The Pink Ceiling - women still battle gender pay gap

The Journal Record, February 24th, 2012

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THE PINK CEILING Women still earn less than men in the workplace, but causes are varied

By Heide Brandes

Despite the equal pay movement in America, a recent study shows that women are still making less than their male counterparts, and that pay gap is starting as early as graduation from college. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, women with the same college education as the male graduates are making 17 percent less straight out of college, and although cultural stereotypes still fuel that trend, women aren’t helping themselves as much as they could either. “It’s time for every woman to take on the gender pay gap,” said Executive Coach Ann Daly PhD, founder of, an online career accelerator for women, and national speaker on career issues for women. “That gap still exists because it’s ingrained very deep in our cultural expectations that men are seen as more powerful and worthy in the workplace. According to Daly, when the gender pay gap begins as soon as graduation, the effects can last a lifetime. Although the pay gap has lessened in the past 10 years, rising to women earning 81 percent as much as men compared to 78 percent 10 years ago, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the gap still exists. Compounded, however, women employees are leaving millions on the table. A 22-year-old woman who negotiates a 2.7 percent increase in a $35,000 starting salary, in comparison to a male counterpart who negotiates for a 4.3 percent increase in the same offer, loses up to $2 million over her lifetime, says Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of the book “Women Don’t Ask.” “We have made a lot of progress in that the percentage of pay has progressed, but why are powerful women making as much as men an exception, and not the rule?” Daly said. “Women are not stupid. They realize there is a penalty to pay by speaking up or demanding compensation. They know they’ll be looked at as ‘not a team player’ or as ‘bossy.’”

MEN & WOMEN At the University of Central Oklahoma, Dr. Renee Warning, associate professor in the Department of Management, and Dr. F. Robert Buchanan, assistant professor of management, are deeply aware of the pay gap between women and men and why that gap exists. The two have written numerous research articles on the subject. “There is no denying that women get paid less, and there is always a reason behind it,” said Dr. Warning. “We are finding that there is still a bias that women won’t stay in that position very long. There is also a feeling that women don’t negotiate for wages as well as a man does.” Dr. Buchanan said that women are not raised to be as aggressive in asking for what they want as men are, and right out of college, women are settling for less compensation. “A female is not taught to be as assertive when they ask for initial pay, and then with each performance review, that gap widens,” he said. “But, we think females can be trained to be assertive, but they need female role models.” However, Warning said, women are still punished if they are too assertive in the workplace. Whereas a man is viewed as outgoing and a “go-getter” if asking for what he feels he is worth, women on the other hand are viewed as “creating problems.” “How do we fix it? That’s a great question,” said Daly. “For one, women individually need to practice speaking up and saying what they are worth. They need to speak in concrete measurements and terms and leave emotion out of it.” Women can also form groups in the workplace to support each other, she said. “Women need to have a posse, so if they don’t feel they are being listened to, they can speak up for each other. On an organizational level, it’s easy to crunch numbers to see if women in the company are being paid equally, and if not, why not?” Dr. Warning agreed, saying many times women do not support each other in the workplace. “We’ve written several articles on our research that show that women would rather work for a man than woman, and women in leadership positions would rather promote a man than a woman,” Warning said. “There’s a paradox there. We call it the ‘Pink Ceiling.’ Sometimes as women, we create our own glass ceilings. When I consult with business on conflicts in the workplace, more than 50 percent are caused by women being hostile to other women.”

CLOSING THE GAP When the women of Walmart sued the company for unfair compensation and promotions, the biggest point they pushed was that the company did not have clear guidelines on how employees were evaluated or promoted, which created a culture of subjectivity. “Employers need to be vigilant in setting fair and equitable performance review structures that clearly states the basis on how people get raises or promotions,” Daly said. “That way, you have measurable results and not just an emotional response. Companies should put in place objective and transparent criteria and train managers to use that system.” In a 2011 report by Catalyst, a nonprofit membership organization for expanding opportunities for women and business, the causes behind the gap are highly debated. Some studies say the pay gap is due to non-discriminatory factors like interrupted careers, taking time off for family reasons or that women tend to be employed in “helping” and support positions. In addition, the study shows that women cluster in lower-paying positions. Yet the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows a different side. Using an inclusive 15-year time frame accounting for women’s less work hours and their years of earning nothing due to family care, the report shows that women in their prime years earned 62 percent less than men. During those 15 years, the average woman earned $273,592 and men earned $722,693. The study also showed that women who are married and have children under 18 were more likely to be low earners and have fewer hours while married men with children had higher earnings and more work hours. “I think with what is happening, women can be trained to be more aggressive in negotiations and could be trained in college with those negotiating skills,” said Dr. Buchanan. “We would love to see that happen. We would love to have females in college trained, especially by females who know how to do negotiations. Females need to ask for compensation the way men do without being emotionally involved.”