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Erasing The Gender Pay Gap; One Ask At A Time

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - If you're a woman in the workforce, economists say you've had to work until today to match your male colleagues' earnings through the end of last year.

It's called 'equal pay day' and it has the nation, once again, talking about the gender pay gap. Economists say on average, for every dollar that men earn, women earn roughly $.79—and the gap is even wider for women of color.

"I definitely think the gender and pay gap is real," says Bianca Harris. "A lot of times when we were in the recession and you were looking for jobs, you really didn't negotiate, you were just grateful to have a job, and making a salary."

But, now, Harris is making a major investment in herself—she's working to earn her MBA from SMU's Cox School of Business. School officials say female graduates of the program have erased the gender wage gap and have starting salaries that almost mirror those of their male counterparts: in fact, female graduates in some years have on average earned more. Still, school officials say it doesn't happen by accident—all students are taught to ask for what they're worth. The program offers a class in negotiating to teach them how.

"Just knowing how to start, just knowing how to strategize and how to come up and think outside the box of things that would make both parties happy when the negotiations end," says Harris when asked about what she's learned in the class, "and those are things that I did not know before."

In spite of having worked in the business world prior to enrolling in graduate school, Harris admits that she was one of those women needing a little nudge to be assertive about salary negotiations.

"A lot of women really don't know exactly what they're worth and they don't fight for what they're worth," says Harris, who is pursuing a master's in marketing management. "They feel very intimidated when it comes to negotiations, so just having that skillset and learning the strategies…I definitely believe it's a benefit."

Experts say women looking to erase the pay gap should first do the research. That means learning what companies are paying workers with similar backgrounds and experience. Then role play to get comfortable with negotiation strategies. And finally; if you're worth more, ask for it.

"Trying to move that needle for yourself at the very beginning, is very crucial," says Lisa Tran, Executive Director of the SMU Cox Career Management Center. Tran says wage equity is worthy of national dialogue because conversation drives change. And she says erasing tomorrow's wage gap could begin with the students they are shaping right now.

"We empower these students to be leaders, fair leaders, mindful and thoughtful leaders by having these conversations while we're here at SMU," says Tran. She also ads that leaving money on the table early in one's career can have significant impact on lifetime earnings and retirement savings as well.
So bottom line—go for it. It will absolutely impact your family's bottom line.

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