3 ways to fight pay inequality no matter which industry you work in.

By Catey Hill
Women still make just 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.
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It was a chance visit to the office printer that led financial advisor Karen Van Voorhis to find out that two of her male counterparts were each making about $20,000 more than she was, she tells Millie.

At the time, Van Voorhis had roughly the same experience and background as those male colleagues, and they all did the same job, she says. But she was making about $75,000 and they were making $95,000, she says. She discovered the oversight while working late, when someone printed the department pay structure and accidentally left it sitting on the printer.

Financial planner Karen Van Voorhis
Courtesy of Karen Van Voorhis

“I was so stunned. I realized I was the statistic,” says Van Voorhis, who now, well over a decade later, is the director of financial planning at Daniel J. Galli and Associates in Norwell, MA. “You don’t think it will happen to you.” (A female manager at Van Voorhis’ old firm later righted the pay gap.)

Personal financial advisors—who help people make money decisions about investments, budgeting and more—may have the biggest pay gap of any job in any industry. “No job has a wider pay discrepancy between men and women,” writes 24/7 Wall St. in its analysis of government data from 2008 to 2017; the “typical female worker in the job earns less than $1,000 a week compared to the median weekly wage for men in the occupation of $1,662.” An analysis of 120 professions by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research came to the same conclusion, and on the whole, the financial industry has one of the worst pay gaps in the nation, according to the ADP Research Institute.

There are more than 270,000 people who are personal financial advisors (about one-third are women)—and many of them are paid at least partially on commission or make a percentage of the total assets they have under their management. That means that if they don’t have a great network of affluent clients, they may earn less—and traditionally that network has been something of an old boy’s club, women working in the industry say.

“The industry was built on men connecting to men on the golf course, and traditionally women weren’t engaged in that way,” explains certified financial planner Zaneilia Harris, president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management in Upper Marlboro, MD. “We’re now seeing way more women, but those [male] networks are still strong.”

And like in other industries, female personal financial advisors—who more often have caregiving responsibilities—may not be able, due to their other responsibilities, to devote as much time to business development or networking, says Marguerita Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, MD. And of course, gender discrimination may be at play as well, with men wanting other men to give them financial advice. Adds Cheng: “Familiarity can lead to unconscious bias, meaning we refer business or recruit others whose stories and experiences resemble ours.” 

Whatever the reasons for the finance-industry pay gap, it’s certainly not the only industry to experience unequal pay. On average, women still earn only 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. Here are three ways women can fight the pay gap no matter the industry they work in. 

  1. Demand salary transparency. “Transparency into what people are getting paid is so important,” says Harris, as it can help you figure out if you’re paid fairly. Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at career site Glassdoor, says companies should also “conduct internal pay gap audits to better understand whether a pay gap exists within their organization,” as well as “encourage salary transparency among employees.” This article shows you the power of salary transparency.
  2. Negotiate. To close the pay gap, employers should “offer programs to encourage and empower women to negotiate for fair pay,” says Zhao. But most don’t. If your employer doesn’t do this, seek out resources online like this one to help you negotiate.
  3. Advocate for fair scheduling. Working parents—most often mothers—may feel pressured to leave the workforce or take lower-paying or part-time jobs so that they can manage work and child care. Flexible scheduling options could prevent this, notes the Center for American Progress.