Closing the Wage Gap

Samantha Salvio

Recently established organization on campus, the American Association of University Women chose to showcase the drastic wage gap between women’s and men’s salaries in today’s work force as their first official event on campus.

The ladies of AAUW invited Annie Houle from W.A.G.E. Project in hopes that she would be a resource to help the junior and senior women on UNH’s campus find a job with a fair salary that reflects all their personal qualifications. All those who attended the event were given an interactive workbook that included a step-by-step process on how to benchmark the salary range that is to be deserved and the negotiation process to attain a fair salary.

Houle hit three key points within her workshop: what the wage gap means to you personally, how the wage gap happens, and why the wage gap happens.

To answer the first key point, Houle asked her audience to look at the dollar bills that were within all the folders. Contrary to the normal George Washington-faced bill that we see every day, the bills were marked with 77 cents. This was to signify that women earn 77 cents to every one dollar a man earns, and even more alarming is that over her lifetime a woman will lose one-to-two million dollars because of this wage gap. Houle proceeded to ask what it is the audience would do with that extra million dollars. Kyrstal Sayles, AAUW president, said she would pay off her student loans, while others said they would travel to California and retire early.

In order to help understand how and why the wage gap is present, the audience was introduced to Tina and Ted. Both applied for the same job, both had just graduated college, and both had the same background; essentially their only difference was their gender. After the interview process, both were presented salary offers; Ted was offered $39,000, while Tina was only offered $35,000.

After being presented with this, the consensus among the audience was that when an employer looks at a woman they associate maternity leave and marriage. When a woman gets married, they request time off for a honeymoon, and again when she gets pregnant or she may even ultimately decide to quit in order to take care of her children. Employers view women as less committed to the position, and less likely to make the job their first priority.

Even though men share the same life events, employers see getting married as a reason to put them on a management track. Probably due to the age-old stereotype that men are meant to be the breadwinners of a family, they are supposed to be the main source of income; employers do not expect men to leave their jobs to take care of the kids.

The workshop lasted three hours and many audience members participated in Houle’s activities. Most of the ladies that attended stayed the whole time, and even stayed after to receive more advice. Her parting advice to the ladies was to do research, and lots of it, in order to be prepared and not timid when negotiating for a fair salary.

Along with Women Are Getting Even’s vision, UNH’s AAUW chapter is striving to develop strong and independent women.