It has been more than 50 years since President John F. Kennedy introduced the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The hope of the act was to put an end to the wage gap that existed between men and women at the time; however, as of 2013, women still make 78 cents to every dollar that men make on average, according to the American Association of University Women.
As the problem persists, local governments have started tackling the issue themselves. To combat the injustice, Nevada’s Senate Committee on Judiciary passed SB 167 in March, which creates greater legal boundaries for employers to limit various forms of discrimination against women. According to nevadaappeal.com, “the proposal will empower the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to levy fines up to $10,000 and strengthen protections against discriminatory employment practices,” among other actions.
While the bill could potentially empower women in the state of Nevada to address underlying discrimination, it is important to recognize that wage inequality is a complex issue that cannot be narrowed to one factor. Some argue that the wage gap can partially be attributed to women avoiding salary negotiations. In fact, surveys from Carnegie Mellon University indicate that women are 2 1/2 times more likely to feel apprehension about negotiating. Furthermore, 20 percent of survey participants (22 million adult women) said they never negotiate at all despite feeling that it might be necessary.
There may not be one easy answer to addressing the wage gap, but as a university community, it is critical that we do our part in fighting inequality ourselves. Salary negotiations can be daunting, meaning we need to help our peers gain the skills and confidence to earn the wages they deserve.
Women entering the workforce need to understand the worth of their skillsets and must enter salary negotiations confident of their value to their employer. Moreover, women must also understand the right questions to ask of their employers when entering a career. Nevada’s SB 167 prohibits employers from punishing individuals who ask about wages; consequently, women have a right to know if they are experiencing discrimination and should feel confident in talking about it.
Some colleges at the university have career and internship advisors, focused on providing advice to students and giving them the opportunity to ask appropriate questions about finding and starting a career; salary negotiation is an important tool in this process. While these positions have been valuable in their respective colleges, the university could benefit from expanding this type of service across all parts of campus. Granted, it may be an extraordinary undertaking to employ such a position in each college, but it should be a long-term goal.
In the short term, the Career Studio should consider holding negotiation workshops at least one to two times throughout the school year. The Career Studio provides an excellent service in helping students get jobs, but it could also benefit students to know how to negotiate once they’ve landed that dream career.
Finally, there are a number of clubs on campus that already do provide negotiation workshops, and sometimes, it is as simple as reaching out and finding them. If you are a student that intends to start your career in the next year or two, pay attention to professional clubs on campus to see if they will be holding a workshop aimed at negotiation.
Our university has already taken strides toward empowering women, including the Women in Science and Engineering community, as well as clubs that focus on female empowerment. However, faculty and students could be doing more to catalyze women’s growth in the professional world. With the legislature currently making progress on the wage gap, now is the time to do everything we can on campus to fight it as well.
Closing the wage gap may be possible, but we’ll never know unless we take the first steps toward building confidence at a university level.
The Nevada Sagebrush Editorial Staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.