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Pay equity in hands of working women

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While it has been decades since pay equity proponents marched wearing badges that read "69 cents" signifying that women were being paid 69 cents to a man's dollar for the same work pay and advancement inequities still exist.

According to Margaret Castrey, vice president of the Alliance of Professional Organizations, there are effective ways for women to address glass ceiling issues.

Castrey, along with a committee made up of representatives from Alliance member organizations, developed a presentation on pay inequity.

"The focus of the presentation was on awareness of inequity in earnings and focusing on ways women can overcome that," Castrey said.

Castrey has avoided pay inequity issues for the most part, she said, because she works for herself as a writer, editor and consultant.

"I have been self-employed most of my career," she said. "I believe many women have found that to be a solution to the problem of pay inequity."

Why, then, would she commit her time and talents to teaching others how to achieve in a man's world? "I have a strong sense of sisterhood, and many women and men have helped me along the way, so I am interested in helping women succeed," she said.

Castrey added that being the mother of two girls is another driving force behind her desire to help women. "I've worked hard to teach my girls that they can be successful," she said.

Much of the pay inequity issue is tied to relationships in a particular organization.

"An awful lot of it is about relationships," Castrey said. "If all of the management in an organization is male, it would be no surprise that they would be more comfortable providing support and opportunities for men."

Karyl Dusenbury, a financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors, said she has encountered glass ceiling situations throughout her years in the finance industry.

"Training is different for males vs. females," she said. "Resources are not as available to females as they are coming up through the ranks."

How did Dusenbury navigate a male-dominated industry? "I just go out and find my own ways," she said. "When I ran into bias, I went out and found ways to prove myself to management and clients."

Castrey and Dusenbury agreed that addressing glass ceiling issues by whining, failing to ask for what you deserve or playing the victim makes women part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

The Alliance's presentation takes a proactive approach, and addresses how women can get what they deserve from their employers. And "Many businesses treat women well," Castrey said.

Statistics contained in the presentation indicate that gender pay gaps still exist, and Missouri women are faring worse than those in some states.

"Missouri women tend to lag behind," Castrey said. Wage discrimination is thought to be a non-issue by some, who assume that federal laws in place for more than 30 years have closed the wage gap. Not so, according to Castrey.

"It's up to the woman to bring charges, and even if she wins, there are consequences," she said. "There are tremendous disincentives to complain."

So how does a woman improve her chances of being paid the same as her male counterparts? According to Alliance recommendations, getting employer expectations in writing is a good first step.

Asking for feedback between performance evaluations, along with documenting your performance and getting evaluations and disciplinary actions in writing, also creates a clearer picture of how you are doing. Don't discount criticism before looking closely at your performance, and work to improve upon your job weaknesses.

Getting pay specifics by asking about pay ranges and learning what pay ranges exist for similar jobs in your market, as well as asking an employer what you should be doing to earn pay increases, goes a long way toward clearly understanding what your job should be worth and what you must do to get raises.

Advancement issues center around a woman's willingness to keep her skills up to date and seek additional training in order to maximize her value to the company. Doing the extra 10 percent, and being willing to take on new assignments can also help a woman carve a niche in her company. Personal development also helps a woman advance, and learning to network effectively, as well as maximizing her strengths, are important job skills.

Above all, women should not enter the work force with a chip on their shoulder, or shoot themselves in the foot with self-defeating behaviors such as low self-esteem, poor preparation and bad attitudes, according to Castrey and Dusenbury.

"I'm a firm believer that some of these things are in your hands, and if you're not willing to find your way, you shouldn't whine about it," Dusenbury said.

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