for pay equity.

While closing the wage gap won’t solve widespread inequality alone, it’s a step in the right direction.

So what are we waiting for?

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