Three Things We Should Be Teaching Young Women About Instead of the Gender Pay Gap
The mythical gender pay gap has again appeared out of the mists of fairytale land to grace the news cycle. This time in reference to the US Women’s Soccer team. The US Women’s Soccer team won its fourth Women’s World Cup championship this year, and now people are calling for “equal pay for equal work,” saying that the members of the US Women’s Soccer team should be paid the same as the US Men’s Soccer team. In fact, the discussion over this pay gap has become so popular that Secret deodorant has offered to pay $23,000 per player, a total of $529,000 to help close the gap.
Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing why the gender pay gap is mythical – my colleague, Jessi Troyan, has done a much better and more thorough job than I ever could in her article. What I want to discuss is three things we should be teaching girls about instead of the gender pay gap.
- How to Negotiate Your Salary
Although all working people encounter this at some point in their lives, it simply isn’t taught in schools. Whether you’re starting a new job or asking for a raise, knowing how to effectively negotiate your salary is important to ensuring that you are getting paid for the value you are bringing to your current role.
This is an important skill for everyone to learn, but if we’re looking at gender gaps, there is a significant gap between the number of men and the number of women who negotiate their salary. According to research done by the staffing firm Robert Half, only 39% of workers negotiated their salaries during their last job offer. If you break that up by gender, 46% of men negotiated their salaries while only 34% of women did. Believe it or not, negotiating your salary can make a big difference for your paycheck. Glassdoor suggests that you could be missing out on $7500 a year by not negotiating your salary and even more when you consider that bonuses and raises are often a percentage of your base salary. So, it’s worth your time financially to learn how to negotiate your salary.
As a personal side note, I found it incredibly empowering as a woman, young adult, and new professional to learn how to negotiate my salary. It gave me a new sense of confidence and new tools to communicate the value I can provide to an employer. I am thankful for those who guided me through that experience. It is a learning process that each individual improves upon over the course of their career, and it is well worth it – not only monetarily but in terms of self-respect gained.
- Basic Economics
I strongly believe all people should have a basic understanding of economics. No, you don’t have to torture yourself with a Ph.D. (like our brilliant Jessi Troyan did) to garner all the intricate knowledge of economics. However, as with many areas of study, just knowing the basics can significantly improve your life. Economics can often seem complicated and esoteric, but in reality it governs a lot of parts of every-day life and knowing how it works not only brings insight into parts of life previously misunderstood, but it can help to make you a more savvy consumer and voter.
Economics touches every area of life. And it’s not just about the job market or taxes that we hear about so much on the news. The formal definition of economics is “the study of production, consumption, and the transfer of wealth.” Basically, that just means that economics is the study of how we interact with each other in a transactional sense.
You make transactions every day – at the grocery store, with the auto mechanic, when you choose what school to send your kids to (public, private, homeschool, etc.). Even where you decide to go to church can be affected by economics. Having some basic economic literacy, therefore, can improve the decisions we make that affect even the most mundane and normal aspects of our lives.
As citizens of a constitutional republic, we vote on most issues – whether directly on a ballot or indirectly through our representatives. Having a basic level of economic literacy can keep us well-informed on the issues we vote for. In addition, it can help us to better appreciate and understand the issues that our representatives face on local, state, and national levels. Our votes affect not only ourselves but other people, and knowing basic economic principles can help us to make better choices both directly and in choosing who represents our values.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to take a half-semester basic economics course in high school and a political economy course in undergrad. Not everyone gets those opportunities, but if we hope to empower the next generation of women and young adults, we should hand them the tool of economic literacy. They may not all sign up for the deep dive, but spending some time in the shallow end can help them to better navigate the waters of life later on.
Here are three great resources for learning basic economics:
- The Foundation for Economic Education
- The Concise Guide to Economics by Jim Cox
- Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
- Your Value is Not Determined by Your Pay Check
As a society, we often teach young people about the value of confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect. However, when we focus on the gender pay gap, we often send the message that a woman or a person’s value is tied to how much money they make.
I’ve heard a lot of phrases like “Women should get paid what they’re worth.” While it’s a well-meaning phrase, it dangerously implies that the money you earn can approximate your value, and that simply isn’t true.
Telling employees they should be “paid what they’re worth,” also implies that those who receive lower wages are “worth less” than those who receive higher wages, and that is on its face not true. Arthur Brooks’ book The Conservative Heart outlines the importance of dignity in work, and his example of the Doe Fund is a great reminder that your value and dignity aren’t tied to your job. You can find meaning in any work you do at any pay level.
It’s also important to remember that the pay check you receive isn’t everything in life. While it is important to be able to provide for yourself and your loved ones, finding work you enjoy and building relationships adds a sense of meaning to life that money by itself can’t.
If we hope to see a more prosperous future for all, it is important that we begin teaching these lessons to youth who will grow up to be fully-fledged members of our society. How to negotiate your salary, basic economics, and the truth that your value is not determined by your paycheck are three vital lessons to begin with in training future professionals – especially if we hope for them to become happy, healthy, and savvy people.
Amanda Kieffer is the Communications Associate for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.