Census Bureau statistics cite that women on average earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Recently, the Senate GOP blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by Democrats to the senate floor.
This promising legislation would have bolstered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, barring employers from retaliating against workers who inquire about pay disparities.
What can we as individual women do proactively to create a work life for ourselves in which we don’t have to resort to investigating discrimination by our employers?
In this interview, Gloria encourages women to define their own terms: at meetings, “Say the first word, say the last word and establish yourself as an authority.”
Meg McSherry Breslin: For women who feel frustrated and unable to move up in their companies, what are some concrete things they can do?
Gloria Feldt: You may notice when you’re in a meeting how rare it is for a woman to be the first one to speak. One of the tools we need is to have intentional thoughts about what we’re going to put forward when we go to a meeting, and to say it! Say the first word, say the last word and establish yourself as an authority.
Secondly, women can really benefit from learning more negotiating skills — how to put ourselves forward for the raise and for the advanced position. Men toot their own horn even when they don’t have a horn to toot. … As somebody who hired people over a period of 30 years, what was always most important to me was that somebody knew their own value and was able to say in a very businesslike, straightforward way what they could do for an organization.
McSherry Breslin: What were some of the mistakes you made in the workforce?
Gloria Feldt: When I was going through the interview process for a job as executive director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, the salary offered to me was larger than the salary I was making at the time, so I never even bothered to ask for more. After I accepted the offer, I found out the first offer had been made to a male candidate. He had declined it, only after he had negotiated it up by 25 percent (and still said that wasn’t enough). And of course, every other compensation I got afterward built on top of the lower amount I received.
McSherry Breslin: Do you see some of these dynamics changing in the near future?
Gloria Feldt: There are some women coming up who are absolutely fearless and have no problem embracing their power and saying, “I want to be CEO.” What I’m looking for now is the first woman who can create something that changes how we live, like Bill Gates did. If we can find that woman who can shift our thinking in a profound way, then I think we’re really getting there.
Writer Meg McSherry Breslin interviewed Gloria for this interview. The article originally appeared as a blog post on Crain’s Chicago Business’ website.