Category: Pay Equality

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Equality on Independence Day

Photo courtesy of Ishtodo

Reflecting on our celebration of independence on this 4th of July holiday, let’s remember that the Declaration of Independence is predicated first and foremost on the premise of equality.  Now in our 242nd year since that declaration was signed, many groups of people in this country that should be governed “for the people, by the people” are still woefully under-represented in public office, still suffer social injustice, and experience profound economic inequalities. That said, our history shows progress. Among the legislative milestones:

  • Abolition of slavery, 1865
  • African-American (male) right to vote, 1870
  • Women’s right to vote, 1920
  • Civil Rights Act, 1964
  • Equal Rights Amendment, 1972*
  • Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990

Of these milestones, it is worth noting that only the Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” has failed to become law. The ERA was reintroduced before Congress in 1982, and has been introduced again every year since then. Passage of the ERA requires a 2/3 majority vote in Congress and ratification by at least 38 states.  In May of this year, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the ERA, although five states who previously ratified it have rescinded their ratification. The struggle is real!

Opposition to the ERA is largely based on the argument that the proposed language would eradicate much of the “protection of women” under current law. Chief among these, and the most inflammatory in our political climate, is the argument that passage of the ERA would be used to roll back current restrictions on abortion, the role of women in combat, the separation of public restrooms/locker rooms, etc. Each of these is political speculation, but certainly effective in suppressing ratification.

Some believe that the protection of women is already guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Whether you agree with that or believe that the ERA should be ratified and signed into law, the debate underscores the great extent to which men in power, whether for or against ratification, are still making the decisions on what women can and cannot do for their livelihood, their families, and their health.

Evidence that women are far from equal in this country abounds:

We clearly have a lot of work to do to advance women in leadership and to shape policy that will protect women, their families, and the economic outlook for our country. In the next month, Momentum will present a new three-year strategic plan to our Board of Directors. Together we can greatly improve conditions for the women in our state through engaging men in determining policy, developing leadership in emerging women leaders, collecting the data to show our problem areas and progress going forward, and unifying our strength as women leaders in service to our communities.

Happy Independence Day.

 

Women’s History Month

Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month. I have actually been asked by my own son why we need a whole month dedicated to women’s history or black history? Why don’t we just have a history month? Deep breaths. “We celebrate women’s history month and black history month because history, as we have learned it, is white male. It is written by white males and documents the achievements of white males. The contributions of minorities like black people and all women, who often achieved great things despite their repression, are rarely noted or celebrated. Having a dedicated history month helps to rectify that.” He seemed satisfied enough with that answer.

During the month of March we’ll post on the achievements of women, particularly right here in Alabama. At each biennial Momentum conference, we recognize women leaders who have made a significant contribution to community, business, culture or politics. The 2018 awards were held this past Wednesday and honored six new women with a Woman of Impact award. You can meet the new honorees, and each of our past honorees, here.

Last year we interviewed five of our sixteen honorees to get their stories and advice on film. Here are a few inspiring clips from that project.

 

 

Financial Independence

Lady Liberty Financially Independent

In the spirit of independence and the 4th of July, we want to share some thoughts about financial independence. Last week, the Momentum blog posted on money and fearlessness. The post challenged traditional stereotypes regarding finances, particularly a woman’s tendency to rely on a man as the “breadwinner.”

Financial independence is increasingly important for women. Data suggests that 9 out of 10 women will be solely in charge of their finances at some point in their life.

Not only do women have a longer life expectancy than men, but they are expected to work fewer years in the workforce while being paid less than men. Yikes.

Consider these statistics on American women from The Simple Dollar:

  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
    women possess a lower level of financial knowledge than men.
  • In another study by Financial Finesse, a survey found that 65% of women have control of their cash flow (as opposed to 83% of men), 45% of women have an emergency fund (64% for men), and 48% of women pay their credit card balances in full (70% for men).
  • 87% of American elderly in poverty are women.

The site goes on to present a guide to achieving financial independence:

  1. Understand your cash flow.
  2. Determine your goals and set a budget.
  3. Eradicate debt.
  4. Save!
  5. Protect yourself.

