I have been a leader from a very young age; it has been quite the journey from leading the 4th of July Parade to now, leading a division of a global company. I am the firstborn of 4 children, so that could have something to do with it. When I entered the corporate world after graduating from college, I quickly rose to a management position. Management came naturally to me, and I just loved it. I loved helping people achieve their goals and develop their skills so that they could reach the next stage in their own careers. Given that a startling 52.3 percent of Americans are unhappy with their jobs, I feel lucky to have enjoyed being in positions where I was able to grow professionally and work internationally.
Getting started in management taught me a lot. For example, as I gained insight into the salaries of those I was managing, I was shocked to learn the men on my team made more money than me… a lot more. Now, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I felt I needed a higher salary, but rather it was an uncomfortable moment to face the upsetting truth about income inequality and women’s leadership. None of the women on my team had higher salaries, only the men. All of them. Although I had proven myself and earned the role, I was not being compensated at the same level as the men who I managed.
Some women just aren’t prepared for the “art” of salary negotiation and self-promotion that is necessary to earn maximum compensation in the workplace. In my current role, I see it all the time.
When I offer a woman a position to work on my team, she says, “Thank you so much, what a great opportunity. I would love to join.”
When I offer a man a position, he says, “Thank you so much, what a great opportunity. I would like the salary to be 30% more than you offered me.”
In most cases, negotiation ensues and the man ends up with a salary 10-15% higher than was originally offered, and the woman still has the original salary. Right from Day One, we have a pay gap, but not on my watch. As a manager and businesswoman, I do not negotiate on salary for this very reason. That, however, is not the answer for this national epidemic.
We teach girls and young women not to talk about themselves or show off. We teach them that if they work hard and do well, people will recognize their efforts and reward them. In reality, this is not how the world works. What we need to do is prepare women to know their worth, talk about it in an assertive way, and always ask for more. Here are some suggestions to navigate these conversations and ensure you are joining a company that will be receptive to strong women in their workplace:
1) Know the company. Most job seekers research their company of choice before the interview; but how many research their diversity policies and if they are committed to having #WomenOnBoards? Not only are these great questions during the interview process, but it’s also good to show hiring managers that you’re committed to making the organization stronger and more culturally competent.
2) Commit to power-to and power-with. There are a number of women’s empowerment organizations, magazines, and philosophies. From Soledad O’Brien’s Starfish Foundation to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, there are a number of causes to support and philosophies to subscribe to. The takeaways? Ally with other women. Seek out a mentor. And mentor others. No one ever makes it to the top, and enjoys it, by herself.
3) Be flexible but know how to negotiate. As President of Universum Americas, I need to find the best talent from any and every corner of the world. Our company conducts research on human capital and talent. What has stuck out most to us is the millennial generation’s certainty about what they are looking for and how to ask for it. Do your research. Ask for what you want with confidence. You might be surprised.
It would be remiss of me to make light of income inequality and assert that it is an individual’s problem and not a structural issue. Ultimately, we as women and men in the workforce, as associates, managers, and executives must make the necessary changes and decisions to ensure all people receive fair wages in our industries. Women are some of the most dedicated employees in the workforce. To that I say: why should we settle?