Solutions to gender wage gap found at Baylor

Baylor researchers provided new information regarding the wage gap. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Rewon Shimray | Staff Writer

Baylor addresses the national phenomena of the gender wage gap through new research on Baylor students and training workshops.

Women earn 77.9 cents for every dollar earned by men in the U.S. labor market, according to PayScale, a website providing salary and benefits information. This means a woman would have to work to April 10 into the next year to finally earn the same pay a man earned the previous year. The date is recognized as Equal Pay Day and falls on different days each year based on updated U.S. Census data.

The wage gap has two main causes that experts have identified: a lack of women in executive positions and a failure of women to negotiate.

When Women Aren’t Running the World

While the pay gap may seem daunting, the difference between genders “virtually disappears” when comparing men and women working at the same level at the same company, according to research by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Dr. Sara Perry, assistant professor of management, said the gender wage gap is mostly attributed to the fact that there are more men in higher positions, which are inherently higher paying.

Midway through their career, men are 70 percent more likely to be in executive roles than women; later in their career, the percentage rises to 142 percent, according to PayScale.

When Deal-Making is a Deal Breaker

A factor contributing to the gender wage gap is women being far less likely to negotiate salaries and job responsibilities than men, according to Dr. Lisa Shaver, director of women’s and gender studies and associate professor of English.

San Clemente, Calif., senior Adrienne Kruse said women are “so grateful to possibly be getting the job” that they often do not negotiate, which widens the gender pay gap. She said salary negotiation is a statement of: “This is how much I’m worth, and I know that’s how much I want, so I’m going to ask for it.”

Perry conducted four studies on gender difference in behaviors during job offer negotiations, specifically in the anxiety employees experience and the outcome. She said her research objective was to identify the source of anxiety in negotiations in order to better train people to negotiate “more effectively and confidently.”

“One of the reasons we believe the gender wage gap exists is because of the way that women approach the negotiation situation,” Perry said. “The initial results [of the study] seem to show that there is something about women, that even thinking about negotiating, they are viewing everything more negatively than men do.”

Cultural Causes

Studies show that women’s attitudes toward their capabilities is often shaped by their culture.

Prevailing sexist attitudes in both the place a woman grows up and where she lives in adulthood “lower a woman’s wages, labor force participation and ages of marriage and childbearing,” according to research conducted at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago.

Kruse said although she grew up with a supportive family, she was still instilled with the idea that a male leader was the “default.”

Dr. Gaynor Yancey serves as the faculty regent for the Board of Regents, as well as a professor, master teacher and director of the center for church and community impact in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Yancey said she has experienced the gender wage gap first-hand at former job positions. She said she had been working for an organization for 20 years when a man entered her workplace with a starting salary larger than hers.

“We’ve inherited a whole lot of thoughts, practices and biases, and now we’re really thinking about what that looks like, and how we can break that so that something new comes in,” Yancey said.

Yancey said her desire in leadership is to help people to think about not only what they want to be, but also what they have the capability of being.

“If we can live into the human capacity that we have to thrive, I can’t think of a better life than that. Conversely, I can’t think of something sadder than the fact that we can’t live into that for some reason,” Yancey said.

Solutions at Baylor

Baylor experts recommend three main steps to improve the gender gap: an optimistic mindset, boost in education and increased advocacy from men.

Yancey said although she was confident, she used to struggle with downplaying her gifts and abilities in fears of being “too assertive.” She was challenged by a male coworker: “What makes you not be confident, not competent, confident in what you are doing?” Yancey said this “life-changing” conversation helped her to realize that celebrating personal talents and training allows you to “live into all that you are able to do through God’s leadership in your life.”

“We don’t celebrate to become assertive or aggressive, but rather to show that we are confident in the things that we know how to do and stand next to our male counterparts,” Yancey said. “That message is not to compete with men at all, but rather to let women live into their capabilities.”

Kruse said finding practical tools and resources soothes feelings of anger or hopelessness.

Baylor offers a minor and elective classes in gender studies. The American Association of University Women chapter seeks to empower women through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

The American Association of University Women holds workshops to teach students how to create a budget and negotiate wages. In September, Baylor departments also hosted “We are Women in the Workplace” and “Start Smart Salary Negotiation.”

“By hosting the Start Smart Salary Negotiations workshops, we want to prepare Baylor women so they feel comfortable and confident articulating their skills and negotiating salaries throughout their careers,” Shaver said. “Bottom line, we want to improve their lifelong earning potential.”

The course MGT 4320, “Negotiating and Conflict Resolution,” also provides instruction and conducts role playing simulations. Perry teaches a section and said former students often email her success stories from the course.

Perry said her top two tips for negotiating were to reframe anxiety as excitement and prepare ahead of time.

“In any situation where you might negotiate, it’s helpful to sit down and jot down to understand what the other person might think and what you might be thinking,” Perry said. “Try to really dissect your own psyche, about what it was I really want, what’s the underlying issue.”

Kruse, co-president of the American Association of University Women chapter, said her biggest takeaway from the workshop was the procedure for salary negotiation.

She said workers should identify their target salary beforehand and pitch a range with the target amount set as the bottom bracket.

Yancey said closing the wage gap starts with the people in authoritative positions.

“Males are still our power structure, so males will be heard in many situations,” Yancey said. “They will be heard faster than women saying the same thing … because that’s still where the power structure sits. It is important that men use that power structure very well in terms of bringing about equitable treatment in the lives of everyone.”

Kruse said although she believes it is important for men to stand up for the women in their workplace, it is ultimately a personal decision for each person to work out for themselves.

“There’s going to a be a thousand things that are frustrating, and a thousand things that aren’t right, but God is good,” Kruse said. “I’m not saying [the gender wage gap] is going to work itself out, but we are going to work things out however way we can.”