Black Women and the Pay Gap

How to negotiate your way to financial success

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We’ve all heard this scary statistic about the pay gap between men and women: Women earn about 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes. For black women, however, that gap is more like a gulf.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, African American women earn 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

The socioeconomic side of the pay gap equation is rooted in conditioning, racism, and gender discrimination. The Mars—Venus part of the equation, however, may have more to do with the fact that many women do not feel comfortable when it comes to negotiating for fair pay.  Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says men initiate negotiations four times as often as women. In addition, a study on social conditioning and gender differences found that only 7% of females graduating professional school attempted to negotiate their first salary compared to 57% of men.

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That’s a costly move when you consider the following data from womendontask.com:

  • Failure to negotiate a first salary can cause an individual to lose more than $500,000 by the age of 60.
  • Women pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car.
  • Women run about 40% of businesses in the U.S., but receive only 2.3% of the available equity capital needed for growth. Male-owned companies receive the other 97.7%.

The next time you find yourself in a financial negotiation, try the following:

1. Raise your expectations: Don’t feel like you must accept the first offer you receive. According to WomenDontAsk.com, women expect to earn between 3% and 32% less than men for the same job. In addition, men expect to earn 13% more during their first year of full-time work and 32% more over their careers.

2. Know what you’re worth: Find out what other people in similar professions are making. Talk to friends in your profession. Websites such as Payscale.com and Salary.com can also be helpful.

3. Don’t be confrontational: Women who promote their ambitions are often labeled as “pushy,” and are treated accordingly in corporate structures and loan negotiations. These stereotypes are deeply ingrained into our culture. Be direct, but use style, charm, and finesse.

4. Practice makes perfect: Whether it’s practicing in front of a mirror or practicing with a friend, rehearse what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Visualize yourself in the interview or salary negotiation and rehearse what it’s like to be that person. Do this on a regular basis. You don’t want to wait until the night before your year-end performance review to practice what you’re going to say.

5. Keep your options open: Always explore what’s happening in your job market. Keep up with your contacts and networking. It is always better to negotiate when you feel like you have other options. It will give you a sense of power.

We applaud the efforts of the feminists and legislators for trying to level the playing field when it comes to women and equal pay. As my mother always told me, however, if you wait for somebody to fix your world you will be waiting for a very long time.