Addressing the wage gap

Of all the reasons women are paid less than men for the same work, is the chief culprit women themselves?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

This will probably elicit some eye rolls, but we have a big labor problem in this country that’s not getting much better — women in the U.S. who work full-time, year round, on average still make just 80% of what men do.

It’s not supposed to be this way. It’s already technically illegal for American companies to pay a woman less than a man for the same work. Yet, here we are.

An interesting take on this controversial issue comes from Joanna Burish, broker and MBA team member with Karl Dettmann for a local Northwestern Mutual office, and president of MTI-RED LLC, a real estate development and consulting firm.

“There are various reasons for this discrepancy and yes, the companies’ historical philosophies and process are part of the issue,” Burish admits. “Make no mistake about it though, we’d be in blatant denial if we didn’t admit that part of the issue is that women generally do not ask for more or negotiate on behalf of themselves.”

Historically, and clearly still today, companies offer women lower starting salaries, especially as one goes up the ladder in their career, Burish notes. When it comes to creating growth opportunities for themselves, again women lag behind in their own self-belief. “It baffles me every time I see or hear this: If there are 10 crucial skills that a particular job opportunity calls for, here is the self-talk differential between men and women:

“Man — ‘I know four of the 10, I got this!’

“Woman — ‘I’ve worked with eight of these but gosh, I’ve never done those last two. I don’t believe I’m adequate for this position so I won’t apply.’

“You would not believe how often this happens!” Burish exclaims. “This is not to imply that men lie and women don’t. It simply shows that men are willing to take a chance on themselves and figure it out as they go. They know that sometimes having the capacity is just as strong as having actual experience doing that job. Succeeding is about having a balance of various capacities for that job and making it your own.”

This is where the secret to changing this differential exists, says Burish. When men are offered a salary and benefits package or a raise, or even getting the corner office, their instinct is to negotiate. Women on the other hand generally do not and accept what they’ve been offered, even though they know they deserve more.



Part of this is due to social upbringing and expectations of “how women should behave,” says Burish. “While nice girls don’t always finish last, they sure don’t make it easier on themselves getting to where they’re capable of or realizing their big dreams. They get in their own way due to the social stories they tell themselves or believed growing up.”

Burish, who’s currently working on a book on this very subject, offers the following seven tips for women to become better advocates for themselves when it comes time to negotiate their salary or a raise:

1. Rule #1 — Everything is negotiable and you always have more power than you think. Don’t ask to negotiate, just do it.

2. Knowledge is power — Research as much as you can prior to your interview or meeting. During the meeting show mindfulness of your own skillset and how you can add value to help your boss and company meet those goals.

3. Find out more on the person you’re meeting with — their preferences, family, hobbies, and if you can, their personality style.

4. Know what your “ask” is. Always ask high, as this is a negotiation, but be realistic. Know what your walk-away point is, and know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).

5. Have data and facts to back up your points of view on this ask.

6. Don’t assume you know everything or that everyone is offered the same thing.

7. Know how and when to say “no.” It’s okay — you and they will survive.

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