Why the Secret Wage Gap Commercial Sucks for Women

Secret released a new deodorant commercial depicting a young woman in a bathroom practicing a conversation with her boss regarding pay. She is upset because her male colleague makes more than her, without working as hard or as long at the firm.

Here is the ad:


Here is why it sucks:

Instead of fueling the popular “we fight gender inequality” fire, Secret could make a positive impact by showing a woman practicing her speech, learning how to negotiate, and walking confidently into her boss’s office prepared to show why she should make more money. Instead they show a nervous, messy woman yammering in the bathroom mirror. Talk about stereotypes.

This commercial shows everything wrong with the “wage gap” conversation:

1. THERE IS NO WAGE GAP: Women and men are paid  equally for the same jobs. A male teacher and a female teacher, a male nurse and a female nurse, etc. – they are making the same. If you combine all male salaries in the US, and then combine all female salaries in the US, you will find that on average men are making more. On average, men are also going into higher paying fields, working more hours, and spending less time at home than women. Women are taking lower paying jobs due to the flexibility they afford. Men are taking higher paying jobs but spending less time at home.

If you want to make more as a woman (or a man), pick a high paying career. Become a lawyer, a doctor, a policewoman, a corporate accountant… work 60, 70+ hours a week. But on average, women aren’t doing this, so on average men are making more. But, equal pay for equal jobs does exist… let’s stop acting like it doesn’t! Instead, let’s empower woman to pursue higher paying careers.

Listen to this Freakonomics podcast to learn more: The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap 

2. Learn to negotiate: It’s not the company’s job to tell you, “Hey you’re asking for $5,000 less than Joe, so you should ask for more to make things fair.” Companies have a range they are willing to pay for a particular job, and while your background can place you high or low on that range, your negotiating skills are vital as well.

Studies have continuously proven that women do not negotiate well. So Todd may have asked for more, and got it, where as Ms. Blazer here did not negotiate a larger salary. As such, Ms. Blazer just learned a lesson and will ask for more during her next raise/promotion/interview.

3. The bathroom and the hair: Really, Ms. Blazer should have practiced this speech at home. The fact that she is in her employer’s bathroom makes me think she just learned Todd’s salary and is reacting immediately on emotion. Don’t do this. If you need to discuss something with your boss, take your time to prepare.

Secondly, her hair is a mess. Just brush your hair before asking for a raise. Also, schedule a meeting with your boss, don’t just ask him if he has a second. This conversation warrants more time and thought than a second between meetings.

4. Todd doesn’t matter at all: Our salaries are not dependent on what our colleagues make. If you go to your boss and say, “I heard Sally is making $1,000 more than me”, your boss isn’t going to fall over and apologize.

If you want to make more, and you believe you should be making more than someone else, you need to focus on what YOU bring to the table. Phrase it as, “I do this, that, and the other, I have brought X amount of dollars/business/website hits to this company, and based on my performance I believe I should make $1,000 more…” or whatever.

Saying, “Todd has been here less time than me and I don’t think he works as hard, so I deserve more than him” is not a valid reason for a raise. Firstly, you don’t know Todd’s background or why your boss thinks he deserves what he deserves, and secondly you sound like a kid. “She has more crayons than me, I deserve more.” Why, for existing? Make a valid case explaining why you deserve to make a certain amount, and don’t simply piggy back on what your colleagues are making. That ain’t how it works, kids.

5. Stop making women out to be victims: In the end, I am tired of these campaigns acting like women are being victimized each pay day. Learn to negotiate, join high paying careers, and work really hard. The pay is there, but you need to work for it, just like men! You aren’t going to make $70,000 as a teacher in Oklahoma. You will make more than that as a broker. Pick the life you want and go for it – but you’re not a victim because of the choices you make.

6. Real sexism does exist: There are definitely shitty employers who pay women less because they see them as less. By inflating the wage gap numbers – like Obama saying women are paid 77 cents for every dollar – we are diluting the true issue that some do face. If everyone cries wolf, the real victims will be hard to hear.