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Panelists discuss equal pay, gender issues in the workforce

| Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A panel titled “How to Navigate Equal Pay as a College Grad,” which explored ways how young female professionals can combat gender inequality in the workplace, was presented in Saint Mary’s Haggar Parlor on Tuesday night.

The panel featured four speakers, with senior political science and gender and women’s studies major Zoie Clay beginning the discussion.

Clay, who conducted her senior comprehensive research on pay discrepancies between men and women, said gender discrimination is still a pervasive issue in the working world.

“It’s 2019 and we’re still dealing with unequal pay between genders,” she said. “There have been feminist waves throughout history that demanded equal pay, however even today, there are still major discrepancies.”

Anna Mason | The Observer
Four panelists discuss gender discrimination in the workforce at a panel in the Welsh Parlor of the Haggar College Center on Tuesday.

Clay said race is also a factor to consider when studying gender issues.

“Currently, women make about 78.6% of what a man makes, however that’s just for white women,” Clay said. “It’s estimated that by 2059 white women will catch up to their male counterparts, however black women will not catch up until 2124 and hispanic women until 2233.”

Clay offered three suggestions for combating the gender pay gap: new legislation, both at the state and national level, employer-led initiatives and societal solutions.

“There is no one perfect solution,” she said. “We need to work internationalization into the conversation and it is only by better understanding each other that we will attain a solution that is better for all.”

Professor Jim Rogers of Saint Mary’s’ business and economics department said higher education can also give women valuable tools for the job market.

“The first step is education,” Rogers said. “Education requires assertion and women often see themselves as the supplicants. They think they need to beg for jobs, and we need to erase that idea.”

Rogers said being assertive in the interview process is also important.

“Getting the interview is everything,” Rogers said. “If you can get in the door, get in that door. You are a commodity and you need to show those companies how you can make them money, because that is what they value. Don’t wait for the door to open, break down the door. You’re a warrior now, be that warrior and you’ll have a much better chance at defeating the corporate monster.

Several steps can be taken to make one’s resume more competitive, Rogers said.

“Put your photo on the resume,” he said. “If you interview with them and they can connect your face with the one on the resume, it makes a human connection that cannot be denied.”

The next speaker was Jeanine Gozdecki, a partner with the Barnes & Thornburg Law Firm. Gozdecki noted several ways women can build confidence in the working world, citing statistics from “The Confidence Code,” a women’s self-help book by author Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

“Women tend to only apply for promotions if they have 100% of the required qualifications, while men feel comfortable applying if they only meet 60% of the requirements,” she said.

Gozdecki connected these statistics to personal experience, saying learning to strike a healthy balance between one’s work and one’s personal life is a valuable skill to adopt early on.

“Women need to build confidence through practicing it and taking risks,” she said. “I personally tried to get ahead by coming into work early and sacrificing my personal life. I thought that the world would reward me. However, there were others who worked less but were smarter in their negotiations. I missed opportunities and I didn’t trust my own worth.”

When Gozdecki got her first job, there was little legislation to protect women against gender inequality in their work, she said.

“When I graduated from college, sexual harassment wasn’t even against the law,” she said. “Title VII prohibited gender discrimination, the equal pay act demanded equal work for equal pay and Title IX helped protect the rights of individuals, but in many cases these laws were not respected or followed through by companies. It changed the laws, but not the culture.”

Gozdecki said recent strides in gender equality help combat gender discrimination, however.

“The Harvard Bias Test helps increase the idea of self-awareness and helps people to recognize the way they make decisions based on appearance,” she said. “The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, signed into law by President Obama, has also helped close some of the loopholes of Title VII and makes sure that people receive equal pay for equal work.”

More than anything else, when applying for a job, it is important to know oneself, Gozdecki said.

“You need to know the skill set you have and know the range that companies are willing to pay for someone like you,” she said. “You are allowed to talk about your salary with other people and to negotiate for higher pay. Good corporate citizenship should focus on the job and how to best achieve a balance between good pay and good work.”

The final panelist was Stacie Jeffirs, director of Saint Mary’s’ Career Crossings Office. Jeffirs said graduates should be conscientious of what their day-to-day expenses are, and use this to help them make an informed decision about their first jobs.

“You need to know what your anticipated budget will be — bills, food costs and maybe some put aside for savings,” Jeffirs said. “This will help you figure out what salary you’ll need and if the range of what the company offers is at or lower than what you need to make. It’s okay to try and negotiate up or to walk away if it doesn’t work out.”

The best time for negotiations is after a job has been offered but before it has been accepted, Jeffirs said.

“Always do extensive research and have prepared responses when talking about pay, and know what your skill set is worth,” Jeffirs said. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics has information by city and state on salary, and there are multiple sources out there that can be used to figure out pay. After you’ve been accepted by a company, you have the most negotiating power. You know they want you and you know what you’ll need to succeed. Come to them with exact numbers, but be reasonable about it. The process often goes back and forth. It’s also important to negotiate in person or on the phone. This adds a personal layer to the process.”

What is most important is that students feel comfortable in their negotiations, Jeffirs said.

“Know that it’s okay to walk away from a negotiation if it’s not what you want or need,” she said. “Do not feel bad about it. You should get what you ask for and deserve.”

Gozdecki closed the discussion by offering additional suggestions for young college graduates looking for their first jobs.

“There are three main steps to getting, keeping and being promoted within a job,” Gozdecki said. “Research — come armed with information. Rehearse — write and rewrite what you are going to say, and practice it. Talk to yourself as you’re running on the treadmill or driving in the car. And finally, respect. Respect the process and respect others. Read the company policy and know what everyone gets. To be a good employee, you need to show up on time and have a good attitude. It doesn’t matter what school you went to. When you show up, work on being a good employee and a good person.”

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