On Equal Pay Day, the Women’s Studies department hosted a salary negotiation workshop designed to instruct young men and women the importance of negotiation in bridging the gaps in salary across America. Besides learning about the state of the wage gap itself, we were given a workbook, a lot of free stuff, and an invaluable lesson.
The workshop began with a discussion about why many never negotiated for their salary or wages, or why when they did it was simply an agreement to whatever the employer was willing to offer them. Many girls said they were afraid of seeming ‘overpowering’ or bossy and forever having that label follow them around. Others said that, although they were aware of the wage gap (which is 30 cents to the dollar), they were comfortable with the amount they were getting paid.
Before even beginning negotiations, we were told that the most important part, not only of negotiation but for the remainder of our careers and education, is understanding our worth and value.
In a society ruled by patriarchal values, the minority groups are often considered less important and less valuable than those who live and thrive in the topmost level (aka white men). Often, we settle for what is given to us, no matter how unfair it is.
There are plenty of reasons for the continuation of the wage gap in 2019, and one of them is unrecognized value in the lives of those who have never been recognized. This is especially true for Hispanic women, who according to the American Association of University Women, make 54% of what white men make, and American Indian women who make 57%, and black women who make 62%.
The role of women in the workplace has always been filled with sexism, both subtle and explicit. Women-centric professions are devalued, unless taken over by men. Teaching, for example, used to be a primarily male-dominated profession until it was not. Now it is viewed as a maternal role and the increasingly low wages of teachers reflect this.
The value of self is essential to fight for what is owed to us. The best way to fight for a voice that is loud and clear in a society that only listens to wealthiest, and whitest, of voices will push the fight for equality and representation to its limits. Women have often fought for their place in society amongst the men, and now that they are brushing shoulders in the workplace and slowly, but surely trickling into male-dominated fields, it’s important to remember how valuable these women are in the first place.
This is the first step of salary negotiation, and I think, the first step to a life dedicated to recognition and representation in a world that forgets to listen.