Missy McJunkins Duke is an attorney with Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus P.C. and tackled the conversation of how to navigate the pay gap between men and women in the workplace at the 2021 Soirée Women's Leadership Symposium.

"The national median pay for a woman who holds a full-time position is a little over $47,000," Duke said. "The median annual pay for a male in a similar position is about $57,000. That means that overall in the U.S., women are paid 82 cents for every dollar that men are paid, which amounts to about $10,000 less per year."

Arkansas ranks 21st in the pay gap per dollar between men and women. In Arkansas, women are making 21 cents less per dollar than men. On average, women in the U.S. lose a combined total of more than $956 billion dollars a year due to this wage gap.

Wihtout the pay gap in America, a working woman could afford 13 more months of child care, an additional year of tuition at a public four-year university or the full cost of tuition for a two-year university, nearly seven more months of premiums for employer-based health insurance, nearky 65 weeks of food, nearly six months of mortgage and utilities payments, more than nine additional months of rent payments, up to 8.4 additional years of birth control, or enough money to pay off student loan debt in just under three years, according to NationalPartnership.org.

Duke noted women get pay increases at the same rate men do, but when they get those increases, they are usually about 5% less than the increases given to men.

"It's not that women aren't asking, it's just that they aren't receiving the same benefits as men are."

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 ensures that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing for an equal-pay discrimination lawsuit resets with each new paycheck affected by the discriminatory action. Arkansas law does not prohibit employers from forcing employees to keep their salary secret, which can inhibit a woman's ability to know if she is being underpaid compared to her coworkers. 

"Even if you don't know what other people are making, you have to know what you are worth and what your value is," Duke said. 

Duke offers this advice for asking for increases in the right way and how to get ready for that conversation:


1. Be prepared.

  • It will likely be a negotiation, research and use data to back up your request.
  • Come to the table with a number. Have a range that you are willing to accept, but start with the higher end of the spectrum. 
  • Use data and numbers and use comparable data within your network. Make your case about you, not other people. 


2. Build your case.

  • Remind them what valuable things you have done for your employer. 
  • Document your work achievements. Talk about what you have done, but also things you would like to do in the future. (This shows you intend to be there for a while.)


3. Expect the unexpected. 

  • Understand you may not get an immediate yes or no answer. 
  • Be willing to entertain additional opportunities, but don't commit on the spot. 
  • Make informed decisions. 
  • Don't be afraid of silence. 


4. Make an impact.

  • You aren't just asking for the best thing for you, it will also be beneficial to your employer to pay you better. 
  • Practice. It's a difficult conversation. Rehearse. 

As a final piece of advice, Duke reminds us: "The answer is always 'no' until you ask. It cannot be 'yes' until you ask. So ask."

To watch Duke's full segment at the Soirée Women's Leadership Symposium, click here


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