April 10, 2018 10:10 AM

In the past year, women across the country have joined forces to protest unequal pay in the workplace, from minimum-wage workers to blockbuster stars including Jennifer Lawrence. And perhaps no one has protested that wage gap more publicly than Catt Sadler, who inadvertently became the face of the movement when she quit her job at E! after discovering she was making half the salary of her male co-host.

So who better to raise awareness of Equal Pay Day – April 10, which is as far into this year  the average woman has to work to make what her male counterpart made in 2017 – than Sadler, who is teaming up with Luna Bar and AAUW to highlight the wage gap and offer solutions (including salary negotiation workshops hosted around the country, among other tools).  The star, who’s currently working on a docuseries about the topic with Lawrence, shared five easy tips for salary negotiation that she’s learned since becoming an activist for the cause.

Tommy Garcia/E! Entertainment

1. Don’t rely on the company to make the best offer.

No one is more committed to your success than you, so you need to be prepared to be your own best advocate right out of the gate – don’t wait until you’ve “proven yourself” or trust that they’ll raise your compensation once you’ve put in time. “I would encourage people to start the day they step into the workforce,” Sadler says. “You often trust in your employer or the company in which you have dedicated more than a decade, like I did. I really just trusted the process, but that’s not enough. I wish I would have known to ask more, sooner. If you enter the workforce making more from the get go then you are not playing catch-up; for me I think it was just a little too late. At the end of the day we were just never going to get there.”

2. Do your research to find out what salary is fair, and write that number down ahead of time.

“I think a lot of women get the job offer and already the employer has dictated the ballpark range of what you can potentially make,” Sadler says. “A tip that surprised me was, you put down the number first. That requires doing some research, finding out what other women with similar experience in a similar position with the same expertise as you might be making – but you can gain a lot from that starting point being a little bit higher.”

3. Be ready to ask tough questions.

Because money is still a taboo topic, it can be very uncomfortable to bring up salary comps, but Sadler says it’s so important. “I think just talking at all and getting rid of this taboo notion that we are not supposed to share how much we make – I mean that’s where it all begins,” she says. “We can’t even have an argument or conversation amongst one another or say that in the workplace if people aren’t being completely transparent.”

And for women just starting out in their careers who might not have networks to tap for that information? “I think the future generations are already far more attuned to what’s going on, so I think we are growing a generation of girls from day one who just are expecting more,” she says. One way for new-to-the-workforce women to approach the topic: “Ask questions like, If I take this job, can I be sure that a male doing a similar job and contributing the same with the same education is not going to be paid more than me? These are questions that we can ask and we can expect what is fair from our employers.”

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4. Bring men into the discussion as allies.

Sadler also thinks the next generation will be more attuned to wage disparity from both sides – it won’t just be a women’s issue. “When it comes to men and boys in general, the guys aren’t the problem. They aren’t the enemy; it’s the system that’s the issue. It’s the systematic way that we have done things for so long,” she says. As a mom of two young boys, she says they ask, “you have all these same contributions but this guy gets paid more only because his gender? For them it’s like, that’s not fair, that doesn’t make sense.”

5. And of course, support other women.

The star got very public support from stars including Debra Messing and Reese Witherspoon after her E! exit, and she says it’s so important to build up the women around you – which you can do by role-playing salary negotiations with friends to help them prepare and sharing salary information when you have it.

“We have to have women rally around one another, and I think we are doing that,” she said. “I’ve never been prouder to be a woman than I am today. That is the absolute truth. I mean the women that came before me, before my departure, they inspired me and I think it’s a real trickle effect. We have to keep being these champions for one another.”

For more from Sadler and for information on how to support Luna Bar’s Equal Pay campaign efforts, visit the Luna Bar site and share your own salary negotiation tips below.

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