Confronting the Equal Pay Myth

by | September 24, 2012
filed under Feminism

by Renee Mitson

Renee is a public relations and social media professional who recently moved from Boston to Toronto. She has a B.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Simmons College and a M.A. in Media Production from Ryerson University. She is interested in confronting gender issues in the workplace and creating a strategy for gender equality in the business world.

Many will argue that men and women are paid not only equally, but also fairly. The first point they make is usually that men work longer hours, followed by the fact that women like comfortable positions that don’t involve risk, and then the entire discussion is closed up in a tight little package with the argument that women are busy having babies, and what are men doing that whole time? Right, working.

We can argue till we are blue in the face that women in the SAME POSITION get paid less (such as my friend who got offered 11K less than her fellow graduate and friend for the same position when she had a higher GPA and more experience in a computer engineering position). We can argue that women do not “choose” lower paying jobs, and that last year more women graduated from law school than men. Going by that statistic and the one-sided logic alone, it should only be a matter of months before women are out-earning men, right?

We all know this argument is crap so let’s not insult ourselves by having it.

As a senior student at university I took a seminar dedicated to salary negotiation. This was especially pertinent as I attended a school that only admitted women and the emphasis was on negotiating salary from a female perspective. The way I see it is this: yes, women will get offered a lower salary on average but unfortunately, due to a variety of socio-cultural factors, women will also accept less.

If I came up to you and said I was going to offer you free food, you would probably say yes. But, if when I arrived with the food, I handed you a can of dog food when I gave everyone else human food, would you still eat it? This is what happens when you take unfair pay while others are getting paid fairly.

Not everyone has the luxury of nit-picking over salary when certain situations become quite dire and urgent, so of course striving for equal pay comes from a place of progress, rather than necessity. I know there are extenuating circumstances that may be guiding your employment decisions, but as a general practice taking less than what you deserve is feeding the wrong beast – you are telling your employer he can routinely underpay you and that you will accept it – he or she knows this because that is the first impression you made. This mind-set applies to all marginalized groups that are being offered sub-par employment packages.

In a perfect world everyone would be offered a fair wage for fair work, but in the meantime it may require fighting fire with fire. Often those offered an employment package are too quick to say “yes” and take whatever deal comes their way. But the position has been offered, you have all the power: think about what you want and most of all, do some research. Compare similar salaries in your area as well as job responsibilities, and then come back with a counter offer that explains why you DESERVE more than what you are being offered and you have the information to prove it.

It is through this careful diligence that these discrepancies can be fought against on the ground level. Many argue that marginalized groups are actually given the same opportunities as everyone else. Right now that is not true, but in the meantime we should still make a run to take what we deserve.

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

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