This semester, some members of the Ithaca College community are tackling the national issue of gender equality in the workplace through a TED Talks-inspired series, “Teach, Initiate, Advocate!”
Shaianne Osterreich, associate professor of economics, and Heather Lane, lecturer in the Business School and owner of Purity Ice Cream, gave presentations as part of the college’s TIA! Talks to increase awareness about the gender pay gap and gender equality in the workplace. Three talks took place Feb. 20-21 and another will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Taughannock Falls Room in Campus Center. The series will be capped off with a networking dinner April 30 in Clark Lounge in Campus Center.
Michele Lenhart, director of student leadership and involvement in the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, said the talks are meant to help eliminate the gender pay gap.
“A lot of young women do not realize there is such a significant pay gap,” Lenhart said. “We want to make sure that women understand some of the really practical things that they can do to narrow that gap.”
Lane discussed how to present oneself professionally in her presentation Feb. 20, “Professional Confidence: Behaviors for Success.”
“I decided to say yes to this talk in professional presence, because I believe it is like setting the table for success,” Lane said. “The question you have to ask yourself is what is it that you can do to help build your confidence, and that is what I wanted to talk about in my presentation.”
Lane discussed how to have a presence in the workplace and how to use that presence to find job opportunities and promotions.
“It’s the same thing as preparing for a triathlon,” Lane said. “You have to do some research on whatever you are asking for; you have to practice.”
She also used her experience as a woman in business as an example to explain how to overcome the hurdles that college graduates are likely to face.
Lane said the first thing to do to ensure a professional presence is to focus on appearance, not dressing to impress but “dressing to buy in.” She also said graduates or anyone seeking a job or promotion need to practice their professional stance and their body language signals.
In her presentation, Osterreich used statistics from the American Association of University Women report, “The Simple Truth,” to demonstrate that the gender pay gap issue is a bigger problem than people realize. Osterreich presented data showing that within the first year out of college, women are only earning 82 percent of what men are earning, based almost solely on the fact they are women. The current national average for the pay gap between men and women is 23 percent, with women earning 77 percent of their male counterparts.
Osterreich said there are many reasons why women are paid differently in the workplace, but one of the ways women can address this problem is through bargaining.
“The results that we see are either a part of a woman’s choice or discrimination,” Osterreich said. “One of the things that we know, whether women choose these scenarios or they are subject to systemic bias, bargaining is really an important piece. How and why women bargain is certainly an important element to solutions.”
Freshman Alexa Szotka attended Lane and Osterreich’s presentations and said she walked away with not only an increased understanding of what the gender pay gap is but also steps she could take in her professional career.
“I not only learned the power of positivity but also that because of the gender pay gap, women, myself included, will have to work 10 times harder and prove that we know everything we need to in order to get a job and get equal pay to men,” Szotka said of Lane’s presentation.
Szotka said that Osterreich’s talk helped her to understand how she and society could address the gender gap issue.
“To address the gender gap issue we will also have to address our cultural norms and values,” Szotka said. “Lastly I learned that women need to bargain more, even if it puts them in uncomfortable positions, but in order to do this you need to see how much you are worth to a company and do your research.”
The TIA Talks were sponsored by OSEMA and the Office of Career Services. Other TIA Talks focused on financial literacy for women, and there will be a presentation on negotiation skills Thursday.
Lenhart said she could not be more pleased with the turnout at the TIA Talks.
“We got such excitement and such support online through our social media sites,” Lenhart said. “People are really talking about these topics and are wanting to read the reports. Everyone is just really curious and it’s great.”