The gender pay gap, also known as the gender wage gap, is one the most pervasive financial issues for women in America — and it’s even wider for women of color. In 2017, women in the U.S. earned just 82% of what men earned, according to the Pew Research Center.
The median woman worker gets paid 83 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, it's 65 cents for black women and 59 cents for Hispanic women.
It can be disheartening as a woman to think that your hard work won’t be rewarded fairly. But one of the best things you can do for woman-kind, however, is also one of the best things you can do for yourself: If you’re a woman, you can increase your own salary or hourly wage. Here's how.
1. When applying for jobs, don’t share your salary history
One way the gender pay gap has persisted is many industries’ insistence on basing your starting salary on your pay at previous jobs, meaning that if you start making less than men, it’s nearly impossible to catch up. (When Google stopped asking the question in 2015, new female hires’ starting pay went up 30%!)
Several cities and states have outlawed asking about salary history, including Massachusetts, California, New York City and Chicago, but if you live elsewhere, you can still defer from providing your salary history. Alison Green, who writes the popular blog Ask A Manager, has instructed her readers to answer the question by saying, “That’s confidential, but I’m seeking $XX.”
2. When talking to friends, do share your salary history
When applying for jobs, you need to know what you’re worth. Like we said, if you undervalue yourself, it can be hard to catch up. Sites like Glassdoor share salary estimates that can be helpful, but there’s nothing like knowing hard numbers from people with similar experience.
Start the conversation with friends by sharing what you make or what you are planning on asking for, and ask if that sounds fair — then wait and see where the conversation goes. (It’s best to talk to people who aren’t at your current company. Instead, talk to former coworkers or friends at different companies.)
Men and women alike can support women new to the workplace by volunteering salary information to them.
Here's a helpful guide to help you figure out if you're underpaid — and some tips on what to do about it.
3. Learn how to negotiate
One of the reasons for the pervasive pay gap is that women are less likely than men to negotiate their salaries. Don’t leave money on the table that would have been picked up by man by learning to negotiate. Practice with a friend, read our tips on how to negotiate with your boss or just remember this simple phrase: “Is there any flexibility in that number?”
4. Be your own biggest advocate
Negotiation doesn’t stop when you sign your employment contract. Your annual reviews are another chance to increase your pay, but you have to know what you’re asking for and why you deserve it. Keep track of your wins at your job, especially when you’ve gone above and beyond your job duties.
Learn how to keep your resume up to date.
5. Join a union
Unions advocate for workers, including higher wages, better benefits and safer work environments, and the result is that the pay gap is much lower for members of unions — unionized women make 95 cents for every $1 unionized men make. By joining a company that has union jobs, you are entering a company that has salary transparency and employee protections. When job searching, seek out companies that already have union affiliations and take advantage of collective bargaining.
Read more about the wage gap, the Equal Pay Act and how to advocate for equal wages for women.