Category: Pay Equality

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.

Who Can Wait for 2085?

Rosa Rein, courtesy of the Daily Mail

Women are projected to achieve parity in leadership in this country in the year 2085, according to a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress.

If medical advancements outstrip gender parity progress, maybe I will raise a glass to celebrate when I am 115.

“Although women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988, they have earned at least a third of law degrees since 1980, were fully a third of medical school students by 1990, and, since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees since 2002. They have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed.

In a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent. Their “share of voice”—the average proportion of their representation on op-ed pages and corporate boards, as TV pundits, and in Congress—is just 15 percent.

In fact, it’s now estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.”

Judith Warner is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

So why the lag for women in reaching leadership roles? The reasons are complex, but an increasing number of research studies into the question reveal some consistent conclusions.

In order to impact change we have to understand leading causes. The reasons behind the lack of gender parity in leadership are complex. Momentum has invited Dr. Heather Foust-Cummings, a leading expert on diversity in executive leadership, to deliver a keynote address at our biennial breakfast event during Women’s History Month to explore the dynamics of men and women in leadership.  Register here, seating is limited.

Momentum is dedicated to bringing about faster change for women in leadership in Alabama because it’s good for business, good for our economy, and good for the community. Working with our corporate partners we aim to put Alabama ahead of the curve when it comes to women in leadership. And perhaps this author will be able to raise a glass to gender parity a bit sooner.

Negotiating Success

Effective negotiation is one of the most critical skills to business success. Yet when asked to select the metaphor that best describes negotiation, most women chose “a trip to the dentist.” Ouch.

Last week Carol Frohlinger, an internationally known speaker and negotiation consultant, led Momentum’s leadership class through negotiation training. What we discovered is that with a new perspective and practice, negotiating can be a rewarding experience.

Some of the top stumbling blocks to negotiating identified by our group were:

  1. Overlooking the opportunity to negotiate
  2. Fear of rejection
  3. Worries about how negotiation will be perceived by others (pushy, needy, greedy)
  4. Difficulty obtaining “buy-in” from stakeholders
  5. Lack of confidence


Carol had the class work in groups to role play real-life negotiations using the framework she published in her book Her Place at the Table using three types of “moves”: Power Moves, Process Moves, and Appreciative Moves.


“Power moves encourage the other party to recognize the need to negotiate in the first place.

Process moves shape the negotiation agenda and dynamic so you can be a more effective advocate.

Appreciative moves engage the other party by fostering both trust and candor in the negotiation.” — Carol Frohlinger


sandy_margaret-annThroughout the day we examined how to gain agreement on the value of the thing being negotiated, and to create understanding that the value cannot be obtained without negotiation. Carol emphasized the importance of enlisting support and owning the process, both essential to managing what she calls the “shadow negotiation.” Finally, we explored ways to frame the talks so that our negotiating partners can “save face,” how to keep a stalled dialog going, and how to gain new perspectives that lead to agreement.

One interesting observation from the class is that women tend to find it easier to negotiate on someone else’s behalf than for themselves. Carol asked the class to imagine the opportunity to negotiate on behalf of someone we really care about:  a sister, a team we manage, a co-worker we respect. It was amazing to see how quickly some women outlined value, owned the process, and clearly stated their case when going to bat for someone else.


Negotiating is complex and highly situational. Having a framework to follow, some practical guidance, and time to share experiences definitely helped this Momentum class up their game.

Attendee Ira Hodges, from HealthSouth, shared these takeaways:

  • Negotiation takes place in every area of our lives
  • It’s okay to negotiate for yourself
  • Find the negotiation strategy that works for you; there’s not no one right way.

For additional tips and resources on negotiating for women, visit Carol Fohlinger’s website


Negotiation Skills Needed

helpWhen it comes to negotiation, women need a big “help wanted” sign. Researcher Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon specializes in negotiation and dispute resolution. Babcock’s research shows women have a strong dislike for negotiation, and they engage far less than men in negotiations that would result in higher salaries and better jobs. In a recent study Babcock asked men and women to pick metaphors that describe the act of negotiating. Women most often equated negotiating with “a trip to the dentist” while men chose “winning a ballgame.” So what’s going on here?
negotiating50ssmSome of the root cause lies in the way many women were raised. In our past, to be outspoken, to challenge authority, to ask for more, was not considered lady-like.  On top of societal norms, add a layer of law. Just one generation ago many states still required a man’s signature for many transactions initiated by a woman. It has only been 28 years since congress passed a law prohibiting states from requiring a man’s signature on a woman’s application for a business loan. Other factors that may add to women’s distaste for negotiation: fear of rejection, lack of confidence, and associating negotiation with greed are just a few.

The lack of negotiating skills among women may be one of the single largest contributing factors to the wage stagnation we’ve seen in the last decade. A recent Pew Research study shows women still make 20% less than men. It’s not surprising that Babcock’s research shows that men are more likely to negotiate starting salaries:

“In one study, eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries. The men who negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000. In the same study, men’s starting salaries were about $4,000 higher than the women’s on average, suggesting that the gender gap between men and women might have been closed if more of the women had negotiated their starting salaries.”

Negotiation affects far more than salary. Solid negotiating skills are needed to succeed in a variety of ways. Want to be assigned to a new and exciting project? You may need to negotiate how your current workload can be delegated. Making a big pitch to a client? You may need to negotiate the terms of the deal. Raising money for a volunteer cause? Good negotiating skills could mean the difference between a $50 and a $5,000 gift. Getting a toddler dressed? That may be the toughest negotiation of all!

carolfrohlingerThis week Momentum welcomes internationally known speaker and negotiation consultant Carol Frohlinger to Birmingham. Carol is co-author of Her Place at the Table and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get ItThis Thursday Carol with conduct an all-day training course for our current Momentum Leadership Class. This training will unpack the skills needed to seize opportunities to negotiate, line up the necessary resources, and gain buy-in from stakeholders.

During the class we’ll hear some of the shared experiences our women have in negotiating. We look forward to sharing those here, along with insights from Carol’s training, next week.