Monday, 23 Jul 2018

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Women: stand up for yourselves!

I was recently offered a project that paid a lot less than what I feel my time is worth. My research on compensation suggests a male colleague would have been offered at least 2-3 times as much for the same project. At first I was insulted, but then I took a deep breath and said to myself, I need to negotiate for a higher price. Why not? I know I am the best person for this job, and I would provide quality work. I deserve to be paid fairly for my time.

I have spoken with a lot of women about how they feel they are overlooked for promotions, or are paid a lot less than their male colleagues who are less qualified to perform similar jobs. One of my friends was about to leave her job for a better paying one despite really enjoying where she had been working. I advised her to talk to her supervisor and let them know that she is planning to leave for better pay and benefits. I recommended she share with them what it takes for them to keep her. It turned out, she was a valuable asset to her company, and her employer exceeded the other company’s offer significantly. I feel the reasons women are underpaid and underappreciated are threefold:

  1. Most people (especially women) underestimate their worth.

  2. Women are peacemakers and like to avoid conflict.

  3. Women don’t negotiate.

Women underestimate their worth.I think this is a factor of not knowing what the going rate is for the task/job and for your level of expertise. If you don’t know the market, how are you going to negotiate the price? You would not buy or sell a car without having an idea of its worth. Research your positions and pay scale. When you present yourself at the negotiation table, have an idea of your worth and outline what you require. If you don’t, others will determine your worth (also known as fair market value or FMV). Recognize that if you accept a low FMV, you will be saddled with a low FMV and substantially hamper your ability to negotiate. Stand firm!

Women are peacemakers and like to avoid conflict.Sure, we may have the mothering instinct. We like to resolve problems with the least casualties. Women may believe if they make demands they will create a hostile work environment. What if the boss wants even more work while she is only negotiating for her fair pay? What if her colleagues look at her as being manipulative? These are often unrealized, trivial fears.

Women don’t negotiate.You have to demand and expect what is fair. Women are NOT poor negotiators; we have been negotiating all our lives (that’s why we’re peacemakers). We assume (perhaps wrongly) that the employer will offer a just deal or that eventually their worth will be recognized. The problem here is employers won’t change status quo; why rock the boat? If she is willing to do the job for that pay, more profit for me. Other times, employers are not intentionally neglecting your plight, but rather are just dense, like husbands. Rather than hoping someone will recognize your talent and spontaneously offer you greater pay and benefits, go after it yourself!

The top reason why women are underpaid? We let it happen! Your belief that you are undervalued should be your reminder to do something about it. Now’s the time to change your future!

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

Kathryn Dao, MD, FACP, FACR, is the Associate Director of Clinical Rheumatology at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas. She is in clinical practice at the Arthritis Care and Research Center in Dallas, TX and is actively involved in patient care, medical education, and clinical research.  Her interests include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Gout, Infections with Biologics, Osteoporosis, and Drug Safety. She has served as the co-editor for the American College of Rheumatology “Drug Safety Quarterly” 2010-2013.   


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