For further tips, here is a great Ted Talk about financial literacy delivered by Alexa von Tobel.

However, perhaps the most important tip falls back on this idea of fearlessness. Don’t be afraid to seek financial advice, negotiate your salary, or overstep cultural gender roles. Seek out financial knowledge to better understand what you do not know. Take care of you. Financial independence will never occur without the discipline, humility, and drive required to change.

The principles are simple. The results will change your future.

On money and fearlessness

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Last night, I read the chapter “Fearless About Money” from Arianna Huffington’s book, On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work, and Life.

I was intrigued by this quote:

“Even today, a surprising number of us (women) still think that it’s the man’s job to make and understand money. Far too often we delegate this responsibility and don’t learn enough about money- so of course we fear it. That’s where we have to start. We can never be fearless about money until we demystify it and take charge of it.”

 

Arianna Huffington just might be right. I believe my apprehension about money stems from my lack of understanding it. As a college student, I have only dipped my toe in the vast pool of finances. I have quickly come to realize that being an adult is expensive. As a female, I have always been encouraged to marry a “breadwinner.” The principle isn’t inherently bad, but what if I don’t? What if I stay single? Or marry someone with fewer career aspirations? What if I’m widowed or go through a divorce? These are all common scenarios, and all would require the means to provide for myself regardless of circumstance.

If I’m not careful, fear can creep in and alter my perspective on money. Money has tremendous power as it is viewed as a sense of security and the ultimate measure of success.  If allowed, money can put reigns on people’s lives by binding them to safety instead of pursuing a life of passion. However, as Mellody Hobson once said, “angst won’t be satiated by the size of your bank account.”

So, where’s the balance?

Arianna Huffington says the balance is here: “We need to put  money into proper perspective in our lives, stop avoiding it, learn about it, and stop making it more important than it is.”

As women, I believe the best thing we can do is strive for financial independence, harness the spending power available to us, and, perhaps most importantly, give back. True fearlessness about money will only come from living a life driven by purpose, not financial security.

Change through micro decision-making

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Recently, Fortune published an article entitled “Sallie Krawcheck: Why Corporate America Will Never ‘Get’ Diversity.” Sallie Krawcheck is an incredibly influential business woman in corporate America.  In her article, Sallie Krawcheck attempts to explain why workplace equality fails to grow in the midst of growing awareness. She says,

“Here’s my theory: We tend to talk about the advancement of women as a macro issue—something to be tackled by corporations, industries, society. But in reality, so much of it comes down to the micro.”

She goes on to describe micro forces that hold diversity back and micro decisions that have the potential to push diversity forward. Micro forces include bosses and our individual implicit bias. Micro decisions can be anything from supporting organizations that are “doing it right” to starting your own business. Sallie Krawcheck argues we can only combat micro forces with micro decisions.

photo via entrepreneur.com

Sallie Krawcheck’s thought process behind diversity in the workplace intrigued me. Building diversity is one of the core values at her company, Ellevest. Through that difficult process, Sallie Krawcheck has come to realize that true power comes from the everyday decisions women like you and me make.  If that is the case, then ask yourself this: what am I doing to implement my values into my daily decision-making? How am I pushing forward the mission I believe in?

At the end of the day, we can only be responsible for our own actions. Change starts small, but it has the power to grow into something quite dramatic. Start with you. Step into a mentoring role. Start the negotiation you have been shying away from. Find a network of people who hold similar values as you. Move in a direction that compliments the change you would like to see in the workplace. Change requires tenacity, but don’t be afraid to chase after it.

Potential Paid Leave Program

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Ivanka Trump, a working young mother, proposed a $25 billion federal paid leave program as part of the president’s budget plan, according to the Washington Post. As of right now, the United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee new mothers or fathers a single day of paid time off. The proposal would guarantee six weeks of paid time off, which is less than other developed countries, but it is still progress.

Each state would be responsible for designing and running their own programs. So far, only California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey offer new parent benefits, with New York and Washington D.C. in the works.

