Posted October 24th, 2013 in Equal Pay.
I recently attended a luncheon about Equal Pay and women. I was joined by some of the most remarkable and talented women in San Diego. Women who are successful, articulate and exude confidence – I was excited to just be around them in hopes that a little of their awesomeness would rub off on me! Even more impressive was the keynote speaker. She listed off remarkable accolades and has dedicated much of her career to achieving financial parity between sexes. She discussed the importance of women being open and vocal about our salaries so we all know where we stand. Fantastic advice! Then at the culmination of her speech she revealed how much she made and admitted to purposefully taking a less than equitable salary because she was serving an underprivileged demographic. She did not want that demographic to judge her having a high salary.
The crowd erupted in applause… I sunk into my chair.
How is it possible that a room full of respected female role models were applauding the idea of any women accepting less than what they deserved? How could they be on their feet celebrating an almost martyr mentality? The idea that “I will work harder than the man next to me for less than the man next to me but it’s ok because I’m doing it for a greater good” is such a common female mentality that doesn’t raise the ethical bar of women but instead promotes work and pay inequality.
Have you ever heard of Bill Gates cutting his salary because there are people that can’t afford computers? Of course not! Instead earned his enormous (well deserved) salary and used it to create the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. He has created a global impact while never devaluing his worth within his organization. What if this woman ended her speech by sharing that she took a higher salary and donated the difference to the underprivileged population she served? What a great statement that would make for taking equal pay and then giving back!
It is not my intention to shame this extraordinary woman, but rather to shed light on the fact that her situation is not unique. We was women need to come together and be comfortable accepting equal pay and not make excuses to justify lower salaries. Devaluing ourselves never makes us more of a team player nor should it be worn as a badge of honor. If we want to ever achieve equal pay, we need to take ownership of our own behaviors and take responsibility for the messages we are sending to other women.