Professional Development
Career development / DEI / Jobs / Women in tech / Workplace culture

In honor of Equal Pay Day, here’s how to navigate your next compensation discussion

New pay transparency laws will help with equity, pro Joslyn Ewart says, but negotiation and job hunting skills will likely get women paid their worth faster.

Money! (Video by YouTube user Imagine Hafakot, used under a Creative Commons license)
Women working in tech likely don’t need a reminder that gender-based inequities persist in the industry, but on Equal Pay Day, the issue is brought to the surface.

March 14 is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into the next year women have to work to make the same as male counterparts the year before. Notably, this date only marks this discrepancy for white women. Women of color face larger pay gaps: Latinx women made about 57 cents for every white man’s dollar in 2019, and Black women made about 64 cents to the dollar.

Pay inequity is at the center of Joslyn Ewart’s work at The Forum of Executive Women. In her day job, Ewart is the founder of Wayne-based Entrust Financial, which helps clients with investment management, wealth and retirement planning, strategic business planning, and a host of other financial services. But she found herself often wanting to work with and educate women seeking out financial knowledge — “women so often don’t have the kind of financial expertise that they need,” she told Technical.ly.

It’s why her work for the last several years as the chair of pay equity at The Forum of Executive Women was such a natural fit. The North Wales-based organization has been around for decades and aims to lift up executive women in the region and expand their influence. It recently released a “Level Up Playbook” and Pay Parity Report, sharing the experiences of hiring organizations looking to diversify their workforce and improve their pay equity. The report includes best practices around collecting data, the hiring process, and diversifying your leadership teams to encourage top-down equity in the workplace.

Read the report

But Ewart noted that individual women who are seeking pay equity at work have a few strategies to keep in mind. To start, she said, do your homework. Get super familiar with the market research surrounding your current role or the one you’re applying for, including the tasks of that job: “Find the answer to, ‘What are white men being paid for doing this kind of work?'”

Once you have a sense of that number or range, you could interview at other companies with similar roles, or approach your current company for a pay conversation. Negotiating skills during the pay conversation are essential. Often, women think this needs to be adversarial, or about making demands, Ewart said. But really, they should be ongoing conversations.

Having the research about market wage in hand is important here, but so is recognizing that total compensation includes other things, like stock options or other benefits. That could include more vacation days, remote work or another type of compensation, like bonuses.

Find the answer to, ‘What are white men being paid for doing this kind of work?’Joslyn Ewart The Forum of Executive Women

“I found out from a client that she didn’t understand that she had become a partner without equity ownership,” Ewart said. “Man, she left all kinds of economic advantage on the table, where her male report never would have dreamed to do that.”

Another way women might end up undervaluing themselves is in the interview process, she said: They head into it super prepared, but end up sharing too much about what they’ve earned in the past, which will tip off a future employer about what they’re willing to accept. Stay tight-lipped when describing your pay history, and instead focus on what the employer is envisioning for the role.

Another mistake women make is assuming that biding their time and “proving themselves on the job” will lead to a raise or promotion. Ewart recently had a conversation with a lawyer who’s been at her firm for two decades, who lamented because she started out “behind” in pay compared to her colleagues, she remains behind at every increase opportunity.

If this is you, Ewart said you have the option of researching what your market value would be if you walked through the doors of your organization today. Speak with a headhunter and get some guidance: Would leaving for a competitor bring you up to speed? Make that case to your current employer thoughtfully, along with the ways you’ve proved yourself in your current role.

Though the pandemic forced further labor inequities on women, there’s been some encouraging legislation. Ewart mentioned Philadelphia’s 2020 law that bans companies from asking applicants for their salary history as a step in the right direction. New York also recently required companies to list salary ranges in job postings, another move for more pay transparency.

“The simple act of not requiring somebody to disclose the compensation from former jobs could be a linchpin in having those negotiations I talked about earlier,” Ewart said. “It could help women be successful, be effective and and really move at a faster pace in the direction of leveling the playing field.”

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