As of today, workers in the United States can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after a birth, as long as they’ve worked at a company that employs at least 50 people for a year. Currently, 58 percent of American companies replace at least some wages during maternity leave, and only 12 percent cover some leave for dads.  The proposal includes working mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. The inclusion of men in the proposal encourages equal responsibility in family planning.

Business leaders are hesitant to absorb the expense of paid leave, but there is value in providing financial support for mothers due to the research suggesting a large reduction in employee turnover.

Photo Cred: theglasshammer.com

The government’s initiative to improve benefits for working women by offering paid leave encourages me. The issue is gaining valued attention, since it would traditionally be addressed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. As I begin my career, I don’t want to feel as if I am compromising work for my family, or vice versa. The paid leave program could create a sense of security for working mothers in the United States.  I am grateful this is a topic of discussion in the White House. It shows the importance of having women like Ivanka Trump in positions of power. Women who will acknowledge gender issues and work against them.

 

New Study Suggests Equal Pay Next Century

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

In January, Momentum’s April Benetollo wrote a post entitled “Who Can Wait for 2085?”  The article focused on the study that projected women to achieve parity in leadership in this country in the year 2085.

A new study from the AAUW suggests that women may not achieve pay equity with men until the year 2152. Yes, middle of the next century.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the earnings ratio hasn’t had significant annual change since 2007. The gap has narrowed since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Still, the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.”

-The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, Spring 2017 Edition, AAUW

An early career woman faces the daunting reality of the gender pay gap, especially as she makes career path decisions that affect her long-term salary. Some of the gender pay gap stems from the motherhood penalty, which we will discuss at a later time, but this Forbes article has two suggestions for eliminating the gender pay gap: implementing pay transparency and eliminating negotiation.

photo credit: Wall Street Journal

The idea about implementing pay transparency is establishing unbiased meritocracy within an organization. It would raise awareness among employees, which has been the consistent weapon of choice to combat gender bias. It’s not that organizations are outwardly opposed to equal gender rights, rather organizations are unaware of how their actions affect the gender pay gap. Underlying biases are not always recognizable. Implementing pay transparency could eliminate the issue, forcing organizations to be honest about how employees are rewarded for their work.

Men negotiate salary and benefits 4 times more than women, but when women negotiate, they are likely to earn $1 million more over their lifetime than women who refuse to negotiate. It’s easy to accept a salary lower than market-value during the early career stages, but employees who do are likely to continue being underpaid for the duration of their time with that company. If eliminating negotiation is not an option, then women must find their voice and exude enough confidence to negotiate, even when they may be a minority in the workplace.

The difference between pay equity in 2059 and 2152 is vast. As an early career woman, 2059 means I will see pay equity in my lifetime. 2152 means that my grandchildren will. Entering the workforce with awareness of these issues and the confidence to fight for them will make all the difference.

Middle-School View On Glass Ceiling

April Benetollo, Momentum

A student at my daughter’s middle school interviewed me yesterday for a research paper on the proverbial glass ceiling. As I answered her questions, I couldn’t help thinking about where her generation will find glass ceilings. According to a joint study by Deloitte and the American Alliance for Board Diversity, the total number of women on Fortune 100 boards of directors increased from 16.9% in 2004 to 23% in 2016. That’s a very modest gain given the emphasis on diversity in the last decade. And those are the biggest corporations in America.

photo cred: Elle.com

As you get into the Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 and beyond, the numbers look much worse. At this rate, gender parity at the board of directors level won’t happen in the Fortune 100 until my daughter and her friend are 27 years old. And the chances of parity further down the corporate chain are even further off.

The key to change is awareness for the powers that be, and getting that awareness to translate into changes in training and policy across the organization.

The factors that contribute to the glass ceiling are complex. Here are three of the top issues I see as contributing to barriers that prevent women from those top executive positions.

