It’s no secret that women, and women of color especially, are at the bottom of the wage ladder when it comes to receiving fair and equal pay in comparison to their white male counterparts. This fact is supported by a new report released by PayScale, which found that women of color were 19% less likely to receive pay raises than white men when they asked for one. And women are proven to have a harder time at negotiating their salaries and asking for their just due; as a result, they’re potentially losing out on almost a million dollars during their career lifespans.
The PayScale report, titled “Raise Anatomy,” surveyed over 160,060 workers to “find out who’s asking for a raise, who receives a raise when they ask, why people don’t ask, and how people feel about their workplace when they’re denied a raise.” It was found that with controlled factors like job type, job level, industry etc, there was no difference in the rates at which the racial/ethnic groups surveyed asked for a raise.
So if women of color are asking for raises at the same rate as other groups, why aren’t they receiving them?
When survey participants were asked if they have ever asked for a raise from their current employer, only 37 percent have asked for a pay increase. Without assessing race/gender, the report found that the determining factor in who asks for a raise, and who doesn’t, was location. For example, employees in the Pacific U.S. were more likely to asks for raises over employees who live in the Midwest.
Of the 37 percent of the survey population that got up the courage to ask for a raise, 70 percent were granted raises. But the data breaks down this statistic even further: only 39 percent received the increase that they requested, 31 percent received a raise for an amount lower than what they asked for, and 30 percent received no raise at all.
As for women of color? Bias is the culprit behind their lack of raises; but history has shown that this is usually the reasoning behind keeping women of color as victims to the wage gap.
The report also supports the idea that the solution may not lie in women of color simply demanding more raises.
“Negotiation is a remedy that has worked for white men to raise their salaries, but it is not one that is universally applicable, particularly when bias is at play, “ said Ruchika Tulshyan, author of "The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace."
Among some of Tulshyan’s recommended strategies for negotiating a raise as a woman of color, are documenting your raise conversation with your manager in an email, and asking for a date to follow-up. As well as collecting salary data on similar positions within your company; from trustworthy colleagues if possible. If a raise seems impossible for unexplained reasons from management, it may be prudent to reach out to HR or “an external labor protections agency to investigate,” said Tulshyan.
Hopefully, if women of color can become more proactive about reporting and speaking out against pay inequality, we can have a fighting chance at closing the pay gap once and for all.
Tiffany Curtis is a Philly-based freelance writer, podcaster, and sex positivist whose work focuses on empowerment for women of color, race and culture, and sex positivity. She has written for sites like Blavity, Refinery29, and Hello Giggles.