A Woman’s (Office) Worth: Advocating for Yourself

I did something pretty scary last week – I quit my job. I quit because I felt under-valued, under-compensated and under-utilized. I took stock of my worth – what skills, experience, expertise and potential I brought to the office – and decided that if I did nothing, I’d have the security of my job but I would continue to be a frustrated and unfulfilled employee. While there may be other factors at play that prevent you from moving up and earning a salary commensurate with your potential, I cannot stress how important it is to take a risk and be your own biggest advocate in the workplace.

According to a recent study released by the White House Council on Women and Girls, women have made some significant economic gains – the unemployment rate among women rose less than that for men during the past four recessions, women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men and the number of women and men in the labor force has nearly balanced in recent years with more women working overall. With all of this progress, it’s sometimes easy to forget that women have yet to achieve income equity with our male counterparts and that in order to do so, we must become active players in our financial futures.

In the book, Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever say that too often, women are so grateful to have a job that they accept what they are given and don’t negotiate their salaries. Many times, we don’t stand up for ourselves at work for fear of sounding pushy, greedy, or being labeled a bitch. We don’t ask for what we want, we tend to focus on feeling needed and appreciated (even at the office), and we assume that as long as we work hard, someone will notice and do the job of advocating a raise and/or promotion for us. Those fears and beliefs are holding us back. Men are initiating workplace negotiations about four times as often as women and, as salary reports show, they are reaping the benefits.

So what can you do to promote yourself and other women at work? You can organize locally with women’s advocacy groups, support organizations fighting for workplace rights and equality under the law, mentor young, up-and-coming colleagues and most importantly, advocate for what you deserve by making your employer aware of the value you bring to the company. I took a risk and while it didn’t result in a raise and promotion at that job, I did end up with a much better position and pay with another company. Try it for yourself, what have you got to lose?

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