wenty-five years ago, EXHIBITOR began tracking the average salaries of exhibit and event professionals. Since that very first salary survey in 1987, we've paid particular attention to one specific metric: the wage disparity between male and female respondents. And while we've seen compensation ebb and flow, women in our industry are not much better off than they were in 1987.
Sure, the average salary of female exhibit and event professionals has increased from $31,550 in 1987 to $59,581 in 2011, but the so-called "gender gap" hasn't narrowed as much as we might like to assume. When we conducted our first survey in 1987, women made an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Today, in 2011, they make 79 cents. That's right, a quarter-century later, the gender gap has narrowed by a measly 2 percent. Enjoy your two cents, ladies. Don't spend it all in one place.
In her book, "Know Your Value," Mika Brzezinski writes, "Women have made impressive gains over the past 50 years. But despite all these impressive gains, we still sell ourselves way too short. According to a Government Accountability Office study released in September 2010, professional women still make only 81 cents for every dollar a man makes in a similar job."
Women in the exhibition industry fair even worse (those holding the title "conventions and meetings manager" earn just 63 cents per dollar earned by men). When we compare the average salaries of male and female respondents over the last four years, the total difference in pay equals $57,695. In other words, for every four years of work, men are taking home an extra year's worth of salary. Who knew a penis and an Adam's apple carried such a hefty premium?
So what's the root cause of this significant disparity? Researchers cite myriad possible causes, but according to Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of the book "Women Don't Ask," the most likely contributor is that women ask for raises and promotions 85 percent less often than their male counterparts. And when they do, they typically ask for 30 percent less money.
Other research suggests that women in entry-level positions start at lower salaries than male employees, meaning that even if they did receive raises and promotions at the same rate as men, they would not close the gap.
So what's a girl to do? Brzezinski claims the first step is knowing your value. That's the primary reason EXHIBITOR has devoted one issue per year to providing that valuable information. If you don't know what you're worth, and what your peers are being paid, it's difficult to demand more - and practically impossible to justify that demand.
But don't just stop after noting the average salary for employees who hold your title, or have the same job responsibilities as you. Instead, I challenge women to use our online salary calculator and downloadable salary-calculator worksheet to determine the average salary of men in their position, with similar responsibilities, comparable experience, equal education, etc. You shouldn't aspire to average (which is skewed by a disproportionate percentage of lower-earning female respondents in the first place), but rather to the salaries being earned by your male counterparts who do what you do.
Once you know what you're worth, you have to ask for it - and probably more than once. If 25 years from now, women are still making 79 or even 89 cents for every dollar earned by men, our industry will have failed. Or, as Brzezinski puts it, "If we can't quantify and communicate our value with confidence, the achievements of the tremendous women before us will have all been for nothing."e
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