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As proud Americans, we like to believe we have come a long way since man’s first step on the moon. But, how far have we truly progressed? In terms of closing the wage gap, the answer is not very far. As a result, women everywhere are creatively closing the gap on their own terms.
In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act passed, women were earning 59 percent less than men. During the 1970s, the average median wage for a man was approximately $36,207 annually while a woman might hope to earn $21,297 for the same job, amounting to an astounding 40 percent wage gap. Progress toward equal rights progressed at a snail’s pace. That 40 percent gap in the 70s closed to a 38 percent gap in the 80s; a shift so small it wasn’t worth celebrating. Through the 1990s and 2000s, the gap has been reduced to 33 percent. This means the wage gap has changed at a rate of less than a half a penny per year.
Half a century later and women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work, let alone equal pay for work of equal value. According to the Shriver Report released in 2014, women earn an average 77 cents for every $1 earned by men. Women of color experience a wider gap: For every white, non-Hispanic man’s dollar, African-American women earn a mere 64 cents and Latinas 55 cents. Over 15 years, a typical woman loses $499,101 due to pay inequity, according to the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Compared to the ’60s, women today have greater access to equal levels of education, and its resulting debts. Also, the American family has changed as more families depend on a woman’s income. Two out of three families depend on a working mom’s salary, according to NOW. A minimum of 28 million children depend on working moms. If there wasn’t a wage gap, poverty rates would divide in half for American families and nearly half a trillion dollars would be added to the national economy. Unfortunately, women are not viewed fairly in the workplace. However, more women are discovering ways to get around the wage gap.
Although the wage gap is discriminatory, many women have taken matters into their own hands and created their own paychecks. There are 8.6 million women-owned businesses adding $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy. Women-owned companies grew three times faster than all privately held businesses at a 28 percent growth. The growing role of women-owned businesses has had a remarkable impact on our economy. The success of women-owned startups proves that removing themselves from unequal and unfair working environments allows women the freedom to fully utilize their business skills, contribute to the economy and create jobs, as well as pay themselves on their own terms.
Women will not wait for men to pay them fair wages or for laws to come in place. As women perceive their roles in the world of business as entrepreneurs and leaders for change, they will rise to power and close the wage gap themselves.
Here are five strategies that women can use to help close the gap.
1. Raise their voices in meetings.
Women must speak up, be heard and not be afraid to make some noise. According to Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, women are often underestimated because they talk significantly less than men. However, they’re in a double bind because they risk being seen as aggressive. As an employee, being seen as an aggressive woman can be damaging. As a boss and business owner, however, being perceived as aggressive can be beneficial, and worth the risk.
2. Pay attention to money matters.
Money opens doors and allows business owners greater privileges, freedoms, and choices. If she doesn’t have revenue, she doesn’t have a business. Women need to stop giving their services for free unless they are doing it strategically. They also shouldn’t be afraid of discussing and acknowledging the value of money openly. As a business owner, there should be no shame in valuing revenue. With increased revenue, women can grow their business, create jobs and contribute to society in a way they could not otherwise.
3. Build strategic alliances.
Many women have been ridiculed, talked down to, ostracized or told they don’t belong where decisions are made. There are ways to overcome these obstacles by building beneficial relationships with people who support their vision, creating an influential personal brand by projecting themselves as experts in their field and always communicating with confidence.
4. Never shrink.
Some women fear being perceived as an attention-seeker or as conceited, so they don’t speak up about their accomplishments in order to seem less intimidating. As an employee, this might be a beneficial tactic to play nice for office politics. As a business owner, however, there are many worse characteristics than being seen as conceited or intimidating.
Inept, inexperienced or unskillful are examples of what women risk being perceived as when they don’t speak up and take up space unapologetically. If a woman is at the table, that means she earned it. She did not rise to her current position by accident. Shrinking never benefits a woman; it only delays her voice from being heard and taken seriously.
5. Be fair to women.
Pay women employees equally and start the much-needed shift in the workplace. When women relaunch a career after working at home as a full-time caregiver for children or parents, combat ageism and sexism by giving those relaunchers an equal opportunity. Even if other women’s paths were different and didn’t include a career break, refrain from harsh judgment and instead remember that by giving women fair opportunities we are contributing to history in the making.