What’s a woman’s worth?

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    I still remember my first negotiation for a higher salary. The bureau chief for the Boston Globe’s Washington office offered me a position, and I told him I’d think about it and soon walked out of the office and got back on the plane back home.

    As soon as I landed, my phone was blowing up from a mentor: “Why didn’t you take the job on the spot?” Well, I wanted to weigh my financial options as I also had an offer from the Arizona Republic that was more lucrative for a young journalist. 

    Within days, I had a higher offer from the Globe. Honestly, it wasn’t a calculated move — I really did want to work in D.C. but couldn’t afford to do so on the salary they were offering.

    But it was the first time I realized, my skills have value, and it was really up to me to define my worth.

    For many companies, the spring is also raise and bonus season. Which is why picking April 10 as Equal Pay Day is fitting as we bring awareness to the gender pay gap, where women are on average paid 20 percent less than men. It’s even less for black women (37 percent) and Latinas (46 percent).

    As a Latina, that number hits me right in the gut.

    Ever since that first negotiation moment, I’ve asked for pay that was in line with my skills, experience and value to the organization.

    But it hasn’t been easy. It’s not a natural position for women because, as a society, there’s negative pushback on females who negotiate for themselves.

    Over the course of my career, I’ve experienced firsthand the inconsistencies in gender compensation. I’ve had a recruiter tell me I should take a lower salary because being closer to my children has a “trade-off.”  Despite stellar performances, I’ve had a raise lower than that of male peers or been overlooked on bonus opportunities. And when I advocated for myself, I was told that if I didn’t like the pay, I could look for employment elsewhere. That’s not the solution.

    I know because I’ve also worked at some incredible companies that truly knew that to build a more diverse workforce, they needed to invest money equally among genders and give equal opportunities for advancement. Investing in your workforce and rewarding employees fairly for their work benefits the company. These employees will invest in you, too.  They will put in the extra hours, help out their teams and contribute to the organization in a more meaningful way.

    Lean In’s campaign for “Equal Pay Day” gives four steps companies can take to help close the gender pay gap. Here are excerpts from the website:

    1. Conduct a Pay audit: Analyze compensation by gender and race so you can see and address pay gaps.
    1. Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair: Audit reviews and promotions regularly to ensure your company is not systematically rating men more highly and promoting them more quickly. Train managers so they understand the impact of gender bias on their decision making, and put clear and consistent criteria in place to reduce bias in staffing decisions and performance reviews.
    1. Make sure women have equal opportunity for advancement: Women typically receive less feedback on their performance, get fewer high-profile assignments and have less access to mentorship and sponsorship. Make sure the women in your organization have equal access to the people and opportunities that accelerate careers and are not saddled with a disproportionate amount of “office housework,” such as organizing events. Read more from an article by my friend and trailblazer Heather Betancourth here.
    1. Make it a norm for women to negotiate: We expect women to be giving and collaborative, so when they advocate for themselves, we often see them unfavorably. This social pushback can negatively affect the results of women’s negotiations — and their careers. Make sure the women in your organization are encouraged to negotiate and applauded, not penalized, when they do.

    And for women? Speak up. Find mentors and join a Lean In circle to get advice on how to handle these situations from those who have been in your shoes. Together with men, through education and advocacy, we can help close the gap for generations to come.

    Learn more. DO MORE!

    Jennifer Walsh is the deputy director of communications at Covestro, a Pink Petro member, a Lean In leader and a winner in the first-ever GRIT Awards, presented by Experience Energy.