A Guide to Combating Gender Pay Disparity for Black Women: Part I – Negotiation and Positioning

A March 18, 2016 article in The New York Times* explored a study that found that “when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines—for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.”

We’re all familiar with the well-worn fact: Women are paid cents on the dollar, relative to men’s salaries.

This study is saying something else: When women chose to move into a field—high-paying or not—and eventually came to dominate that field, pay visibly dropped. And when men entered a once female-dominated field, the reverse happened.

Black women often suffer a double pay gap—as we are frequently paid lower salaries than both White men and White women.

So, going beyond the Times piece: How does this income disparity affect long-term wealth creation for Black women in particular—and, more importantly, what can you do?

This two-part post examines dual approaches: negotiation and positioning; and wealth management.

Let’s start with the former.

We checked in with co-author of The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women, Empowerment Coach and Founder and President of Stepwise, LLC, Marsha Haygood, who reminds us that knowledge is POWER!—and research and specificity are key when negotiating.

Here are some of her tips:

  • Learn what your target corporation values: Haygood advises, “You need to have done research that says, this is what the company needs, and I’m going to bring that to you. And because of that, this is the salary that I am looking for.” Potential research sources: The company’s mission statement; Google Alerts; and knowing “What departments are valued most.” Bonus tip: “Who do you know in those other departments who can sing your praise?” Get those people as a sponsors.
  • Tap into your co-workers: Be bold, she says, and break the taboo: Ask others at your firm what they make! Also talk to new hires: “My question to the new people,” she says, “is: What made you decide to take this job? They can usually tell you something about your company that you don’t know.”
  • Negotiate strategically: Says, Haygood, “You should have three numbers in mind anytime you negotiate: What is it that I really want; what is it that I will accept: and what is it that I’m going to walk away from?” Also, don’t be pigeonholed based on your old salary. When asked, say, “A lot of things went into my [previous] salary. It wasn’t just dollars: professional development, flexible schedule, perks, equipment upgrade…But what I am looking to earn now is this.” Also, know, and cite, the actual dollar value for the professional development and perks you’re negotiating for.
  • Brag! “You need to develop brag bites about your accomplishments,” she says. “[B]ut not in ways that are arrogant…[S]hare your accomplishments and skills so people know you have them.” She adds, if you downplay your achievements, saying, “it didn’t take a lot of work, they don’t value it.”

“No longer is it that your salary is based on your tenure,” warns Haygood. “It was that way.”

She adds, “Working hard no longer gets you paid—value gets you paid.”

Click here for part two of this post, on wealth management.

*“As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops,” by Thoka Maer, The New York Times, March 18, 2016: http://nyti.ms/1RNipaA


Petra Lewis

Petra E. Lewis is a former financial services communications executive who now loves serving her clients as ghostwriter, ghostblogger, and communications consultant. To learn more, visit: https://about.me/pelewis

  1. Good read! I have long suspected this paradigm has played out in public education where 80% of America’s teaching force is female.

    1. Hi Shekina: Replying to your comment. I wrote the article. We’ve been trying to resolve some tech issues in the comments section ever since this article went live. However, I’m using my personal account to say: Thank you–glad you liked the article!

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.