I advise the women I work with to ask for a big raise for a few reasons: a) I hope they get it, and b) if they don’t get it, I want them to get as much information about how their compensation is determined as possible. If the company is unwilling to share a salary band for their position, I encourage an open dialogue about advancement opportunities. If a woman learns that she is already tapped out at her current employer, that is good information to have- it might be time to polish up the resume.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Shoemaker. Anne is an executive in the commercial real estate development industry and a wife and mom to two children. In an effort to support and elevate women as they progress in their career, Anne launched a coaching and consulting business that is focused on helping career women overcome limiting beliefs, develop courage and confidence, and succeed in compensation conversations in the workplace. AnneShoemaker.com
Thank you so much for joining us, Anne! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
Ilaunched my small business based on a pattern of questions that I was fielding from female colleagues and junior associates. It went like this: “I just got a promotion that I’m excited about, but it didn’t come with an increase in pay … Can you help me make my case?” Or, “I’m going on maternity leave soon and want to propose a short-term, part-time schedule to ease the transition back to work. However, I don’t want this to have long-term (negative) consequences. How can I make a successful pitch to my employer?” And more. I am finding that many women need both an ally and some practical help when it comes to advocating for what they want, need, and deserve in the workplace. Having served as a hiring manager in the past, I help women make a compelling case that meets both their needs and their employer’s expectations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I started my coaching and consulting business as an outcome of women seeking validation and encouragement to ask for what they believe they deserve in the workplace. Oftentimes, what they are really looking for is courage and confidence. I have learned, repeatedly, that we all need encouragement. The advice I give women may be advice they are already considering- they just need someone to talk it through with and some strategies for execution. I am pleased and honored to offer them both.
Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I launched my business via an email campaign to several hundred people, certain that I would get some “congrats!” and “way to go!” responses, but not expecting any real clients (at first). Wrong! I was shocked when I had a short client list right away. My first thought was, “I can’t do this! I’m not qualified!” The very medicine that my business promised to administer (courage and confidence in the face of uncertainty) was the same that I was now desperate for. But, like jumping into a pool of cool water on the first not-so-hot day of summer, I went for it. The exercise proved to be a good reminder of just how scary pushing past our limiting beliefs can be, and that no one — coach or client alike — is immune to feeling like a fraud when they’re plowing new ground. I needed the advice I have now given so often: in order to grow, you must get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?
One factor that leads to pay disparity is societal conditioning of boys and girls. In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani states, “In girls, the drive to be perfect shows up, and bravery shuts down, around age 8, right around the time our inner critic shows up.” She goes on to say, “Unlike girls, boys are rewarded with approval and praise for taking chances, even if things don’t work out. In other words: boys are taught to be brave while girls are taught to be perfect.” Taking risks and failing are critical components the produce learning and growth, first in school and later, in the workplace; we need to praise girls for risk-taking as a critical component to their learning and advancement.
When girls and women hold themselves back for fear of imperfection, they open the floor for men (who have become accustomed to, and comfortable with, failure) to advance. Before you know it, another class of men reaches the C-suite and the cycle repeats itself.
So, we need to normalize risk-taking for girls so they can develop the resilience necessary to climb the corporate ladder and earn the bigger paycheck.
Meanwhile, there are women who have broken through these societal expectations and blazed a new trail, only to find that wage secrecy is working against them. They land an esteemed position only to later learn that their male peer out-earns them. Had there been salary transparency from the outset, all candidates could negotiate from a position of strength with the most qualified and valuable candidate earning the biggest paycheck.
Finally, insufficient home/work support structures (e.g., flex-work options such as remote work or flexible scheduling) work against women’s ability to advance to higher-salaried positions. Consider a scenario whereby commitment to a company and the related gateway to advancement is based on facetime in the office. If the C-suite is dominated by men whose spouses are not in the workforce, there is little need for flexible scheduling or advance notice about late afternoon meetings. However, if a woman is trying to break into this level and comes from a dual-career household, she may need flexibility or a bigger paycheck (or both) in order to manage both home and work, or to hire out help at home. If the company perceives her request for a flexible working arrangement as a) a distraction or inconvenience they would rather not work around, b) a deterrent from the company’s objectives, c) offering her something that they don’t want to offer to others, or d) “playing favorites” by making an exception for her, then she will not receive the support she needs to compete and excel at the next level of career growth. Werk.co put together an excellent report on the topic of the importance of flexibility in the modern workplace; this report is required reading for senior level staff.
Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?
