And It May Actually Be Worse Than We Thought

Women make $.80 for every dollar men earn in the workforce, right? That’s the most common statistic that’s floated around.

But actually, according to a recent study by the Women’s Policy Research Institute, the picture is much worse. The study found that over a 15-year period, women earn barely half of what men earn—only $.49 on the dollar.

The study found that women earn less than men across almost all occupations for which there was enough data to test the theory. And for jobs performed by predominantly men or women, the jobs dominated by women paid approximately $.66 on the dollar compared to those dominated by men.

These statistics are also affected by race. Across the board, women of color earned less than white women. 

So what can women do if they believe they are being paid less than male coworkers?

1. Check your employment contract

Some employment contracts expressly forbid employees discussing their compensation with each other. But it may be impossible to determine whether you’re being underpaid unless you can have a frank conversation with your coworkers.

At the beginning of this process, check your contract to see whether there are any limits to what you can discuss with your co-workers.

2. Know the going rate

What’s the average salary for your position, level of experience, and industry in the area where you live? Sites like Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and Payscale.com can give you a sense of whether you’re being underpaid across the board.

3. Know what is and isn’t acceptable

It’s very common for women in this position to assume that there’s a legitimate reason why a male coworker is earning more: maybe his previous job paid him more, for instance, or he negotiated for a higher salary when he was hired.

These generally aren’t legitimate reasons to pay women less in the workplace. However, employers are often allowed to pay workers different salaries if they can prove that the pay is based on an established merit or seniority system.

4. Talk to your boss

This can be difficult depending on the work situation. It’s always best to keep the conversation non-adversarial and fact-based—here’s where your statistics about average pay from Payscale.com and other websites may help.

There may be legitimate reasons why a male co-worker is earning more than you: he brings in higher-level clients, for instance, or has a higher level of education or more seniority. It can help to start this conversation with your boss from a place of seeking to understand the reason for the pay gap, rather than striking a more adversarial tone.

5. Bring it up with HR

Your Human Resources department may be able to help you if your boss won’t—or if you don’t feel comfortable bringing it up to your boss in the first place.

Human Resources departments are supposed to advocate for their employees, but it doesn’t always work that way in practice. However, the Equal Pay Act expects women and men to be paid equally, and there are real legal consequences for violating that law.

After your conversation with HR, ask how long it should take for you to hear back about your request. If you don’t hear back within that time, move to Step 6.

6. Talk to a lawyer

If you’ve had the conversation with your boss and HR, you haven’t received an adequate explanation of the pay gap, and no move has been made to resolve your issue, you do have legal recourse.

Employers frequently respond more quickly when they know an employee is working with a lawyer. Often cases don’t have to go to court to achieve a positive outcome. However, an experienced employment lawyer will be ready to fight for your rights in court if need be.

If you’re being paid less than male workers, we can help. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.