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How Women Can Earn More

By Marty Nemko

Women’s organizations have established April 25 as Equal Pay Day: To dramatize what they believe is pay discrimination against women, they say that men could vacation until April 25 and by the end of the year, still earn as much as women do.

Any fair-minded person would decry pay discrimination. I would be especially incensed because I am husband to a working woman and father of a working daughter--discrimination against women would be discrimination against my family.

Alas, as is too often the case with advocacy groups’ assertions, the concept behind Pay Equity Day is misleading.

Dr. Warren Farrell, who served three terms as the only man on the board of the National Organization for Women in New York City and who was selected by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders, spent the past 12 years searching through statistics provided by authoritative sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. His findings are summarized in a book, Why Men Earn More. Those findings were presented in a recent editorial in the New York Times and a segment on ABC-TV’s 20-20.

That research revealed that “Women now earn more than men for the same work: jobs that are equally risky, requiring equally difficult-to-acquire skills (for example, high-level math), equally long workweeks, equally frequent travel and relocation, responsibility for the same revenue or numbers of people, plus 16 other measures.”

The book’s message is good news for women: “You no longer need to feel victimized. Today, if you want to make more money, just make the choices that, for both sexes, lead to higher pay,” for example:

-- Choose a field in technology or the hard sciences, not the arts or social sciences.

-- Get technical expertise and then sell. For example, female sales engineers (engineers who sell their company’s products) make 43 percent more than their male counterparts.

-- Within your field, discover the sub-fields that pay the most. Examples: Nurse anesthetists and traveling nurses make twice the pay of the average nurse.

-- Know about the 80 fields that pay women more even when they may work fewer hours and travel less than men in those fields: examples: speech-language therapist, financial analyst; radiation therapist; library worker; biological technician.

-- Put in the hours. People who work 44 hours per week earn more than double the income of those working 34 hours. That’s 33% more work for 100% more pay. That makes it cost-efficient to hire out cleaning, errands, etc., or for a woman to earn money while her husband or domestic partner raises the children.

-- If you want a good marriage, well-raised children, and a successful career, there's a way to have it all: Marry or live with a man who is willing to raise the children while you earn the money. Farrell believes those men are available “if they know you will respect them.” He cites national polls of people in their 20s that indicate that 70% of men would prefer to trade pay for more time with their children. He also cites many studies that find that children raised by dads in intact families do extremely well on all measured factors: social, physical, psychological, and academic.

-- If you are a woman with few skills and little education, consider joining the Air Force, Marines, or Navy. The military offers quality training, for example, in computers, administrative work, and the health sciences. Such training prepares you for jobs in civilian life. Worried about dying in Iraq? Although almost 15 percent of the U.S. military is female, in the Marines, Air Force, and Navy, 99.7 percent of those killed were men.

I would add one more tip:

-- Negotiate your salary. Among my clients, I’ve found that despite my exhortations, women are more likely to accept the first salary offer. Men are more likely to negotiate. Often, an hour of savvy negotiation can yield thousands of dollars of increased compensation.

If women were to follow this article’s advice, men’s organizations may soon start complaining that men are underpaid.

Advice I’d Give My Daughter

Weigh the pros and cons of going after more money. What would the increase in after-tax dollars buy you? Weigh that against any liabilities, for example, spending a lot of time and money in school learning material you would find difficult or boring, being in a high-paying field such as engineering that most women find unfulfilling, having to frequently relocate your family to get promotions, accepting a risky commission-based salary, having to put in longer hours than you want to work and having to forgo outside-of-work activities such as time with friends and family. There are no right or wrong answers to deciding how much lifestyle you’re willing to trade for money. I just want you to make your choices consciously rather than by default.

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