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How to Leap the Gender Earnings Gap

Content provided by the Women Presidents' Organization


By Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., President and Founder of Women Presidents' Organization (WPO)

It is undeniable that women are still paid less than their male counterparts.  Current statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 76 cents.  This trend is not racially or ethically based. Across the board women are earning less. 

The federal government's specially appointed Glass Ceiling Commission published its recommendations more than 10 years ago, yet little has changed.  Although the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) prohibits wage discrimination between men and women in substantially equal jobs within the same establishment, the gender earnings gap prevails.  This gap is said to exist because of factors such as lifestyle choice, years of education, years of job experience and occupational choice.

Regardless of why the gender earnings gap exists, as a woman - especially a minority woman -entering the upper echelons in business and making top dollar, is an uphill battle.  What can you do about it?  I have two suggestions:

  • Work only for companies that provide equitable compensation
  • Start your own company

Work For a Company That Provides Equitable Compensation

The Women Presidents' Organization (WPO) conducted a membership survey on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2006, in which more than half (57%) of WPO respondent members said they routinely investigate and adjust salaries to ensure gender pay equity for positions of equal qualification and responsibility.  WPO is a nonprofit membership organization for a diverse group of women presidents who have guided their businesses to at least $2 million in gross annual sales (or $1 million for a service-based business).

One WPO Miami member is Linda Lane Gonzalez, CEO of The Viva Partnership, Inc., a full service integrated marketing, advertising and promotions agency specializing in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American consumer markets.  Linda said, "I do not believe salary is comparable for Hispanic men and women due to the Latino cultural barriers.  Men are traditionally the breadwinners, and women's careers are considered to be second to their husbands, as well as to their position as wife and mother.  Hispanic companies, for the most part, view these roles with a traditional barometer and pay men more than women - in addition to promoting men more quickly."

For Linda, it is a personally important issue for her to be able to provide herself and her employees equitable compensation for work performed.  "My employees are judged on their performance and their commitment and dedication to the team," Linda said.  "It is not based on ethnic background nor is it based on gender.  Being a woman who started my own business over ten years ago in the male-dominant world of Hispanic advertising makes me even more committed to providing opportunities for Hispanic women.  Because of our shared traditional culture, it is often exceptionally challenging."

Start Your Own Company

In the Labor Day survey, more than half (56%) of WPO respondent members believe their salary as president or CEO is the same as their male counterparts.  So if you want a bigger piece of the pie, the place to be is ownership of your own company.

This past year I was a delegate and speaker at the 11th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women Leaders' Network (WLN), held in Hanoi, Vietnam.  As the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, APEC has 21 members* - referred to as "Member Economies" - which account for approximately 40% of the world's population, approximately 56% of world GDP and about 48% of world trade.

As I meandered and shopped in Hanoi during my free time, I noticed that nearly every retail establishment I entered was run by women.  I saw women selling flowers on street corners while their children played on a nearby blanket.  It struck me that women all over the world have a need for greater economic security and the ability to support themselves financially.  We women do not differ that much from country to country.

In Singapore alone, there are 53 professional and business-oriented organizations for women.  The Vietnam Women's Union has 13 million members and has just finished construction of an $8 million-dollar building.  I met two Muslim women from Malaysia, both of them heads of organizations, one of which was a construction company.  These women are working hard to ensure economic clout. You could be one of them and double (at least) your compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor states that in the U.S., Hispanic women own 337,708 firms. 

Women Presidents' Organization Membership Demographics:

Average Revenue:  $11 million

Average Years in Business: 20

Average Number of Employees: 94


*APEC's 21 Member Economies are: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Republic of the Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; Vietnam.

Content copyrighted by the Women Presidents' Organization


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