4 Steps to Confront the Gender Wage Gap as a Young Professional

By Nicole E. Spears

The gender gapSeniority is a longstanding criterion in the workplace. If you stack the hours that the men logged for all those years that women were content at home in the kitchen, then the gender wage gap begins to make sense. Still don’t see it that way? Then let’s compare notes on the modern dispute of gender roles in mankind’s earliest hunter-gatherer societies.

Uncomfortable? That would be the point.

This isn’t an easy conversation to start, particularly not after exiting academia and entering the workplace. I have since confronted days, conversations, even distinct personas that have shed light on the many ways that this issue is continually forced into the shadows of stigma. I suddenly found myself reading a plethora of perspectives on the topic, yet still hesitating to even bring the topic up amongst peers. I came back around after realizing that I’d gladly accept the costs of having a point of view for the sake of any stab at making an impact.

Avoid falling victim to the millennial generation’s confrontation stigma and get yourself comfortable with this one – with a female candidate climbing the ranks for the 2016 US Presidential election, the discourse isn’t dying down anytime soon.

Step 1: Understand, then contextualize.

Read, read, read some more. The data we have to contextualize the gender wage gap is mindblowing. You could wait until theSkimm Guide is published, but there’s a great discourse happening on many of the sites you probably visit every day. Come across something you disagree with? Even better. You can only begin to form your authentic opinion by seeing the whole picture.

The actual gap – and the tangential consequences of it – vary industry by industry. As a female in the field of media, I had a lot of resources to jump to. Some of my favorite reads on the topic include…

Step 2: Take your stance.

Make having a point of view popular again, just don’t feel the need to shove it down other people’s throats once you do. You’ve invested your time in getting your bearings – don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your thoughts. The more discourse we can have without polarizing one another, the closer we’ll get to the solution.

With stress on the word “discourse,” trust your authentic voice. Forming an opinion does not have to equate to building social tension.

Step 3: Learn how to negotiate.

The most direct way you can contribute to closing the gender wage gap is by knowing – and realizing – your professional self-worth. Women and men alike should enter the job search confident in their ability to communicate their value in both words and numbers. (Can you guess which one my JSchool education had me better prepared to do?)

Some day the literal offer will be on the table, and you’ll have to question whether or not to negotiate. Is my time and talent worth more than this? If so, by how much? Whether or not you choose to enter negotiations is a matter of choice and circumstance, but being prepared will lend wisdom and confidence when the time comes.

Step 4: Continue to open the dialogue.

Not okay with waiting until 2058 to close the gap, as is currently projected? In my opinion, it’s up to the newest members of the working class to spark the conversations that will make the change. Efforts like raising the minimum wage, bolstering maternity and paternity leave programs and even incorporating gender-neutral language in the workplace can accelerate the equity.

Oh, and fangirling Emma Watson can’t hurt, either.

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