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Apr 30 2014
Giving millennial women the faith to negotiate.

"A woman has to be twice as good as a man to go half as far." Fannie Hurst's line glared at me from the opener of a new inspirational title at my local bookstore. It made me wonder: Would she issue a different remark in the 21st century?

It's been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, with women averaging 59 cents for every man's dollar at the time. Working women now earn about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, and for Latinas and African-American women, the wage gap is even greater. Despite critics of these statistics, the latest study by a Cornell University labor economist still reveals a 9 percent difference in pay, even after factoring for the kinds of jobs women perform, their level of education, and years spent in the workforce.

The gender pay gap remains a political and cultural talking point, but millennial women don't believe it's a problem for them, according to Caroline Ghosn, the founder of the women's mentoring network Levo League. We grew up in an age of working moms and "you go girl!" We often don't see the need to fight for our place.

Women hold roughly half of today's jobs, and our earnings account for an increasing portion of household income, so why do we hesitate to ask for raises and benefits? Why do we settle for less? Are we shrinking into the background for the sake of keeping the peace, because "no one likes a woman who ruffles feathers"?

Traditional values may be at play here, especially within the Christian community. Women have been taught to be a man's helper—a term all too often mistranslated as "not his equal, of lesser worth." This mentality can easily bleed into our work lives as well.

We cannot blame men for our failure to ask for what we deserve. And we dare not ask for more simply because we are female. A woman must recognize what she brings to the table and then be bold enough to issue her request.

I often hear women say they feel guilty about asking, but that guilt may just mask feelings of insecurity about the negotiation process. Levo League offers training, advice, and resources for young women as a part of their #Ask4More campaign page. Founder Caroline Ghosn points out, the "gap only widens over time as the likelihood of asking for a raise decreases as she progresses over the course of her career. A woman who doesn't negotiate her salary in her first job will lose an average of $431,000 by the time she's 65."

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