Excuse my language in the title of this post but is there really any other way to describe Serena Williams?
uh, no there isn't
Recently, after winning the Wimbledon semi-finals in July, Serena Williams was interviewed at a press conference. During which gender came into the dialog, as it often does. One question asked, if she felt it was fair for women to get paid the same as men, if the matches were shorter....So you earn less for being better?
uh, what? no.
I wish I could say it ended there, it didn't. Here is the question that many have been talking about ever since. One, because it was dumb, two because, well Serena schooled the reporter in the most polite and yes bad ass way ever.
"There will be talk of you going down as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. What do you think when you hear something like that?"
Serena, never one to back away from the conversation of gender in sport responded quickly as if there wasn't even a question how she should respond which makes sense when you are the best of the best.
"I prefer the word 'one of the greatest athletes' of all time."
uh, yeah because you are a bad ass, Serena
Then, this week another reporter was talking to 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, Andy Murray when a reporter, John Inverdale asked the following:
"You're the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That's an extraordinary feat, isn't it?"
"Umm," Murray said. "Well."
He was indeed the first modern tennis player to successfully defend the singles title at the Olympics, he noted.
But "I think Venus and Serena have won about four [gold medals] each,"
uh, now I kinda heart Andy Murray
I am not quite sure why it seems so hard for people in the media to give female athletes credit for their successes. It isn't just Serena who experiences this either.
Check out this headline that was tweeted out as an example of how we treat athletes different based on their gender.
I realize that not everybody sees this as an issue. When I brought the subject up around some friends and co-workers (outside of the sports industry) the response was less enthusiastic. Few people said anything negative but many questioned why it matters.
It matters because it isn't just the media attention or respect that is unbalanced. It is also the pay. While you may not directly care about how much one super star athlete gets paid vs. the next, it trickles down.
It is widely known that female athletes do not get paid at the same level of their male counterparts.
In almost every single sport women earn considerably less than their male counterparts. Women are supplementing this lack of equal pay with endorsement deals which is misleading when you just compare total salaries against their male counterparts, if you take endorsements the gap in pay is much larger.
so, why do people get paid what they do? Arguments for the gap include; overall fan base, game attendance, tv endorsement deals and in general the amount of money generated by the sport. That doesn't tell the whole story though, as many female sports haven't been given the same options and support in the way of promotion etc.
So why focus on sports, when we know that on average women as a whole make somewhere on average of 72 cents to every dollar a man makes in this country?
Exposure & Transparency
Plain and simple. The women fighting for equality at these higher dollar levels brings about exposure to the overall issue of a gender bias and the gender pay gap. This is an important part of the process for change.
In less exposed industries, like a call center for example, the worker is less likely to know for sure what her counterpart make vs. herself and even if they do find out many companies attempt to say that it is illegal or against the rules to discuss salary among your peers and people fear retribution for rocking the boat. Serena isn't worried about rocking the boat. Tennis doesn't want to lose her. Say what you will but what she has done to elevate the sport of tennis in viewership, endorsement and pure love of the game, has probably generated more revenue to the actual sport than any other athlete in recent memory.
It is easier to ignore the call center operator, but you aren't ignoring Serena Williams.
How can Serena Help Us?
In a world where there is still a long way to go regarding gender and the gender pay gap there are signs of progress.,.well kind of. For starters most women in today's world make more than women have ever made in the past. We make more than our mothers and our grandmothers. Slightly misleading since many of our mothers and grandmothers didn't actually work but it still is important to note. Women account for 80% of all buying decisions in this country. Important to note for a number of reasons:
we are more educated than ever - not just in general but with regards to our finances
We have the majority stake and say in family buying decision - as the caretakers for children, and family members, we are calling the shots in every day life.
It's time we get the respect we deserve for that and if Serena, women like her and even awesome men like Andy Murray continue to point out the discrepancies and demand better it helps us all.
Further proof of Serena's bad-assness....this little girl here...
For more information on the gender pay gap in sports, check out the infographic below:
Beyonce says "Girls, We Run the World".
Bridget Brennan says that women account for 80% of all purchase in the United States (5)
Woman is the vessel through which all life is born
More than 3/4 of of all teachers are women and this number increases even more in elementary and middle school levels (1)
80% of all nurses are women (down 7% in 40 years.) (3)
66% of all caregivers are women (4)
Without women, we as a society and culture do not exist and YET...
None of that is valued in our society, even today in 2015.
don't believe me?
Then why is it that last week a global report came out that stated it is still another 118 years until the gender pay gap closes globally? (6)
Traditionally female roles like a teacher, earn less on average which is part of the problem.
