DENTON — April 10 marks this year’s Equal Pay Day, a date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work in order to earn what men earned in the previous year. Today, women in the U.S. earn 73 cents to every dollar that a man in similar work makes, and in North America, it will take 168 years to close that gap, according to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report in 2017.


University of North Texas compensation and human resources expert Julie Hancock, an assistant professor in the Department of Management, discussed pay inequity.


Why does the gender pay gap matter for individuals and families?


“The family dynamic in the United States today is much different from the past,” said Hancock. “Changes in the workforce, such as the increasing number of dual-career couples and single working mothers, make the existing gender gap even more disconcerting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015, 84 percent of U.S. single-parent households were led by mothers, 69 percent of whom were employed in 2015. Consequently, it is imperative that similar work receives similar pay.”


What can individuals who feel that they are not being compensated fairly do?


“Negotiate. It has been shown over and over again that women are less likely than their male counterparts to negotiate their salaries. Being prepared to counter an offer with data and market information, as well as a list of relevant qualifications, can provide a solid argument for negotiating one’s salary. When one considers the amount that will be lost by not doing so, it can be incredibly motivating.”


To better negotiate, she recommended people “do the research, explore the market and prepare to provide accurate information to negotiate the salary you deserve.”


She said that failure to negotiate can also have implications down the road, adding that “for example, a woman is offered $100,000 and decides not to negotiate, though she is worth 10 percent more. A man receives the same offer, chooses to negotiate for that 10 percent difference and gets it. Over the course of 10 years, the woman will make a minimum of $100,000 less than her male counterpart, not including the differences that will come in the form of raises, even of the same amount. A 5 percent raise for the woman will be $5,000, whereas for the man it will be $5,500 and this will continue to compound over time.”


Should someone negotiate if they’re afraid it may cost them a job offer?


“As my career has progressed, almost every one of the recruiters or managers I’ve spoken with has said that they want someone to negotiate because it demonstrates that they value themselves,” Hancock said.


Can companies and HR professionals do anything to improve pay equality?


“Pay secrecy policies in organizations have been the norm, but unfortunately, these types of clandestine rules lend themselves to unsavory pay practices,” said Hancock. “Organizations must be willing to take a closer look at their pay structures by utilizing compensation data over time and determining if gender or other discrepancies in pay exist.


“Eliminating such policies and encouraging transparency may lead to some awkward interoffice conversations, but if pay decisions are made correctly by examining the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the job, then the awkwardness should be limited,” she said. “Encouraging employees to openly know and discuss salaries not only provides an opportunity for transparency, but helps to develop a culture of openness and trust that pay decisions are being made equitably.”