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Just because women earn 80 cents for every dollar men make doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.
In fact, one big and practical way we can make a difference is getting more comfortable talking about money and putting pressure on employers to disclose exactly how much they are paying workers, said MSNBC’s anchor Stephanie Ruhle.
“Transparency is the answer,” Ruhle said. “In so many industries, we just don’t have the information. We don’t know what other people make.”
This issue previously hit home for Ruhle when she was working in finance and found out that she was earning slightly less than her male peers, even though she was producing more than some of them.
“The more transparency there is around what a job function is and what it pays, the closer we can get to parity,” Ruhle said, admitting that no company wants to disclose what everyone is paid. One of the first, important steps is to take the stigma and embarrassment out of asking.
“Shame is one of our biggest problems,” Ruhle said. “We’re too ashamed to go for something. We don’t want to take a seat at the table because of shame, we don’t want to ask about money because it’s embarrassing.”
“When we can remove shame and stop calling it the ugly truth and just call it the truth, I think we’ll do better,” Ruhle added.
In addition to pushing for transparency and not being afraid to ask about salary, Ruhle believes there are other steps that both women and men can take to close the gender wage gap.
“Breaking glass ceilings is important, but you have to remember breaking glass leaves a lot of people bloody,” Ruhle said. “I think you can achieve a lot of your goals in a constructive way.”
“When you’re attacking other people, when you’re pushing back at them and making them on the defensive, you don’t have to,” Ruhle added. “You can stand up for yourself and find your place, but do it in a productive way.”
Be a strong performer—and mentorship will follow
“Mentorship is not a charity,” Ruhle said. “If you’re looking for a mentor, the first thing you need to do is be good at your job.”
Mentors, of course, can help women sharpen their skills and develop the confidence to ask for the pay they deserve.
Ruhle believes that mentorship is about being good at what you do and providing value to someone else. “It’s a two-way relationship,” she said. Mentors have experience and wisdom to share, and mentees have fresh new ideas, which is also an asset. She believes that being a stand out performer in your role could motivate mentors to want to guide and teach you.
Build a solid network
Furthermore, cultivating relationships and nurturing a professional network of women and men could help to open doors and break down barriers tied to pay inequality.
“We [women] don’t have a strong network already,” Ruhle admitted. “My husband does. It doesn’t mean he has an unfair advantage and his network is wrong, but it means I have to find a way to build that community around me and for others so we can do it together.”