Cutting the Gender Wage Gap

iStock_000030600524SmallEvery year we find that women are still earning less than men. Many reasons are given for this fact, including things like taking time off for children; picking low paying jobs; only working part time and yes, discrimination. So, if you want to make as much as the big BOYS, take the steps that you can control and consider the following actions.

Pick the right field of study.

Certain fields of study lead to higher paying careers. You shouldn’t base your entire life’s earning potential on a field just because you like to study it. You must figure out how you will make it pay.

Check out the careers that pay well and then back into a field of study that you find interesting! provides this chart:

Majors That Pay You Back

Majors That Pay You Back Methodology
Annual pay for bachelor’s graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have two years of experience; mid-career graduates have 15 years. See full methodology.

Maybe you like helping people get well and think you want to be a nurse. Did you know that there is a vast difference in the salaries that different kinds of nurses make? Other medical fields might pay even better and be even more rewarding (why not be a PA or a physician instead?).

Did you know that unless you get a masters degree you are likely to earn less than $65K a year for full time RN work? This after 4 or more grueling years of medical and science classes at university.

I studied psychology in school. I didn’t think about what that meant from a job or an earnings potential viewpoint. Later, I ended up going back for computer sciences (which I enjoyed even more) so that my earnings potential was greater. You can read my entire story in Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife.

Aggressively seek the highest paying jobs in the field.

Learn what it takes to get the big bucks in your field. Do you need practical experience to even land a job? If so, seek out that experience in either a paid or unpaid internship. Look and compete for the high profile, recognizable ones that will get you noticed.

Translate the skills and experience you do have into easily identifiable reasons you will do well in your new job. Recently I read a book about Mary Sherman Morgan (Rocket Girl) that demonstrates how she got her foot in the door in the engineering department of an aviation company in post world war II competition with returning engineer vets – all without having completed her degree.

Hang out with folks who can help you get a foot in the door. Volunteer where they do, read what they write (or are reading), get introduced through mutual acquaintances, join their clubs, attend the schools from which they graduated.

At my last employer, unbeknownst to me at the time, many of the executive level officers all attended the same private college. Once I had a chance to attend weekend classes there, I gained more credibility.

Know what others doing your job are being paid.

Salary levels are still quite secretive but it is getting easier to find out what most people in your career at your level do earn. Sites such as can help. President Obama doesn’t do much that I like, but he is trying to help narrow the gender wage gap by creating some transparency – according to an April 7, 2014 Bloomberg article  which says:

“… he signed two executive orders: The first prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against the odd employee who might willingly share his (or, more rarely, her) salary. The second instructs the Labor Department to keep wage-related data in a way that shows the disparities and requires employers to demonstrate that differences in pay between male and female employees doing the same work are based on something other than their sex.”

Ask him to step up to domestic duties.

If you are married and working (even if you work from home), I think that couples should share the domestic and child raising duties and that women have a right to ask their partners to step up to their responsibility as a spouse and a father. I’m a baby boomer aged person and I think that my sons are doing much better at this than their father did – but I suspect there is still a lot of room for improvement!

Why shouldn’t he be the one to stay home with that newborn baby and get up in the middle of the night to feed it? Why shouldn’t he be the one to take time off to go get the sick kid from school?

Do the job and do it well.

In order to be paid well, you have to do the job. You need to be there, and on time. You need to put in the extra time when it is necessary. You need to take the risks to take on the difficult assignments and you need to learn to stand up under pressure, criticism, jealousy and competition.

You need to stand on your own two feet and make your own decisions (and learn to make many more good decisions than bad ones!) – then back them up with action. If you aim to be a CEO, you have to train yourself to be CEO material. You don’t get to just sit on the sidelines and think that EEO laws will require you to be promoted.

Mary Barra (GM); Meg Whitman (HP); Virgina Rometty (IBM); Marillyn Hewson (Lockheed) and Ursula Burns (Xeorx) didn’t sideline themselves. They worked long, hard and smart to get to the top spot (and they didn’t choose a low paying field either!).

How are you working to narrow the gender wage gap?


Cutting the Gender Wage Gap — 3 Comments

  1. In the theatre world women are typically paid less than men. It’s all about supply and demand. There are just so many more women in the business vying for roles. Producers know if one woman doesn’t accept the contract as is, someone just as talented will step in and do it for less.

  2. I am a university professor and in the UK male university professors still earn 17% more than female ones. It is very hard to know what others around you earn – pay is not that transparent. We ra edoing all possible to remedy the situation but it boild down to negotiation and market value; and women generally publish less and apply for fewer grants.

    • Very interesting. Your comment speaks to my last point. We women have to step up and compete – do what it takes to do the best job around – there shouldn’t be free rides, but…. there should be opportunity and we have to find a way to let women have the time away from historical roles and societal expectations so that they can do that best job.

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