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5 Ways Women Can Increase Their Pay

Recent studies show women still often make much less than men, but these techniques can help you earn what you deserve

By Kerry Hannon

A few surveys focusing on how much women earn came out last week, timed to Equal Pay Day, and the news wasn’t great. My takeaway: Women need to be aggressive to get paid what they deserve.


A study from The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, reported that the typical woman working full-time makes an average of only 77 cents to the dollar earned by men. (The gap has narrowed, however — the ratio was about 59 cents to the dollar in 1975.) According to the American Association of University Women, the wage gap is largest for Hispanic and Latina women, who earn, on average, only 61 percent of what white men do. These studies don't pertain to execution of identical jobs, but are based on pay overall.


Pay for Women in Their 50s and 60s


For women in their 50s and 60s, the contrast is especially stark. The Center for American Progress study found that in the last five years before retirement, the annual wage gap between women and men jumps to $14,352. That's compared with just $1,702 between ages 25 and 29.

Over a 40-year career, the average woman loses $431,000 as the result of the wage gap, and the number rises to $723,000 for women with at least a bachelor’s degree.


Fascinating Finding About the Wage Gap


Are these figures due mostly to women working in fields that tend to pay less, such as retail sales, social work and teaching? Nope.


A new analysis by The Institute for Women's Policy Research found that the wage gap is common in occupations virtually across the board. The group’s research shows that women have lower median earnings than men in all but one of the 20 most common occupations. The exception: bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks. In this sector, women and men have the same median earnings — about $656 a week.


Here’s a stunner: Women CEOs earn only 69 percent of what their male counterparts make. As I blogged in an earlier Next Avenue post, when it comes to money, the deck is stacked against women.


How to Boost Your Pay


But you do have the power to do something about being paid what you deserve: Negotiate fiercely.



Many women I know don’t go to bat for themselves when applying for jobs or after they’re hired. They’ve accepted low-ball offers as far back as their first job, and that has hurt them for decades, since raises are usually based on a percentage of pay. Some women in their 50s or 60s settle for pay offers just because they're happy to get hired at their age. And men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary bump, according to economist Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University.


I’m not surprised that a LinkedIn survey of more than 2,000 professionals found men more likely to say they feel confident in career negotiations (from asking for a raise to closing a business deal) than women — 37 percent versus 26 percent.


Pay raises will average 2.9 percent this year, according to human resources consultant Aon Hewitt, in an Investor’s Business Daily article. To increase your chances of getting at least that much, or an appropriate starting salary for a new job, follow my five tips:


1. Do your homework about salaries. Web sites like, and the one from the Economic Research Institute can show you what a position pays where you live.


2. Ask your peers. If possible, when you’re applying for a job, ask for salary information from a male friend in a similar position at that company or in the same field. (I have used this technique every time I switched jobs or taken a new assignment.) You can also tap into your professional network, such as LinkedIn connections, for advice.


Photogtaph of Kerry Hannon
Kerry Hannon is the author of Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home. She has covered personal finance, retirement and careers for The New York Times, Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among others. She is the author of more than a dozen books including Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life, Money Confidence: Really Smart Financial Moves for Newly Single Women and What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. Her website is Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon. Read More
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