There is a persistent salary gap between men and women in the corporate world, and to eradicate it we need to understand its underlying causes. The gender wage gap can be explained, among other factors, by segregation in the labor market, cultural stereotypes, differences in education, work experience and seniority, as well as low negotiation skills.
I consider this last aspect particularly important because it is something women can change without any other condition besides their determination. Recent evidence shows that women are less likely to negotiate their salary than men, mostly due to a lack of confidence. For example, a study carried out by Harvard Business School and Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, analyzed the differences between recently graduated MBA’s starting salaries. Where there is no transparency regarding the limits of the bargaining range, male MBAs negotiated salaries that were $10,000 higher, on average, than those negotiated by female MBAs.
In the long run, the impact of these negotiations results in a persistent financial inequality. I have plenty of experience in battling discriminatory practices in male-dominated environments ever since I got my very first job; I have learned to raise my voice. So, here is a piece of advice:
“Know thyself”: The first thing we need to do is to know ourselves, and recognize our talents to become conscious of our worth. If you know what you have to offer, you will be stronger in the negotiation process. Be confident! You have invested time, effort and money in your education and training. Believe in yourself because you have the power to face any challenge, no matter how hard it might seem. Keep in mind that strength comes from within. I know sometimes it might be difficult to embrace the idea that you deserve what you are asking for, but you do. Never underestimate your capabilities.
Be informed: Whether it is a starting salary or negotiating a raise, be informed and well-prepared. Research the industry, the median wage for this particular job and — very important- match the knowledge and skills you possess with the needs of the position. Do not be shy to explain why you are or will become an asset for the corporation.
Consider negotiation a must: There are only a few things in this world that are non-negotiable. Employers will most likely expect you to accept the first offer, so be prepared to use negotiation intelligently. This means to come with hard data and a plan, but also ready to put into practice the art of negotiation as one of your soft skills. Negotiation is not only about bargaining a number, but also a compensation package, perhaps flexibility, anything that is important for you to succeed in today´s competitive global environment. Always come to the table well prepared and ready to negotiate, period.
I know there is still a lot to do to finally close the salary gap. Nevertheless, women need to consider negotiation skills as key for their professional development, and also as a path to reduce gender inequality.
We will never get what we do not ask for, so let´s raise our voice and make it happen.
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.