Behind the Scenes

Less to Bank On

Income inequality is only the half of it. Women in the workplace face challenges at every turn.

Do yourself a favor and watch Frans de Waal’s TEDTalk video. I’ll set it up for you without giving too much away. A primatologist, ethologist, and professor of primate behavior at Emory University, de Waal shows what happens when two capuchin monkeys are rewarded unequally — one with a piece of cucumber, the other with a grape, a food they prefer — for doing the same task.

Spoiler alert: Even monkeys recognize the inherent unfairness of unequal pay for equal work. So what does this have to do with this issue of Convene? Every June, we present our annual Salary Survey, and for the last few years, we’ve broken down the results according to gender. Men always make more. This year, our male meeting-professional respondents’ annual salary was nearly $30,000 higher than our female respondents’.

That’s an overall average that doesn’t take into account the fact that all respondents don’t share the same title or level of responsibility. When you look at the data more closely, you see that even though 90 percent of responses came from women, male survey-takers occupy a proportionately larger percentage of higher-level roles — including directors, vice presidents, and executive directors.

Honestly, I don’t know what that says about our industry. I’ve met quite a few women meeting planners who’ve said that they have no desire to climb any higher up the organizational ladder. They’re perfectly happy where they are.

But if you’re a woman who isn’t, or you’re experiencing career hurdles — or both — you’ll want to read our cover story. We’ve surveyed the landscape to present the latest thinking and research about the very real challenges women face in the workforce today, across every industry and every sector. From a lack of mentorship opportunities to a perception bias in how women negotiate for a raise to a pervasive lack of self-confidence, a lot of things continue to hold women back. Our cover story offers strategies to overcome these challenges — as well as interviews with three women who have successfully established themselves in the male-dominated sphere of meeting and event technology — so we’re not presenting an entirely bleak picture.
But pay inequity remains a sobering reality. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business, in 2013, the median weekly earnings for women in full-time management, professional, and related occupations were $973, compared to $1,349 for men. When analyzing the gender pay gap, economists attribute 40 percent of the gender pay gap to discrimination — not to different responsibility or skill levels.

The wage gap is bad for the economy. Lower pay for women means fewer dollars spent — and that adds up to a lot. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the U.S. economy would produce $448 billion in additional income if women received equal pay.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.