Taking the Pulse of Women, Mid Career

The Pulse is Stronger, but Not Strong Enough

A long time ago, a very stupid President of a company came to my desk to welcome me on my first day. After a few introductory remarks he said, “I always like to hire women. They work twice as hard for half as much.”

I hope I didn’t reflect my emotions. I didn’t want him to see the shock. Fresh from academia, I was a naif in the world of work with male cohorts who lived and breathed misogyny with sufficient transparency to show me how irrelevant I appeared to them. I recovered quickly however, and having been born a natural reframer, I silently thanked the Grand Poo-bah and vowed to use the information to the best of my knowledge in years to come to level the playing field. Having an insider divulge such information early on in my career was good. I took this as an extraordinary lesson into the way things work in the corporate culture, and not knowing what you are worth economically.

Women today are not naive. They know they are underpaid. Their job is to learn how to act equal, get the pay gap closed and do it with antennae outstretched to see how they are being perceived. The alpha male approach to equality is outdated. But recognizing one who has alpha status is not. Don’t get it? You will or you will be left behind. Today’s woman has to nurture her femininity without becoming despised or nurturing everyone to death. No bringing cookies or you are forever mom even if you vow to be the one to smash the glass ceiling.

Several years after starting at that company, and several raises and titles later, I found the payroll on the computer and found out I was still paid less than people who spent the better part of the afternoon smoking dope in the parking lot.

I wasn’t upset, though I was shocked at the huge differences in compensation. I took about three days putting together a list of everything I had done for the department and the difference it made to the company and the bottom line. I showed how fast I ramped up the deptartment, the quality of the people I hired and the feedback on their work.

I knew how good I was. Now I knew how much I was worth. I asked for a meeting about my salary. I presented my boss with a number and the accomplishments/benefits. He said he would get back to me in a few days. He did. I got what I asked for. Lesson number two: I didn’t ask for enough.

Lesson Number Three — after I got what I asked for, I got more than I asked for — more attention, more respect, more invitations to represent the company. If I wasn’t savvy enough to get what I was worth, why should they treat me as I was worth it?

The playing field is a numbers game. Play by the numbers — raises, promotions, and the bottom line. Bake cookies on Saturday and take them to the homeless on Sunday…and eventually you will earn enough to donate dollars, not time and chocolate chips.