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Run silent, run cheap: the high price of not asking for salary equity

In today’s environment, white males are increasingly feeling as if they are being personally blamed for the fact that there is still a significant wage gap between whites and Blacks and men and women.

 

This has — in typically convoluted fashion — led to a backlash against affirmative action and other equity programs. Singling out white-male-dominated upper management will not contribute to ensuring pay equity. Therefore, the practical question is: “What actions can women and minorities proactively take to substantially lessen the salary gap?”

 

We each thought we were alone among professionals who had made it to executive-level positions without asking for more money upon being offered a new position. Both of us felt disappointed in ourselves for this because, in general, we are assertive and have no qualms about clearly stating our opinions, decisions and solutions to problems to both males and females. However, we were not showing the same assertiveness when it came to our own needs. Are we really that different from other women and minorities?

 

To determine this, one of us (Thompson-Stacy), decided to personally interview women deans, vice presidents and presidents at two-year campuses in a Midwestern state to identify strategies they had used to gain these positions.

 

More Work, No More Money To our surprise, Thompson-Stacy found that 80 percent of the top-level female administrators interviewed had not done any salary negotiation when offered their current and past positions.. Consequently, 60 percent of the total population surveyed believed that they are — or have been — paid substantially less than their male counterparts.

 

Several examples were given to document the salary gap that the women were experiencing. One of the most striking is the situation where a woman dean was asked to perform the duties of another administrator who had left. Because of financial concerns at the college, no one was immediately being hired to replace him. She told her supervisor that she would take on these additional responsibilities until someone was hired. This woman performed both jobs for five years with no additional pay for the extra responsibilities.

 

The only pay increase that she received during this time period was the same percentage increase in salary that all of the administrators received. However, male colleague at the same institution as this woman dean was also asked to take on a large project. He said that he would supervise the project only if he received extra pay and that the extra pay be put into his base salary.

 

His request was approved. According to the female dean, “It never occurred to me to ask for more money for taking on additional duties, and it never occurred to my male colleague to not ask for additional money.” This is a telling statement.

 

Retirement Earnings Affected

 

Variations of this example take place daily in higher education administration. Women and minorities do not negotiate well or at all for themselves — while white males do. What does this mean? It means that when women and minorities are offered a position, they tend to either accept or reject the offer when it is made. They seldom ask for more money.

 

Therefore, they often begin jobs at a salary of several thousand dollars less than a white male who has asked for more money before accepting a position. Institutions of higher education tend to grant the same percentage increases to administrators at the beginning of the fiscal year.

 

Therefore, a salary which starts out several thousand dollars less will fall further and further behind as the years go by. By the time retirement is reached, the salary gap will have reached tens of thousands of dollars which, in addition to the years of earning much less, also has a big impact upon retirement earnings for women and minorities.

 

The blame for this cannot rest with the hiring administrators. A good administrator will always attempt to hire someone. while placing more emphasis on departmental and institutional financial constraints, rather than the desires of the applicant.

 

 This doesn’t mean that the salary which is offered to the applicant will be ridiculously low, but that the administrator will offer the lower salary in the salary range for this position.

 

Several of the women interviewed who did the actual hiring and salary negotiation with potential employees stated that many times they felt like telling a woman or minority applicant that they would get a higher starting salary if they would just ask, for it. However, these administrators realize that if they did this, they would not be doing their job for the institution.

 

`Managerial Bargains’

 

It is not the hiring administrator’s job to encourage applicants to ask for more money. Applicants must do it on their own. Women and minorities must realize that, in today’s environment, they are what have been called “managerial bargains.”

 

Some institutions will save 25 percent to 30 percent by hiring a woman executive manager as compared to hiring a male executive manager. If the woman or minority agrees to work for this lesser salary, it is their decision. No one but them has made the decision to work for the, lower salary.

 

Basic mistakes that women and minorities make which contribute to their lower salary levels are: (1) accepting job offers on the spot without negotiating for a higher starting salary, (2) not knowing what a “fair” salary offer is, and (3) giving reasons for asking for more money. All of these areas can be improved if women and minorities use the following strategies.

 

Never accept a job offer on-the-spot. Even though the job may be their “dream job,” they must curb their excitement and not let their emotions lead them into accepting a lower salary. Higher education institutions do not expect an immediate answer to a job offer. Potential employees will have at least a few days to make a decision. Research salary levels of similar positions.

 

The College and University Personnel Association

 

(CUPA) and the institutions themselves publish data on salary levels. Public institutions, in fact, must make salary information available to the public.

 

Common Errors

 

Many women in the survey also said that they had contacted others — both males and females — in comparable positions and point-blank asked them their salary range. The women found that most people were very cooperative and forthcoming with this information. The women, in turn, shared with their colleagues the salary that they were being offered to take the position.

 

Salary information must be looked at in terms of the size of the institution, geographic location and job responsibilities. Women and minorities must find out what the market salary is for the position and ask for more. This strategy will allow room for negotiation to occur.

 

It is important to remember that asking for more money will not label a woman or a minority as greedy or too aggressive. The request may not always lead to a higher starting salary but a potential employee who asks for more money will not be told “Sorry, we don’t want you because you are too greedy.”

They may be told that the salary offered is the highest that can be given, but the applicant will have the chance to still take the initial offer. There is nothing to lose by asking for more money and everything to gain. Another common error that women and minorities tend to make when they do negotiate is to give reasons for asking for more money. An example gathered from this study was from a woman dean who was offered the dean’s position at a salary of $ 50, 000. She said that she needed $55,000 because of the expense of relocating.

 

The response that she got from the human resource director was that relocation expenses were always given to new administrative employees based on the number of miles being moved. Now what? Does the woman say that she was lying and that she really just wanted the $55,000 salary? She has put herself in an awkward position. in this case, she ended up accepting $51,000 plus the relocation expenses when she could have had a base salary of $55,000 plus the relocation expenses.

 

Skills Not Taught

 

When a potential employee gives reasons for requesting additional salary, the job offerer can counter these reasons with other arrangements instead of increasing the base salary. The goal for women and minorities is to raise the base salaries that they are accepting. The base salary is what future raises and retirement income are built upon. The only reason a woman or a minority should ever give for asking for more money is that they feel they are worth the expense.

 

Once a woman or minority accepts a salary, they are stuck with this decision. Institutions will not often, if ever, give a double-digit percentage increase to someone because they initially accepted a low salary. To earn a large salary increase, the woman or minority will have to leave the institution to take another position. This is part of the reason thai 65 percent of the respondents to the survey had only been in their executive management positions for less than five years.

 

Why do women and minorities seldom negotiate for themselves and how have white males learned to do this? in general, these skills are not taught in a practical manner in most master’s or doctoral programs. Many arguments can be made from a sociological point of view regarding upbringing, parental and peer expectations — and a number of other theories. However, it doesn’t matter as much bow this has happened but bow can we address the inequities that have resulted. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (1988), women and minorities will be the major source of new entrants into the labor force.

 

They will account for 63 percent of the net labor force growth, or 13.2 million workers, by the year 2000. This presents an enormous opportunity for the approximately 3,600 institutions listed by the Department of Education (1994) to eliminate the long-standing handicap that females and minorities have had with the “old boys” network.

 

Practicing the strategies mentioned above will help to narrow the salary gap. This, in turn, will lead to increased productivity for institutions of higher education. Organizations that are truly cutting edge as we enter the 21st century will pay their managers based on leadership skills, flexibility and the ability to work well with others, regardless of their gender or race.

 

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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