RECENTLY, a friend was tasked with hiring a new employee. He interviewed an impressive candidate who was a natural fit, but he said there was just one problem – she had a three-year-old child, so he was concerned with her reliability. Would she request more time off? Come in late if she couldn’t find child care? Call in sick more often?
The friend would not describe himself as biased, but when I asked if he would say the same of a male worker with a three year old, he was silent. In the end, she got the job. But this real-world scenario reinforces the growing amount of research that reveals how unfavourable workplaces can be for women.
There are a number of reasons the pay gap exists. “Women don’t negotiate” has been tossed around as an explanation. But research suggests it is not entirely true.
A 2018 study found that women ask for raises and promotions as often as men, but they’re just less likely to get what they want.
It might be because when women are assertive in the workplace, they’re viewed as unlikeable or demanding, according to a 2016 study. Negotiating is trickier for women and experts agree that it is important for women to have groups where they can discuss salary and workplace issues openly.
The following snippets come from Working Woman’s Handbook, which is your guide to learning to dodge office landmines, fight bias and not burn out in the process.
Jessica Bennett, a gender editor, describes impostor syndrome as a “nagging feeling that you don’t belong”. It tends to hit women and minority groups harder.
Researchers cited a confidence gap. Men tend to overestimate their abilities, while women consistently underestimate theirs. In a culture that glorifies confidence, even when it is unfounded, it is easy to see why this gap can make it harder for women to get ahead.
“Try to own the role you played in your success by forbidding yourself from falling back on excuses,” she said.
“Practise saying these words out loud: ‘I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.’”
Working mothers face the “motherhood penalty”- a series of workplace disadvantages like lower starting salaries and higher expectations for competence and punctuality. Oh, and mothers are less likely to be hired to begin with, too.
The pressure to work against social biases is exhausting, especially when those biases affect your bottom line. What’s more, women still do nearly three times as much unpaid domestic work as men, according to a UN report.
We praise women who seem to do it all, but if we want to narrow this gap, we should stop glorifying stress, Elaine Welteroth, an author, said.
When women fail, they tend to blame it on their ability, while men are more likely to point to outside forces. It is great to own up to your mistakes, but this can go too far, making it harder to bounce back and take future risks.
But you can get better at failure. Self-compassion is a good place to start, said Rachel Simmons, the author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.
When you do fail, don’t be too hard on yourself.
When we talk about inequality, we often place the burden of finding a solution on the disadvantaged group. Self-compassion doesn’t require women to find a solution, but it simply asks us to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Perhaps one way to do that is to find voices that echo our frustrations, remind us that we’re not crazy and offer small ways to fight back.
The Working Woman’s Handbook is a series of guidelines to help navigate those unique challenges.
Researchers said salary transparency is an important first step towards closing the wage gap between women and men. A good starting place is websites that collect salary and income goals.
If you do feel comfortable approaching a colleague, Devon Smiley, a negotiation expert, advised being open about your motivations and to remember that you can’t expect to collect that information from other people without also sharing your own. Approach this with caution; while it is illegal for employers to explicitly prohibit you from sharing salary information, many workers are still penalised in ways that are difficult to prove.
If you are unsure of what to say, try one of the following approaches:
“I’m preparing for a review with our manager and we’re going to be discussing salary. Would you be open to exchanging some ballpark information on what we’re earning in this role?”
“I was reading an article about salaries in our field and the average of X seemed high to me. Do you think that’s a real average or does it sound odd?”
“I know the company frowns on sharing salaries, but I’m worried that since we don’t share that information we’re at a disadvantage in navigating the pay scale. Would you be comfortable sharing some of our experiences on negotiation and general salary ranges so we’re both better positioned for the reviews coming up?”
This first article appeared in The New York Times.