The median salary for a teacher in the United States is around $40,000 and has remained relatively the same since the 1970's. (inflation-adjusted terms) (1)
YUP, that is 40 years with relatively no rise in salary!!
In comparison, women who work outside of teaching have seen salary growth around 25%. (1) However, this reinforces the idea that jobs traditionally held by women are not valued on the same level. I think it is even fair to say that we don't value "caregiving" in our culture, at least not in a way that allows people to be compensated for it.
Or do we?
On average male nurses make about $10,000 more annually than women. (3) When you look at the research you often hear one of the reasons being that women negotiate less than men. I believe the statistic. I talk to women all of the time but I struggle with it. First let me say that YES we should be negotiating. I'm not happy about it but let's face it, big corporations are concerned with their bottom line before their people. Harsh? Maybe but if it weren't true then negotiation wouldn't be necessary because they would pay people based on value and make the first offer the right offer. Alas, that is not the culture we live in so they make a lower offer in the hopes that we won't negotiate.
According to a survey on the site Monster.com, out of 500 women questioned only 16% say that they always negotiate compensation. (7) As I travel and speak around the country, the most frequent questions I get are around resume's and negotiation. Women know they should be doing it but they feel uncomfortable and don't necessarily now how to do it. (Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of research out there that says the Millenial generation struggles with this across gender.)
If the idea that "negotiation" is a key reason in preventing the closing of the Gender Pay Gap, man are we in trouble. For one, globally, there are countries where a woman asking for a higher salary could prevent her from getting paid at all, provoke violence and worse. YES, we still live in a world where women using their voice doesn't always elicit a positive response. Even if we focus just on the US, the idea that the initial offer to a woman is in some cases automatically less than what is offered a man tells you immediately how a company values you as a woman. Why would I want to help a company grow that doesn't value what I bring to the table?
Some may read this and think it is a harsh view on what is going on but I am telling you I hear it every single day. Statistics are one think and they help provide some support to the story but if I had never read a single article or saw a single news story on this subject, I would still know that the "gender pay gap" exists. Like I said, I hear about it everywhere I go.
I guess it comes down to this, are we okay with it taking 118 years to earn the same amount of money as our male counterparts? I for one am not. Globally, this issues becomes even more difficult that it is in the US. If you saw the average salaries at the beginning of this post, you get a small inkling of why that is. It is also sometimes difficult to look at a problem so large, so let's try and break it into smaller pieces. How do we make a change in our own country, state, community and even the specific places that we work?
The tips I am about to list are my opinions. They are based on conversations I have had with women across the country, situations I have seen and my real life experiences. Take from them what works for you and leave the rest, that's really all we can do.
Leave emotion out of it. YES,
I said it. The girl who cries at the drop of a dime, even in her bosses office just said to leave emotion out of it. That does not mean, don't cry or make your case. It means that your boss does not care about any of the following
You have bills to pay
You THINK you should make more
You "heard" that other people in the office make more
Your car just broke down
You really want to buy a house or some other big ticket item
You don't think what you make is fair
You d/did exactly what they asked for
The only items you should be bringing to the table when discussing salary are measurables
what have you done ABOVE & BEYOND the job description? Be specific and make it tangible to business growth & development
What do/have you bring to the table that is helping grow the business
reputation - how do other's view you? clients, co-workers etc.
Proof of EXCEEDING the goal you set forth
Know your business, know the market, know your value and know your worth
You need to do some research before they offer you the job. What is the average salary for jobs like the one you are being offered.
don't just look up titles, understand the responsibilities tied to the role
how do those responsibilities line up to your previous experience
make it specific to your city and industry if possible (ie. tech industry is going to pay more than the sports industry in most cases)
Money isn't the only item to be negotiated, what is important to you.
a customized work schedule
A few additional things to consider:
Ask for feedback and use the feedback to rally your cause
Be brave enough to walk away from something that doesn't serve you. BUT... Be smart enough to know if it is ego or reality
Work smart. Work hard. Both have value. NEVER work for free. Value your time, skills and abilities enough to know that working for free or charity should only be offered to those in need. Corporations don't need your philanthropy but there are a lot of people and organizations who do. Know when to make the distinction between the two.
Lastly, ask questions. We don't know, what we don't know so continually be learning. The more we do know, the more we can do to initiate change.
Have you ever negotiated your salary or a raise at work? What worked for you? Tell me in the comments below. Let's build a community of women sharing their win's with each other.
- The Female Factor