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Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan

Posted: November 19, 2010 04:32 AM

Now that the Paycheck Fairness Act has failed, if you think you're being unfairly paid, you're pretty much on your own. You probably feel disillusioned, disappointed and mad. But instead of storming out in a huff, get smart. Learn to negotiate your pay.

A few months ago, I spoke at a tenth birthday celebration for Babson College's Center for Women's Leadership. And there I met the most fantastic woman: Evelyn Murphy of the Wage Project. After a very successful career in business and politics, Murphy decided she wanted to make a difference. And she felt that the most concrete way to do that was to teach women how to negotiate their pay.

So she set up the Wage Project which does exactly that. Its trainers go around the country offering workshops to women so that they know what fair pay is, they learn that they are likely to be discriminated against (and it gets worse with age) and that their best recourse is to develop the negotiating skills to stand up for themselves. Much of the training takes place on college campuses so that women graduate with the real life skills they'll need to ensure they aren't short-changed.

As we know from Linda Babcock's book, Women Don't Ask, one of the chief reasons women are under-paid is because they don't ask for more. "A woman who routinely negotiates her salary increases will earn over one million dollars more by the time she retires than a woman who accepts what she's offered every time without asking for more."

Well Murphy is on a mission to teach women how, and her goal is nothing less than to eliminate the gender wage gap in America. Since legislation isn't going to do it, we all have to hope that Murphy's brain, determination and training do the trick.