  1. People in power tend to recruit, train, and promote people who look, think and behave the way they do. This well-known sociological pattern is at the root of why white men, who have been in power for centuries, select young males similar to themselves to mentor, sponsor, train and promote.
  2. Sociological behavior is slow to evolve. Women gained the right to vote less than 100 years ago. Many employment practices, pay policies, and bank lending rules unfairly discriminated against women for decades (some persist today.) For instance, until The Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988,  a woman still had to have a man present at the bank to co-sign for a business loan in many states.
  3. Implicit bias is a frequent occurrence the workplace, politics, education, and even healthcare. Implicit bias affects many groups, and is often based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Women often need to prove themselves more than men, due to the implicit bias that they are inferior. Women are often passed over for choice projects or promotions due to the bias that they cannot handle the work. Women that do manage to reach positions near the top are often perceived as ruthless, bossy, or power-hungry for the same hardball behavior as their male counterparts when tough decisions must be made. In hiring, education, and healthcare there are many studies that show that simply changing the names of the applicants from female to male dramatically increases their chances of getting admitted to an interview, a school, or a health study.

Men and women at the top perpetuate the policies that lead to a glass ceiling (yes, women at the top can be as guilty of discriminating practices as their male counterparts.) Men and women in positions of power must work together to:

  • understand the issues
  • provide training
  • shape policies

that ensure that their best talent, regardless of gender, makes it to the top!

 

Myth-Busters About Equal Pay

April Benetollo, Dir. Marketing & Development, Momentum

Bring up the topic of equal pay, and you’re likely to be met with a host of arguments as to why the whole gender pay gap is a myth. We all know when you compile research upon research there are many variables. These variables leave open windows for those who don’t agree to shoot holes.

But there are so many valid studies on the gender pay gap, it’s hard to refute that it exists, even if it’s not a simple number. It’s worth a dive into some of the research and societal pressures that fuel the debate.

First let’s outline the top myths on the gender pay gap.

 

Myth #1: Women choose lower paying jobs.

Some women may indeed “choose” lower paying jobs because they need the flexibility due to a partner with a demanding career, or because they are single mothers, or because family care requires it. That may account for some of the disparity in studies that do not isolate for equal pay for equal work. But there are numerous studies that control for factors like age, education, experience, and performance and still the gap persists. This research on medical professions found that male doctors earn $200,000 more on average than their female peers, even if they have the same specialty, experience, and education. In a recent analysis by Glassdoor, one of the largest job recruiting sites, the company concluded:

“Based on more than 505,000 salaries shared by full-time U.S. employees on Glassdoor, men earn 24.1 percent higher base pay than women on average. In other words, women earn about 76 cents per dollar men earn. However, comparing workers with similar age, education and years of experience shrinks that gap to 19.2 percent. Further, comparing workers with the same job title, employer and location, the gender pay gap in the U.S. falls to 5.4 percent (94.6 cents per dollar).”

The gap narrows to just a nickel when you control for same title, employer, and location? So what’s the big deal? Well, that’s more than $130,000 over the course of a career for someone making an average of $65,000. How many men would voluntarily sign up for that?

Equal Pay Advocate, Lilly Ledbetter

Myth #2: Women are a protected class, so employers can’t pay them less.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay women less than men. Yet, it still happens. First, transparency regarding salary is discouraged in most workplaces. Many women who play by their employer’s rules will never know if they are being paid less than men for the same job. Second, women would have to confront their manager about uneven pay, a courageous act that can result in retaliation. Third, in order to enforce the Equal Pay Act, a woman would have to take her employer to court– an unpleasant journey for all involved. We have Alabama native and Momentum honoree Lilly Ledbetter to thank for getting rid of the 180-day statute of limitations for wage-related claims. That means if you do file a claim and the court decides in your favor, you can pursue damages for all of your years of employment, not just the last 6 months.

 

Myth #3: Women make less than men because they leave careers to have families.

While some women do leave their careers to have children, employers should not presume that all women will have children or that a woman will be unable to balance a demanding job just as well as her colleagues who are fathers. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 70% of women with children work. Another study by the Pew Research Center shows that 40% of women with children who work are the sole or primary bread winners for their family. Pair that with the fact that nearly 48% of women between 15 and 44 do not have children. Yet our society still leans towards paying men more when they have children, the so-called “father bonus”, based on stereotypes we have of men being the breadwinner for the family. Those same societal norms impose a “motherhood penalty” on women regardless of whether they have children, plan to have children, or never have children.