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Two Women Discuss How They've Personally Experienced The Gender Pay Gap

Two Women Discuss How They've Personally Experienced The Gender Pay Gap

Despite narrowing, the gender pay gap remains an issue in America. According to the Pew Research Center, female workers earned an average of 15 percent less than their male counterparts in 2018. Benzinga has partnered with personal finance app MoneyLion's PaveTheWage campaign to bring attention to the gender pay gap.

Same Work, Same Credentials, Different Paycheck

Danielle Stephens was barely into the working world when she first realized she was being paid less than her male colleagues.

Fresh out of college, Stephens got a job as an aerospace engineer for a government contractor. With her foot in the door, she helped her then-boyfriend also get a job at the company. Same college, similar courses.

The only difference was, he was offered more money.

“This was a little while ago, but of course you’re like, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. How come you got this offer, and I got this offer?'” she said.

“It was extremely surprising. Experience-wise, I had some internships that he didn’t have. We went to the same college. We took very similar courses. I think I even had a little more experience with the job than he did.”

Despite the politics at play, she didn’t want to hurt her boyfriend’s chances of getting the job, Stephens approached her boss. But even after negotiating her pay higher, Stephens said it was still 8-10 percent lower than her boyfriend’s.

“It’s a horrible feeling to wonder if it’s because I’m a woman that lowballed. I had to negotiate my way and it was still lower than what he started at.”

That experience was a wake-up call. Though friends and family had warned her to be conscious of a potential pay gap, Stephens hadn’t really considered it could happen.

“I heard rumors about things like that, and my field is very male-dominated, but you don’t think it’s going to affect you until it actually does,” she said. “I thought about it and was like, ‘Nah, that probably won’t happen.’ And then it does, and you don’t know what to do at that point.”

For Stephens, the solution was eventually moving to a new job with a more standardized pay scale at the Federal Aviation Administration. Today, she said, she’d be far more aggressive in making sure she’s getting what she should be.

“I’d rather get a new job than feel like I was undervalued,” she said.

Even now, several years later, she still isn’t sure why she was offered less money at the outset.

“I really wish I knew. I felt like I was qualified. Maybe they thought they could. Maybe they thought, ‘It’s a woman in the field, she’s going to be one of the few there so she won’t have much frame of reference.’ Maybe they thought that it wouldn’t get back to me.”

A One-sided Struggle

Norka Vasquez is reminded almost daily of the challenges women face in the workforce.

As an instructor at Bergen Blended Academy in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Vasquez works with adults trying to get back into the workforce.

Ninety percent of the people Vasquez works with are women, she said. And, in addition to discriminatory interview practices (such as asking about parental status), she said equal pay is one of the questions that comes up most frequently among her students.

“It’s a subject that is always on the table. I’m always talking about it,” she said. “Whenever I have any males that are getting ready for the same positions [as women], those questions don’t come across the board.”

Vasquez, who said she is one of only two women in her position in the whole district, also experienced a pay gap when she worked at an auto repair shop.

Part of the problem, she believes, is it isn’t an issue that’s discussed a lot. “People are intimidated by talking about it. It’s a very sensitive subject and not many people like to discuss salaries, as you know.”

Vasquez also things that a lot of women find themselves earning less than their male colleagues simply because they haven’t been empowered.

“I think it has to do a lot with ignorance and the way we’ve been raised,” she said. “This has been going on long-term. It has to start with us helping each other out. Women have to feel empowered that they can advance in a career.

“I do hope in the future somehow it changes,” she added.


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Posted-In: Gender Equality gender pay gapEducation Politics Economics Personal Finance Interview General Best of Benzinga

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