Women and salaries: It’s a two way street

6/10 people who get a bachelor’s degree, are women

Men start their careers at a median salary of $50,916

Women start their careers at a median salary of $41,000

Source: College in America Infographic

This is obviously a hot topic in our society today:

Why are women getting paid less than their male counterparts?

And why are women (in general), earning less than men?

For doing the same job, with the same responsibilities and duties, we are just getting shafted in the workplace.

But it’s a two-way street in my opinion, and we cannot blame it all on the big glass ceiling or old boy’s network.

Those are very real barriers to getting more money, but those are not the only ones.

We avoid degrees that make the money

I hate to say it. I really do.

Women avoid degrees that make money, like Engineering, Technology, Mathematics, Sciences.

I experienced the push from my educators into softer degrees like English, Sociology, History, Teaching, or Nursing when I was growing up.

Even in business school, all the girls seemed to gravitate towards Marketing, Advertising, Consulting.

There were very few of us who wanted to become Investment Bankers, or go into Technology as a career.

And I talked to my Engineering and Computer Science counterparts, and the girls banded together immediately, most of the time being the only 1 of 2 girls in a class, heavily outnumbered by the guys.

Luckily, I had parents who didn’t care either way what I became as long as I was happy and healthy.

My father encouraged me to learn more math, science and to push my love for technology further.

He was the one that forced me to recite multiplication tables, and to try and take more math classes.

My mother just marveled that I knew how to turn on a computer, and encouraged me because she loved that I could help her with anything she wanted to find out.

They never tried to limit my time on the computer (except to share with my brother), or to tell me: “Why don’t you become a teacher instead? Or a pianist?

(Not that I am knocking teachers or pianists!! My mom is a teacher, and a fabulous one at that. It’s just not my thing. And I am a pianist, but only as a hobby.)

There were no fun, interesting and solid programs targeted at bringing girls into these male-dominated disciplines.

And there was even a Barbie doll at one time that socialized us all into thinking “Math is hard” when you pulled on her talking string.

We can’t just expect it to happen just because the government says so

We cannot ask for higher salaries to be handed to us on a silver platter.

Just because we have laws in place that say our workplace cannot discriminate against us by hiring a man instead of a woman, doesn’t mean that it will change everything and make it better.


A law is only as good as the company that really follows it to the T and acknowledges where it has shortcomings and blind spots.

Society doesn’t expect women to fight verbally

But maybe if we use guns?

Just kidding.

Generally speaking, society views men as being assertive, negotiators who are not afraid to speak their mind and argue for what they think they’re worth.

Society views women as being bitches or shrews if they try to do the above.

I have been called “aggressive” a number of times, and surprised a lot of co-workers just by having a backbone and not saying: “Oh, okay.”

And I am not talking about having shouting matches, I am just talking about a simple negotiation or arguing your point as a valued member of a team.

But we need to fight for what we think we are worth

I think this is what is holding a lot of women back is what I am going to call either fear or the hesitation of wanting to negotiate.

It’s not because of our soft natures, or whatever else.

It’s that we haven’t been taught that it was proper for a girl to:

  • fight verbally with other females
  • … or to fight at all with males
  • get their way without being coy, manipulative or indirect
  • disrespect her elders (read: at work or at home) because they know best *

*Men experience this too I’m sure. I just thought I’d throw it in as a good point.

So when a woman asks for more money during a career review, and management says: “You did FANTASTIC this year, great job….. but no can do”, she has two choices.

She can either say: “All right. Maybe next year“, and then go home frustrated, wondering why she can never seem to get a raise or rise beyond her position.

Or she doesn’t take no for an answer, but fights for the raise, saying:

I don’t understand. I have glowing reviews from my clients, no tardy or sick days, fantastic job done on all fronts, and I mentored new colleagues.

Tell me where you see that I don’t deserve a raise this year. I am not asking for 50%, I am asking for 7%.

And based on my research, it is what I am entitled to receive, for the role I am in, the responsibilities and tasks I am assigned and work I have done for this company, as well as based on benchmarks in our industry.

But now, in society’s eyes, she can be seen as aggressive, instead of assertive.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.