June 10, 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Yet, even today, after 50 years, women are paid on average 79% of what men are paid. This issue can be tackled on the legal front, the policy front and through education and awareness. But in spite of all the systemic efforts, there are things that we as women do every day to cause us to realize less than our full value. In this issue we take a look at how we can learn to overcome them.
Susan & Lynn
How Much Are You Worth?
We like to have our work and our value validated by others. Feeling appreciated, feeling like we belong, feeling like our ideas have made a difference, all bring a sense of satisfaction. If we’re self-aware, we are a good judge of when we’ve done well…and when we’ve faltered. When we’ve done well and we’re not recognized, it’s like a punch in the gut. It’s often hard to stand up for ourselves and do it firmly yet gracefully. Let’s take a look at a story of a woman who found herself not being valued in her job.
“It was a tough year in the banking business and was understood by all that bonuses would be slim. It was my first year working for a new bank. It was also the year of a big new product launch for my new employer. I tackled the goal of getting the new product out and sold the first major deal for that product. I was recognized at the end of the year with a clock and an award for my work.”
“At bonus time, my boss called me in to tell me about my bonus. I had believed him to be my advocate. After all, he had just aggressively pursued hiring me. ‘You know that clock you received? Well, that’s your bonus this year.’ I knew things were tight that year but I had to ask, ‘Is everyone else in the same boat? No bonuses?’ ‘Well, not exactly. You know Jim [not his real name]. He has a wife and kids so we’re allocating most of the departmental bonus to him.’
“Yep. That’s what he said. Hard to believe, right? At the time I was the sole income provider in my family, too, but that seemed not to matter (although it is an unsupportable basis for bonuses).”
Let’s learn from this woman’s story as we look at how she claimed her value.
Stay Calm, Stand Firm: The first thing she did was to not lose control of her emotions. She was furious, hurt, shocked. It was so unfair! Yet she remained calm and stuffed her fury in her gut and replied rationally and clearly.
Make the Business Case: “I find that unacceptable. I was recognized for my work above that of others, you sought me out from another institution, I have delivered what you have asked, and you have awarded no bonus. What’s more, you have allocated bonuses on a basis unrelated to business results.” The facts were pretty compelling and the fact that she stated them so clearly put her boss on his heels. At that point it was hard for him to say no to her.
Be Clear on Where to Ask: “There was a big part of me that just wanted to be recognized and have them grovel and apologize.” She knew she’d get nothing done relying on her boss to advocate for her. He didn’t advocate strong enough during the bonus process, why would he now? She chose to escalate the issue. She asked where in the organization the decision had been made, and asked to speak to each person in that decision process. She didn’t stop requesting upward audiences until she was satisfied.
She knew when she had reached an acceptable satisfaction point. She received admissions of less than adequate decision making, stated regrets, and a written apology.
Her escalation didn’t change the decision, yet had she not pursued it she would have remained unknown and easily overlooked in the future. She did not want to start her career being a “doormat” with a new employer.
Don’t Use Inflammatory Language: She didn’t become a “trouble maker”. In each case she held a firm, rational and respectful conversation stating her case and asking for an explanation of their decision. She did not mention bias, discrimination or legal action.
Know Where You Can Negotiate: There are some decisions that once they are made, are extremely difficult to get changed. At some point the woman in our story realized this would not be overturned easily and that to push it further would cause harm to her longer term objectives. Shortly thereafter she presented a proposal for financial support for her MBA, which was very important to her and her career objectives. It was approved without hesitation. Was it a direct result? There’s no proof, but it was a decision made by the same people in a budget area where they had more flexibility.
Know What It’s Worth To You: It’s important to know how much political capital you are willing to expend to pursue something. In this case, our friend knew that establishing her reputation, receiving recognition and future support of the MBA were more important than the immediate bonus money.
At Women Leading Together our mission is to help you live a fulfilling life and career. Part of that fulfillment comes from feeling valued. In this program, you will learn how to overcome the barriers that cause us to realize less than our full value.
You’re invited to learn more about the 5 Strategies program at a one hour training webinar on October 4, 11:30 am CT. In this training here’s what you’ll discover:
5 Key components of a strategic career plan.
The innate things we do as women that end up limiting ourselves and our results.
The #1 secret for advancing your career. Men know how to do it. Women often don’t.
To take advantage of this training, enroll now at:
When we feel confident in our purpose and have it validated through approval, we feel valued in our work. Join us on October 4!
Book Review: “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brezezinski
Mika Brezezinski, co-host of MSNBC morning show Morning Joe, uses her personal story and interviews with high powered women to give insight into how women fail to claim their worth. The book is at once entertaining, informative and somewhat disheartening. It’s entertaining to read the stories of so many high powered women. It’s informative to see how these women have made many common mistakes and how they’ve recovered and thrived to claim their worth. But it’s also disheartening to see too many stories where the women felt they had to keep motherhood in the shadows. There are lots of good lessons and plenty of opportunity to see oneself in the stories, no doubt. It’s an easy airplane read.
Article: Are Women Catching Up in Pay? Forbes, April 9, 2013
This article highlights the multitude of studies about the gender pay gap. I had a friend who used to say, “If you massage the numbers long enough, you can make them say anything you want.” We’ll leave it to you to read and decide.
Susan Hodge and Lynn Rousseau created Women Leading Together in order to provide seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling careers. Visit our website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com.