Know Your Worth

Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change. – Shannon L. Alder, Author.

Not long ago, I interviewed for an executive level position. As a Diversity & Inclusion practitioner, I noticed the homogeneity of the interview panel but didn’t let that worry me. I answered and asked questions and sent my thank you notes. I was invited back for a second interview. The following day I received the offer. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be selected for a role but when I heard the salary, I was surprised. Then angry. And finally, insulted. The compensation team noted that I had nearly double the requisite experience (plus a Master’s degree) and they valued this at 3% above the minimum of the range. Not the middle, not the top, but the very bottom.


The data doesn’t lie: Black women with Master’s degrees are paid $0.64 to the $1 that White men earn. So that bottom rung + 3% offer was a far cry from a White male’s starting salary.


Even among black and Hispanic workers who have earned professional degrees, “their incomes still don’t break six figures. Whites and Asians, however, double their incomes by earning professional degrees, allowing them to make well over $100,000 a year. –Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk, Partner ThinkNow Research


At another time and place, I would have attempted a salary negotiation, but at this stage of my life, I know my worth. Choosing to negotiate spirals toward justification, further devaluation, heightened anger, and deeper dissonance. Rather than endure this, I respectfully declined.


Early in my career companies selected me because I was eager and inexperienced. I worked long hours for public recognition or an acrylic plaque. As I entered mid-career, plaques and applause meant less than dollars and cents. The transaction shifted: tangible results lead to tangible receivables in the form of a bonus, promotion, or both.


What I say, do, and how I advise my clients must be in harmony. This is core to my value system and directly affects how I show up. I cannot tell a client to negotiate for better if I choose to accept less. Knowing your worth is a life lesson. If you are undervalued from the start, expect to be undervalued as things progress. A salary gap is not closed over time, neither is a perceived value gap.


Before you interview for any position, ask yourself: what value do I place on my talent? This is not the value returned by a salary calculator or your last W2. Those tools provide a baseline, but the race and gender wage gap are a chasm. Relative to your peers with the same credentials, you may have been underpaid at your last company. The value of your talent is determined by what you delivered and your potential for greater. What have you learned, created, presented, changed, improved, or launched? How are you leveling up? The answers to those questions will determine the salary you request.


Friends, add “know your worth” to your career playbook and don’t allow anyone, for any reason, to define your value.


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