During her Iacocca internship in Prague last summer, Jasmine Wung, ’19, was inspired by an event her host organization, Otevrena Spolecnost, planned to spread awareness about the gender wage gap. Wung decided to bring the lessons she learned abroad back to the Lehigh community.
Her efforts paid off on March 27, when the Center for Gender Equity hosted Negotiating the Wage Gap.
Wung, a CGE intern, co-led the event with Aly Duffin, ’21, a student staff member, and Andrea Skimbo, the associate director of the Center for Career & Professional Development.
Skimbo stressed the importance of negotiating the salary of a first job, because that starting salary can affect future earnings.
While a few thousand dollars may not seem like much of a difference when compared to male counterparts, over time this adds up to more than women may realize, which is why Skimbo said women must negotiate.
Wung said women are less likely than men to negotiate salary, which can end up costing them up to $1 million in their lifetimes.
“It’s not super easy, it’s not going to feel comfortable,” Skimbo said.
Undergraduate women filled the room for the event, eager to learn about the most important factors to consider when negotiating salaries: where the job is located, the job’s industry, the salary of similar positions in different companies, and experience level.
Though progress has been made in closing the gender gap, Wung said institutional sexism and stereotypes are still present in the workplace. She said women are less likely to negotiate than men because women fear they may be seen as overly aggressive.
“We socialize women to fit into what we think women should be, like docile, complacent, don’t challenge authority, be grateful for what you’re given,” Wung said. “I think it’s really hard to override that and push yourself to not fit into those stereotypes or expectations, but the more we talk about it the easier it will be.”
Wung and Duffin began their presentation by showing commercials from Bud Light and Audi, two companies that have stated they are working to close the gender wage gap.
However, the wage gap doesn’t just exist between men and women. Wung clarified that race, ethnicity, nationality, weight and social class also contribute to salaries.
Zoe Topaz, ’21, said she knew a gender wage gap existed but didn’t realize how wide it was.
“It’s important to me, as a woman and college student who will enter the workforce,” Topaz said. “I need to be aware about inequity in negotiations so that I can set myself up for the most success possible in my career.”
Negotiating the Wage Gap was part of a series of events Wung has been planning since August. The other events included Cookie for Change and a lunch and learn about the transgender wage gap.
“I have heard about inequity in negotiations and about the wage gap,” Topaz said, “but this event confirmed just how present and important it is.”