• Anna Khoh

How Much Am I Worth? Putting a Value on YOU

I was recently talking to someone who is at the very start of their career in a predominantly male oriented industry. It was a networking event and as we swapped stories of our backgrounds I mentioned that one of the barriers my female clients face is specifically around asking for a pay rise or negotiating a higher salary when they accept a job offer. Her repose to this was both shocking and unsurprising at the same time. She told me that she had recently discovered that someone at her organisation doing the same job, only less qualified, was being paid more than her. The difference - she a female and he, a male. She was confused by this and felt that the company should have a structure for pay which made it fair. I agreed.

We then spoke briefly about how hard it is to ask for more money and how reluctant we can be, particularly as women, to raise the issue of money as we are often times fearful of the consequences - will I lose my job or be pigeonholed as the annoying whiny one who will get overlooked - or that we just aren’t very good at placing a value on ourselves. Her view was that if you work hard it should be recognised and fairly. Again I agreed.

The conversation left me feeling a little sad and despondent, being faced with the stark reality that the pay gap is apparent from the very beginning of our careers, it’s not just something which affects senior executives or board members, it’s happening to female interns, graduates and those in their early career. It also struck me that right now it might only be a difference of a couple of dollars an hour for a female in an entry level position but as the responsibilities grow so does that gap.

Of course we know this is not a new or unique situation with much research telling us that stories like this are not uncommon. Women tend to exclude themselves from the salary conversation and are less likely to ask for a raise. One recent study in the UK revealed that men are twice as likely to ask for a pay rise than women! Twice as likely!

Our male colleagues appear to be brimming with confidence when it comes to work and perhaps have a tendency to swing the other way when it comes to putting themselves out there. For example, men are are also more likely to apply for a job than women, even if they don’t believe they don’t fully meet the criteria. In the Hewlett Packard internal report, Lean In, The Confidence Code, their data revealed that men will apply for a role when they only meet 60% of the requirements whereas women won’t apply unless they tick 100% of the boxes. It’s quite confronting to read this and then reflect, yes, that’s me!

In my experience women do tend to be the quiet achievers in the workplace and we are more likely to be criticised for speaking up than our male colleagues. The data has also shown this to be true, that the perception of an assertive woman at work is more negatively received than that of a man. No wonder we don’t like to speak up, even when we see a disparity in pay.

The big question remains, what can we do, as individual women, to begin to overcome this barrier? It’s complex, but I believe that it starts with really understanding and recognising our own value and so many of us are terrible at this, me included! If we are able to place a true value on ourselves and our work as women, including the copious amounts of unpaid work we do too, then we can more confidently go into a conversation about salary.

The last thing I said to my new friend at the networking event was ‘don’t stay silent!’, easier said than done by all means, but I hope that even by starting the conversation and bringing a conscious awareness to our own self worth will help turn the tide.

So, I invite you to ask yourself today, what value do I place on myself? What stories or narratives do I play (inner voice) about my self worth?

Let me know what comes up for you!





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