Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
What are you worth at work? Are you worth receiving meaningful recognition? Interesting work? A promotion? A raise? How do you know?
I heard that! That little voice inside your head that just said, “If I am worth that they will let me know” (that voice is louder than you think). The sad truth is, no they will not. “They” can be your employer or your clients; Department of Labor (2015) statistics from the US have confirmed that whether your compensation is based on a salary, or via invoicing, most women are losing about 20 cents on every dollar (compared to their male counterparts). In Canada (2015) that gap is the same or greater. The additional context of invoicing is significant; it means the wage gap isn’t just a concern in organizations. The gap is a concern we as women are contributing to and need to own because it is present even when women own the company. As a gender we need to increase our own self-awareness and see the ways in which we undermine our value in the workplace (intentionally and unintentionally), because it is making this gap very hard to close.
When was the last time you clearly and comfortably explained to someone the value of your work? Just after you graduated? Been awhile? Never? You are not alone. I’m going to put you on the spot; think of one thing you do really well and you enjoy in your work. Now, in a simple sentence explain what the value of that is for your employer (or clients, if you are an entrepreneur). Did the little voice perk up and add her -20 cents? Did she express disbelief that what you do is valuable? Did she tell you to stop boasting? Did she mention that if your work was so great others would have noticed it without being told? Tell her to zip it; she is giving you costly advice.
“No one will ever pay you what you are worth. They will only pay you what they think you are worth.” is sage advice from Pricing Consultant Casey Brown in her TEDTalk Know Your Worth And Then Ask For It. It’s hard to articulate your value when you doubt it yourself, cannot express it comfortably/authentically, or don’t really know what it is. It makes every constructive feedback conversation at work personal, because you are looking for the place where you screwed up rather than focusing on business needs and bringing forward solutions that address desired business outcomes. Here is ground zero of this battle with ourselves; the little voice has undermined us for centuries, it is time to acknowledge the ways we are more than the fear mongering she promotes. Doubts and fears are normal (everyone has them, male and female), but when you are not aware of the impact they have on your worthiness, you allow them to define your value.
Be compassionate with yourself, see your flaws but also see your value. Compassion is the cornerstone of self-respect; if you cannot be compassionate with yourself no one else will be either (and that kills self confidence). There is work you love to do and you are incredibly good at doing. What is it? Share your passion. How would you tell someone about what you do and the value it provides? Practice this, start at home and then bring it into your work. Become more aware of the lens you are using to assess your own value and the impact it has on how you express your worth at work, recognizing it’s impact on how you are perceived.
No one likes to toot their own horn, but becoming comfortable helping others to see how you have a positive impact on business outcomes will make you worth not just every penny but possibly 20 pennies more for every dollar you earn.