Katz Women's Career Summit Series
Are You Getting Paid What You're Worth?
How Obsolete Childhood Beliefs Can Hold You Back

Jeff Green
Radio & Records
July 18, 2003

At the recent Katz Media Group's Women's Career Summit, career coach, management consultant and author Alexandra Duran pointed out that women in full-time jobs earn, on average, 77.5% of the salaries men make in the same jobs. Why do women leave that 22.5% on the table? And if you're a guy reading this, why do you earn less than perhaps you should for the work you do?

According to Duran, the answer lies in beliefs that are formed in early childhood about appropriate behavior, risk-taking, and money. If these strongly held opinions are not adjusted or abandoned in adulthood, they can prevent women (and men) from making as much money as they might otherwise be entitled to.

Citing some examples of how this psychological conditioning occurs with women, Duran explained, "Growing up we all hear, 'Be a good little girl, and you'll get rewarded,' or, 'Be careful, and don't want too much.' " Everything you learn comes when you're young, probably by the time you're 6.

"Some things are said to you, others you devise yourself. These belief systems always come from a place of protection, so when you think about them, you can't demonize them. These beliefs were positive things, and when we were kids they were exceptionally useful. They got us love and acceptance, and they gave us safety."

"As we grow up, if we're fortunate, those things that are no longer necessary fall by the wayside. But sometimes they don't. So often women will talk about how if they don't do well at work, they're afraid of becoming homeless. They really believe it. How do you get from not receiving a promotion to having to move out onto the street? Once these stories, beliefs, myths and rules of our lives are no longer appropriate for the adult that you are, you have to get rid of them. You need to jettison them from your life and reorient yourself to a life of abundance."

Duran said such axioms have resulted, for many women, in ambivalence about money. She explained, "They see the value of using it for their families. They want to have security and for their kids to go to the best schools. They love dressing up. We like having money and the power that money gives us, but we're ashamed to actually say that out loud. We don't want to be seen as somebody who might want money in a really bad way."

The danger of harboring such inhibitions is that superiors, prospective clients and other decisionmakers may sense that you're not 100% committed.

"You need to get rid of that ambivalence," Duran said. "Even if you don't like material things, you need to go after them as if you do, with such verve that it's translated as enthusiasm in the workplace -- enthusiasm for the work, for the goal of the corporation, for your team's goal. If you don't believe in the idea of being materialistic, go after the money anyway and give it away."

Dangerous Thinking

Duran offered a list of typical "belief statements" she regards as limiting to progress and opportunities. Here’s the list, with her comments.

· "Good things come to those who wait.""This is not a good negotiating strategy."

· "Good work is recognized, maybe later rather than sooner."

· "The glass is always half-full or half-empty.” "Why must it be only half-full?"

· "Choose your battles carefully.” "This sounds too defeated, that you've already decided that you're going to lose some of them."

· "The road less traveled is hard.” "The piece that's missing is how extraordinary the results are when you take that risk."

· "Nothing comes easy to me."

· "It's just how it is."

· "Don't think too much of yourself."

· "I hope I get a raise this year.” "It's as if it's a gift that someone else has to recognize and give you, as opposed to your earning it."

· "I'm lucky.” "I've never heard a man say that about his career. They believe they've earned it, even if they don't have the requisite skills to do the job."

· "When I'm happy, something bad will happen." "I know so many clients who, when they finally get promoted, make more money, get a house, get a relationship, they're almost in tears. I ask, 'What's the matter?' They say, 'I know something's going to happen. I don't know what, but it's going to be really bad.' When you feel that way, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

One "rule of life" that particularly bothers Duran is, "Stay safe. Be careful about crossing the street." She said, "How did that translate into the workplace? Women get into a job, they like the people they work with, it's not too demanding, and they get home at a reasonable hour. And so what do they do? Instead of being ambitious and looking for the next opportunities and wanting to accept more challenges, they nest. You can tell who they are. They put up pictures and doilies and bring in books from home, running shoes and Tupperware full of food."

Giving Yourself Strength

To replace an outdated belief system, Duran advised, "Select the beliefs to have instead. But it doesn't happen overnight. Write them down, speak about them with friends, teach them to others and include them in your dreams. Envision an abundant life."

If you’re entering a negotiating situation and your mind tells you, ' "I’m not entitled,' or 'I'm not good enough,' Duran advised replacing limiting thoughts with one of these power positions:

· "Making money is good. Poverty is not glamorous."

· "I avoid accepting limitations on my earning power."

· "I take financial responsibility because it's powerful."

· "No failures, only experiences."

· "I'm entitled to be competitive, aggressive and assertive in seeking, negotiating for and receiving money."

· "I'm entitled to a life of abundance."

· "I thrive on all the work I have to do."

Duran challenged women to speak up about their accomplishments and fight off any accompanying discomfort. "Is it any surprise that it's difficult for women to market themselves at work, to talk about why they're valuable to the company, when you're not actually supposed to do that because it's seen as unfeminine and gauche?" she asked. "But isn't that what you have to do? Don't you have to negotiate and say, 'Look, I've got the best numbers in the department.' But if you're not supposed to say that to anybody, are they supposed to just find out for themselves?"

Asked how to deal with male bosses who have an old-fashioned attitude towards women, Duran replied, "It's not about what you do with somebody else, it's what you do in your own head. It's all about how you view yourself. If you truly believe that it's not just the actions you're taking, but what you believe about yourself is completely integrated into how you behave at work and your issues of entitlement, 90% of that negotiation battle will be over."

"It comes from a place of being very sure about the value that you add. And it has to be real value, and also a true belief in yourself that you won't let those limitations or negative belief systems interfere in the negotiation."

Jeff Green is Executive Editor of Radio & Records magazine.
© 2003 Radio & Records. This article has been reprinted with permission.

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