What do you think of when you hear the word 'value.' Does it remind you of a discount or a cheap purchase? Do you think of key principles or a code of conduct? What about significance or worth? Or the verb form, to appreciate or respect?
Most women today struggle with determining their value at work. How often do you think about how significant your contribution is to the company? How useful are your combination of skills and talents? You might feel that you carry a huge portion of the workload, but often go unnoticed. You put in the work, but aren't fairly compensated. But what can you do about it?
Learn the Facts
The 2017 AAUW analysis of the US Census Bureau report, shows that on average, men are paid 20% more than women. This 20% margin is called the 'Gender Pay Gap.' It’s calculated by dividing the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working women by the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working men. There is debate as to whether the gap exists independently of skills or qualifications. However, the pattern indicates that even if a man and a woman have the exact same skill level, the man is be paid more for the exact same job. The gap exists across nearly all industries at varying rates.
The analysis shows an even larger gap for African American women who only earn about 60% compared of what white men earn. Hispanic and Latina women only earn about half as much as white men. The gap also increases with age. As women get older, they only earn 75% of the income of men their age.
There are many factors that contribute to the gab including occupational differences and family caregiving. However, the Center For American progress suggests that biggest contributing factor is the structural barrier and enduring social attitude about a women’s place. That bears repeating; the biggest factor is the social attitude about a "woman's place."
Know Your Value
Society has an unwritten rule about the value or importance of women. Traditional gender roles dictate men as bread-winners and women as caregivers. However, not all men feel fulfilled solely working and not all women feel fulfilled solely mothering. On top of it all, Americans tend to value working more than caregiving. So society perceives a woman who tries to both work and raise a family, as someone with less value. Less value means less significance. Less significance means less money.
Find Your Power
While you can't change societal norms all at once, you can start by changing your own. The first step toward ending the wage gap is for every woman to understand her own worth. Every woman has a purpose. If you don't know how you contribute to society, then society will dictate that role for you.
Your value could simply come from making people smile. Or your ability to organize. Or crunch numbers. Or public speaking. etc. If you're not sure, these questions might help.
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you good at?
- When people ask you for help, what do they ask for?
- If money didn't matter, what would you do?
You find aspects of your current job that correlate with these answers. If aren't able to, you might consider a career change. Don't be intimidated if your ideal job is male-dominated. Trust in your abilities and do whatever it takes to defend your value!
Do Your Research
Once you know what makes you significant, find out how your skills and talents benefit the company. Learn how to measure your value with data. Review budget reports and performance evaluations. Determine your exact worth based on the time you dedicate to the job vs. how much you're compensated.
- How has your team improved from your leadership?
- Which projects yielded the highest results?
- In which situations have you saved/made the company more money/resources?
- What skills do you have that no one else has?
If you aren't able to answer these questions, start tracking your progress at work. Write down your achievements and make sure to include the data you used to measure success.
Ask For What You Want
If you know your role and how it impacts the business at large, you can use your knowledge to your advantage. If you need more resources, show your superior how it's cost-effective. If you've gone several years without raise, explain to your superior why you deserve. Use data to back your claims.
Over 30% of women are uncomfortable negotiating salary. However, being uncomfortable should never stop you from defending your value. If you're afraid of being pushy, remember Being Respected is More Important Than Being Liked. If you're afraid to fail, use Emotional Intelligence to find the core reason. Isn't that 20% for ALL women worth it?
Lead By Example
There are additional steps you can take to solidify your true value. Instead of being perceived as simply a supporter, take charge and make decisions on your own. You can't attain power if you don't feel powerful. Stand tall and be proud!
Have you counted how many times you say "sorry" per day? It might be more than you expect. Women often apologize for situations when it's not even their fault. "Sorry" has become a replacement for "Excuse Me." When explaining a counter-argument, many women often lead with, "I'm sorry, but I feel differently..."
Many females make a habit of correlating interference with mistakes. This is detrimental to society, because it calls into question female value. How can women defend their value if they constantly belittle their own opinion? How can society find women significant if women constantly feel like they're making mistakes?
Studies show that men have a higher threshold for apology-worthy behavior than women do. Men voice their concerns with little no regard at how they are perceived. They don't feel that disagreement equates to being "difficult." So why can't women feel the same way?
If you can learn to defend your voice and own your presence, you'll get more respect. More respect means greater value. Greater value means more money.
Society assumes that women are gifted with the nurturing talents. While this perception may not be wrong, it's not necessarily inclusive. Females have a wide range of talents that are often overshadowed by the priority of take care of family.
Women can find themselves coasting while their children grow up. Then soon after, they have to take care of aging parents or other family members. Women sacrifice work for caregiving and there's little time left for mastery.
If you can find time to grow your skill set, you'll open yourself up to many more opportunities. Even if it's just an hour a week to read a book, or listen to a podcast during the commute, expanding your knowledge has incredible benefits. The more you know, the more you know your value.
Seek Leadership Roles
Being a manager is a great achievement so congratulations! But don't let your career trajectory stop there. Only about 4% of America's top 500 companies are run by women. Again family commitments often prevent women from dedicating the extra time required for executive positions. The gap will never end if women don't have a seat at the table.
Therefore, don't get comfortable in your current role. Don't agree to take notes at meeting. Ask to LEAD the meeting. Don't clean up after everyone else, because you think you're the only one who will get it done. Delegate the task to someone else. Always strive for more, not only because you deserve it, but for the benefit of the company. Female executives perform three-times better than their male counter-parts. A well-balanced board can benefit from additional insight. When you win, the collective wins.
Empower Other Women
The final step to end the wage gap is to support other women. Society tends to pit women against each other. Remember, a movement is only as strong as its unity. If you encourage other women to understand and defend their value, the ripple effect will extend far and wide.
Encourage Your Team
Start small with your own staff. Encourage your female employees to speak up if they have an idea. Frequently acknowledge their contributions and celebrate their wins. Also, don't forget to congratulate male staff members if they support female employees. Create a culture of empowerment and reward. If you can motivate them to promote value, their behavior will improve.
Echo Female Voices
How many times have you said something in a meeting and then been ignored? Then a few minutes later, a male co-worker repeated the exact same sentiment, but was rewarded with praise. Don't allow these situations to continue.
If a female co-worker has a great idea, repeat it! Mention how you feel about it and support her. If she raises legitimate concerns in a meeting, thank her for her honesty and insight. It's harder to ignore a group of united voices. If more women speak up, they'll have more impact in decision making.
Lift Other Women Up
Again many think that if one woman advances, the other woman loses. That's unhealthy competition. If you and another woman have the same goal in mind, you need to work together, not against each other. If a well-deserving, talented woman advances more than you do, don't be jealous or destructive. Celebrate the fact that she is taking steps toward equality.
Help women in leadership roles by offering support. Being surrounded by men isn't easy and your consideration can help her to keep moving forward. The pay gap can only end when women hold an equal portion of power. So celebrate her power for the greater good.
You Can Make a Difference!
At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women aren't expected to reach pay equity until 2059. You deserve equality now! Don't let society dictate your value. Stand up for your worth and help other women do the same. Change happens one woman at a time, so every step you take actually does have an impact. Let's make that 20%, history!
Are you afraid to stand up for yourself? Not sure how to find your value? Still don't have the confidence just yet? That's ok. We can help.
Our SK4M Connect program includes a Mastering Confidence course that will help you find your inner power. You'll get one-on-one personalized coaching to help you conquer your fear!