Personal Finance, Career Advice, Now + Beyond

Do we really fight as hard for equal pay as we need to?

Well, the first thing you can do is ask your coworkers what they’re making.

Equal pay for equal work – it’s a straightforward concept that, unfortunately, has not been so easily implemented in the United States. It’s not just about men and women, either. While women make $0.79 for every $1.00 a man makes, black men make $0.75 and black women make $0.70. This is true despite the fact that equal pay has been the law of the land since 1963.

So, why are we still having this conversation, 53 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and 52 years after the Civil Rights Act? What the law does is prevent employers from offering you a lower wage based on your sex or race, but they can still offer you a lower wage based on what you’re willing to accept. A collaborative research project between Northwestern, Harvard, and Princeton showed exactly this, that employers offered lower wages to black applicants than they did to white applicants, and that black applicants were more likely to accept those lower offers than whites.

Your employer can offer you a lower wage because you'll take it. #equalpay Click To Tweet

So, great, you’ve already accepted a job, and now you’re not sure if what you’re making is reflective of what you’re worth compared to your coworkers, be they white, male, or other. How do you ensure that equal pay is being enforced in your workplace? Well, the first thing you can do is ask your coworkers what they’re making.

Yeah, I know. It sounds super awkward. People can get very iffy when they’re asked about money, especially how much money they, personally, have – we can talk about what Lisa in accounting makes all day, but how much I make is off the table.

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But as Adam Conover explains:

The fact is, people are much more likely to view how much they’re being paid compared to how much you’re being paid as a reflection on their value to the company, not on your personal worth. If they’re making less than you, they won’t resent you, they’ll resent the company that isn’t giving them what they deserve. It’s your right to discuss your pay and benefits with fellow employees in conversation – even if your company has a formal policy that forbids this – such policies are actually against the federal law.

It’s your right to discuss your pay and benefits with fellow employees in conversation. Click To Tweet

If you’re still uncomfortable asking your coworkers how much they’re being paid to do what you do, I don’t blame you. Fortunately for all of this, we have the internet. There are plenty of sites that will allow you to calculate average pay rates for your field based on your job description and where you live, including LiveCareer and PayScale.

The downside to these sites, of course, is that they can only tell you what the average pay is in your area, not what the average pay is at your company. However, companies generally have salary policies that are a part of your contract, and more and more companies are adopting open salary policies, including major players like Whole Foods and Buffer. Even if this isn’t the policy in your workplace, President Obama recently announced that companies will be required to report what they pay employees by race, gender, and ethnicity. While you may not be able to access that information, you’ll at least know that if your employer is discriminating against you, it’ll be a lot harder for them to keep at it.

Fortunately for all of this, we have the internet. Click To Tweet

The bottom line is, it pays to look into what you’re making (or what you stand to make if you’re on the market).

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A little Googling could make your company a much more equitable place.

Nadia Eldemerdash

Nadia Eldemerdash

Nadia Eldemerdash is the Life + Love editor at The Tempest. A communications specialist by day, her writing focuses on migration and identity. By night, she blogs about media and creativity at CreativeQuibble.com. Favorite things include junk food, packing luggage, and the idea of exercise.

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