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Career Advice: Should I Confront the Gender Gap?

Career Advice: Should I Confront the Gender Gap?

Q: "I’m about to complete an internal audit internship for a rather large company. The company just offered me a full-time job with a salary of $45,000. Although the job is entry-level, I’ve gotten nothing but excellent reviews from a senior who is notorious for being bad with her reviews. I also have a stellar academic record, which includes a 4.0 GPA and various leadership positions, as well as prior full-time work experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked to another staff member – same position, same age, with fewer academic achievements and such – who started in February. He revealed that his salary range was between $47,500 and $50,000.

The offer I received hasn’t been finalized into a letter yet. My manager just said it would be around $45,000 with a possible – and he was very reluctant to say this – sign-on bonus of 10 percent.

I’m wondering whether the company is expecting me to negotiate, or if the ugly fact is that my coworker was offered more because he is male. I’m very aware of the gender-based gaps in salaries. Even though my department and a fair number of people in the HR department are women, the company is in a male-dominated industry, and upper management is dominated by what seems to be an old boys’ club.

With this knowledge, do you think it’s possible for me to negotiate a higher salary? I know they desperately want me to work for them, especially since they are having a hard time finding staff. The benefits are great, and I may also be courting a possible employment offer from one of the Big Four firms."

A: The Negotiation Expert responds:

“Take this job. Do not try to negotiate more just because it’s your impression that a guy got a couple of grand more – assuming that it’s really true and this guy isn’t just overstating the actual offer he received. If it’s true, my bet would be that other factors would explain the difference, not gender. How dumb would that be – a bunch of old guys sitting in a smoke-filled office saying, “Let’s offer ‘oolijan’ two grand less because she’s a female!” People are usually offered salaries based on how well their qualifications for the job match the job’s requirements. Take this job and prove what you can accomplish!”