While it’s been said time and time again that money can’t buy happiness, the bottom line is that money does matter. In fact, a 2021 study from The Wharton School of Business at The University of Pennsylvania found that raises in income do correlate with greater experienced well-being. This is why it’s so important for people to make a living wage and be paid fairly. However, the wage gap has shown that this is still a fight women are facing daily.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers, women earned 84 percent of what men earned for comparable work in 2020 — and would take 42 more days of work for women to make up the difference. For women of color, the pay gap is even more jarring. White, non-Latinx women earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Latinx men, while Black women earn 63 cents and Latinas earn 57 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts.
Of course, the gender and wage gap is nothing new. While acknowledging the issue is a great first step, action is the only way to truly make a change. As such, here are five actionable ways to help close the wage gap for yourself and coworkers, according to experts.
Talk openly about salary.
One of the most cited strategies for closing the gender and wage gap is opening up and having frank discussions with your coworkers the conversation about salary. “When we share our salary with other employees, we work alongside them to create a more balanced and equitable working environment,” Tori Dunlap, the founder of Her First 100K, tells Apartment Therapy.
It’s worth noting that it’s likely illegal for your employer to dissuade employees from discussing salary with one another, NPR notes. “Federal law provides protection for employees discussing their salary amongst their colleagues but state [laws] can get a bit tricky,” Giovanna “Gigi” Gonzalez, the founder of The First Gen Mentor, says. For that reason, many people still feel uncomfortable sharing their income with their coworkers, despite federal protections.
That said, workers are more likely to share salary information with others when they’re moving onto new opportunities. “I find most people are willing to share this information when they are departing from the company for a new opportunity,” explains Gonzalez. “Make some time to get on their [a departing colleague] calendar for a coffee chat to discuss their salary history at the company.”
Though some companies are beginning to practice pay transparency by stating the salary or salary range for a job on the listing, salary information at a company can be intentionally difficult to find. That said, if you can find the information, you’re one step ahead. Sites like Glassdoor or and Salary.com can help.
“Knowledge is directly connected to salary transparency,” Dr. Nicole Smith, a research professor and chief economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and The Workforce, tells Apartment Therapy. She recommends using various online research tools to get a general idea of what people in your field are being paid. Having a specific number in mind, and the research to back it up, helps make negotiating easier. Which brings up the next tip…
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.
Negotiation can feel awkward, especially if you’ve never tried it. This is true for many women. “One of the problems that women have is that we under-represent, and under-negotiate, for ourselves,” says Dr. Smith. “Be bold, be brave, negotiate. Demand what is rightfully yours.”
Dunlap encourages the same. “Negotiate for your life!” she stresses. “I have hundreds of stories from the $100K Club (my Facebook group), where women earned bonuses [and] raises and were sometimes offered $20,000 higher.” Dunlap credits these wins to women reaching out to their coworkers and researching comparable pay before they advocated for themselves.
To start, it can be helpful to keep a list of your at-work wins and track record to showcase how valuable you are to the company, and why you should be compensated accordingly. “Don’t be afraid to tout your accomplishments or to step outside your comfort zone, and know that you deserve to be treated fairly,” says Dr. Shaun McAlmont, the President of Career Learning Solutions at Stride, Inc. “The number one thing you can do is advocate for yourself and your co-workers.” Take this information to regular reviews with your manager, and especially to the meeting in which you ask for the raise you deserve.
Educate yourself (and the women in your life!) about the career paths available to you.
What someone chooses to do for work will play a direct role in how much they make. For example, STEM roles typically pay substantially more than teaching positions do and while both can be vital to society, it’s worth supporting girls and women as they weigh their options career-wise.
“Without a doubt, career learning is one of the best tools we can use to close the gender and wage gaps,” says Dr. McAlmont. “Women hold just 28 percent of jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And men who work in STEM make nearly $15,000 more per year than women. Gender stereotyping that leads to systemic salary disparities must stop.”
Gonzalez recommends signing up for a mentorship or sponsorship program, either at your work or through an organization you support, to help young women and girls know their career options. This is especially true if you’re in an underrepresented field such as STEM. “If you are in a position of power, use your voice to elevate a young professional who may be getting overlooked,” Gonzalez says.
Doing outreach at your former college or university is also a wonderful way to get involved. It is also important to talk to the young women in your life about their career goals, and to take those career goals seriously. They may be interested in career paths that didn’t exist when you went to school, but that’s a good thing — they may even be able to teach you something in return.
Understand why closing the wage gap matters
Ultimately, closing the wage gap matters on a collective level, and knowing why closing it matters can help inspire everyone to make a change. “In 2021, women should get paid equal pay for equal work,” says Gonzalez.
Closing the pay gap will be a team effort, but a worthy one, and could help spur innovation and create a more just, equitable society. “The bottom line is, it’s vital that we work together to ensure that girls and women are aware of every opportunity that’s available to them and are given the access to explore these opportunities,” says Dr. McAlmont. “At the same time, companies must also work harder to create and enforce non-biased hiring practices and ensure equal pay for equal work.”