Every day, in every client meeting, I show up with and for women, eager to hear what their internal dialogue is as it pertains to their self-worth and the value they bring to the workplace. I have coached some very bright, accomplished executive women who know that they are bringing unique skills and insights to bear, and yet when it comes time to enter the lion’s den (so to speak) to advocate for equal pay, they start to doubt themselves. My goal is to help them get a view of the facts from a third-party, objective viewpoint. I find the logic in their argument, then help them package it and leverage it in conversation. Ultimately, my goal is for my clients to believe in their worth beyond the shadow of a doubt, then bring facts and logic to the negotiation table. There is no reason, no excuse, and no room for them to be paid a dime less than any peer, male or female, with the same skill set. But, the first person they have to convince of this fact is themselves.
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.
- Attention & investment from high-profile influencers in the private sector such as Melinda Gates and Sallie Krawcheck. (top-down approach). When Melinda Gates committed $1 billion to promote gender equality in Oct. 2019, people took notice. She founded Pivotal Ventures and launched a media campaign (#EqualityCantWait) to draw attention to the issue. Gates has tremendous influence with people in positions of power worldwide and has now committed resources to make an impact. Announcing this initiative was just the beginning; her legacy in this space will be astounding.
- Attention from pop culture icons (bottom-up approach), such as Michelle Williams’ 2019 Emmy speech and Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year (only the 4th female ever to win the honor in 66 years). Speaking of a worldwide stage, it would be hard to find an American or international soccer fan (the world’s #1 sport) who did not witness Megan Rapinoe & the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team win a record-setting fourth World Cup in 2019. Her decision to snub the White House in favor of advocating for women’s equity garnered plenty of attention. Rapinoe is boldly trying to start a movement by inviting influential males into the process as well (see: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo)
- Committee chairpersons/sponsors (preferably male) at the state and federal regulatory levels and/or ongoing sponsorship on this issue by an influential male business leader. The week of Dec. 16th, 2019, former President Barack Obama made remarks about the benefits that women in leadership positions bring to the world stage. While his remarks were not about pay equity, they do cast a light on the benefits that women bring to decision making and seats of power. To close the gender wage gap, we need influential men to advocate for women’s pay equity.
- Coaching of women and girls of all ages to become more skilled in self-advocacy. In hiring babysitters, I am struck every time a young woman (typically high school age) responds to my compensation question, “What’s your rate?”, with “Whatever you want to pay me is fine! 😊” No, no, no! We need to counsel young women to start their rate with confidence: “I charge $12/hour for two kids”. Bam- done. When we start our careers off with a flippant “Whatever”, we start the habit of discounting our skills and our worth. This cannot continue.
- Pay transparency to eliminate asymmetrical information. In my coaching practice, I advise the women I work with to ask for a big raise for a few reasons: a) I hope they get it, and b) if they don’t get it, I want them to get as much information about how their compensation is determined as possible. If the company is unwilling to share a salary band for their position, I encourage an open dialogue about advancement opportunities. If a woman learns that she is already tapped out at her current employer, that is good information to have- it might be time to polish up the resume.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am passionate about women’s pay equity worldwide. In the U.S., women are fighting to equal pay for equal work. In other parts of the world, women are simply fighting for the right to work. Just think about how much further along we could be as a human race if we were to leverage the insights and talents of ALL the population. The seats of power have historically been held by men, representing and fully leveraging only half of the human experience to date, which means we are only halfway to our potential! Women have tremendous insight to offer corporations and the public sector; there are bodies of research that demonstrate the gains in performance that a company experiences after diversifying the boardroom. It is time that we intentionally clear a pathway of opportunity for women to be seated at tables of influence whereby they are paid equally to their male counterparts.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I refuse to live as half of myself just because others cannot handle all of me.” Rachel Hollis
I came upon this quote while reading Hollis’s 2018 NYT bestseller, “Girl, Wash Your Face”. It was a call to arms. I had been living a life that put others’ comfort before my own, and it was making me sick. I have always had a big engine- tons of energy, tons of enthusiasm, and more ambition than even I knew what to do with. However, I had been conditioned to tamp down these qualities because they intimidate and overwhelm other people. When I read this sentence, it hit me straight in the gut: I did not have to make myself small any longer. It was an empowering moment- I won’t forget it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet Sara Blakely. Her entrepreneurial journey is so inspiring to me, as is the way she shows up online via social media and what we see of how she engages with her family. The mission at Spanx of supporting and elevating women is near and dear to my heart. I love what Sara Blakely is all about.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.