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Phyllis Schlafly, a US conservative activist, made headlines recently for claiming that women don't want to be paid equally, and those who receive an equal pay to that of their male counterparts find it hard to land a husband.
The outrage and sarcasm that Schlafy's argument met was certainly justified. Hearing such an argument in this day and age borders on an insult to women who strive every day in their professions while, in many cases, juggling home and children responsibilities efficiently.
But the harm goes well beyond this argument's laughable nature in that it presents priorities and preferences of a particular group of women as the ideal situation being sought by every working woman. In reality, between Schlafly's view and the more liberal perception of women as equal to men, there is a whole spectrum of views that spans different roles for men and women as partners, family or coworkers.
These personal views aside, equal pay for women should be first adopted by women themselves. Any argument that tells women that they deserve less pay for their equal work is destructive and sabotage years of hard work toward gender equality — that is one of the UAE's new set of development goals post 2015.
It takes two to tango, however. Women on one side and men, as hiring managers, on the other side, can help take careful steps forward toward that goal. Unless the two parties collaborate in making change, it is going to be a long journey particularly in societies where the concept of gender equality is countered by cultural and social backgrounds.
Here is how each group should work to bridge the gap in a hiring situation.
Many of you probably are not from the camp that wishes to get paid less to be able to land a husband. You still need to review your perceptions of yourself and your skills. Many women don't get equal pay simply because they sell themselves short. You may be shy to discuss money, feeling unworthy of a high salary, being unnecessarily too grateful to an employer who is willing to hire you despite your commitments, etc. Whatever the reasons that are holding you back from negotiating, you need to work on them immediately.
Negotiation should start with developing a healthy perception of your professional skills. You're the one who can define and stress your strength points and explain how you will be able to develop where needed. When you negotiate a new-job pay, your own clarity about your abilities and what you can bring to the job is what matters. On the other hand, avoid guilt over your life commitments such as child care and family. Employers are supposed to provide a work environment that is conducive to maintaining work-life balance. If they don't, that is not really your fault. Similarly, if hiring managers would rather go with a male candidate, hoping that person will be available 24/7, they are probably in for an unpleasant surprise. First, many families share responsibilities. Second, even a single person may have more interests than just hanging out in an office.
First of all, discrimination based on gender is illegal. Employers who promote themselves for providing equal opportunities must show their commitment to hiring the best person for the job regardless of this person's gender. Beware of even discussing matters related to gender in a job interview, particularly in relation to pay. Asking job candidates about their marital status, plans for having babies, etc can lead to major troubles. So do any questions or decisions based on the mere fact of the candidate's gender.
What if two candidates — a man and a woman — are equally qualified for the job? That is a situation where further interviewing or testing may be required. Either way, if you hire a woman, the pay must be fair — even if it was negotiable. Remember, studies and life experiences prove that qualified professional women do as good of a job as men. They can be super multitaskers and make for great workplace leaders. Those who disagree probably base their views on cultural or personal beliefs that should have no place in managing human resources.
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer is former Gulf News business features editor, is a Seattle-based editor