Women can find pay equity in some professions

Dear Joan:
I realize you must receive huge amounts of correspondence from various professionals, and that it is impossible to respond to each letter. Nonetheless, I thought I would give it a shot, and present you with my question.

Quite simply, I am wondering if there is a way for one to be sure his/her salary is comparable to fellow employees who have the same experience and education level. Because there is a chance you may publish this, I will give you generic information without revealing my job title. I am a professional who works for a consulting firm. I am in my early thirties, and have been in this profession for over ten years. I have a bachelor's degree, and my current salary is $38,000, yet I'm not confident that it is at the level it should be.

I have checked the surveys in my field for 1996, and based on the data presented there, learned that my salary is below the national average ($47,800). Also included in this survey is a salary breakdown by zip code. In that case, I fall right in the middle.

My performance reviews from clients have been consistently high and positive, and therefore, I'm not feeling satisfied being "in the middle."

I think the concern I have developed is because of something that happened at a former employer. I was talking to another professional there, who is male, and through our conversation learned from him that his salary was over $10,000 higher than mine. (We're pretty much the same age.)

I love my current position, and I have always tried not to focus on the whole money thing. Quite frankly, it bugs me that the issue gnaws at me the way it does. Am I being greedy? Am I being arrogant?

I guess what I'm looking for from you are some suggestions on how to approach this issue with my supervisor when I have my annual review in a few months. I want to know that my compensation is comparable to other professionals in my company who share my level of experience, regardless of gender. Do companies ever release data like this to their employees?

I don't think you sound arrogant or greedy. You simply sound like someone who has been burned before and doesn't want to be taken advantage of again. It's common knowledge that women have been fighting for pay equity for generations. Some of the latest surveys show that women are now paid roughly 75 cents for every dollar men are paid for comparable jobs, with comparable experience. The good news is that in some jobs, such as some in the information technology area, pay equity has finally been reached. The shortage of qualified candidates always drives up salaries, and so we're likely to see more equity as good employees become more difficult to find.

Regarding salary surveys, the reason the data was broken down by zip code is because the market value of a job depends, to a large degree, on where that job is located geographically. However, as you point out, there are other things to take into account. For instance, how much experience you have, the amount of education, and how long you've been on that particular job often influences your pay range. Other factors that go into calibrating salary include the degree of independent decision making authority and supervisory responsibility. (How old you are should have no bearing on what you earn. Your argument for pay equity at your last job seems to be based on the fact that he was the same age as you were, which doesn't necessarily imply the same experience level.)

At your performance review, it's appropriate to ask questions about the salary range for your position. You may even want to tell your supervisor about what happened at your last employer, as a way of explaining your curiosity. But be careful not to make any of your remarks seem like a veiled threat. Most employers are very careful not to reveal salary information about other employees, but perhaps your manager can check into the issue and reassure you (or make a necessary adjustment, if needed).

Keep in mind that you love your job--something too few people can say. The fact that your salary appears to be at a fair market value is an important thing to remember. Ask your manager what you need to do to keep your salary growing at a rate that will calm your fears.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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