As women, we were encouraged to take our place at the table proudly and courageously. But what happens when the door is locked and we cannot enter the room with the table? What does it mean when women sit down at a table but don’t have the opportunity to own that table? What does that say about women? And what does it say about our worth?
It says it’s up to us as women to redefine it.
Yes, the work starts with us. We need to recognize our own worth, set appropriate goals, and fight policies that treat us less than our male counterparts. Let’s begin.
Step 1: evaluate your worth.
Value propositions and mission statements set standards and expectations of a company. Customers know what to expect when doing business with a company that proudly displays this information on their website. Employees know what is expected of them and how their work contributes to the overall goals of the company. Competitors see how they can differentiate themselves and fill gaps in the industry. So what’s your value proposition?
Sit down alone and be honest about what you bring to a company, business and the world. Who are you? What talents or qualities differentiate you from the person next to you? How can you use your skills and experience to move forward?
Mission statements and value props help you decide what’s best for you and your career. If you find yourself feeling guilty, lost, or unsure about how to proceed, refer to your mission statement and values. Let them know about the strategy and tactics that will be most effective for you, your family, and your business.
Step 2: fight for your worth.
Understanding your worth can help you fight microaggression, closed doors, wage differentials, and the struggles that our society has allowed for far too long.
Fighting for the pay you deserve is one way to fight for your worth. So start there.
When you have reached a salary that you are happy with, find other ways to fight for equal pay. Consider working with organizations that advocate law and uniform pay. Support these groups with your time, money, or by connecting them with people who can offer these resources.
Then take your fight to local, state, and federal officials. If we accept the gender pay gap today, we cannot expect it to close tomorrow. States and cities have the option to set minimum wages higher than the current federal minimum wage. Contact local officials to support equal pay laws. There’s no reason women should still make 82 cents for every man’s dollar (and the gap between minority women is even greater).
Step 3: Get roles that reflect your skills.
Fighting for equal pay is a way to assert your worth (and the worth of other women) at work. But does your professional responsibility also reflect your true worth?
We already know that women are more likely to be assigned grueling work that holds us back than tasks that use the skills and knowledge we have developed in our fields. Assess how much time you spend on “busy work” and how much time you spend on tasks that fall within your actual scope of duties. Unless you’re a caterer, you shouldn’t be the only person in the office leaving your desk to pick up the team’s lunch order. Unless you’re a secretary, you shouldn’t be the only person in the office keeping logs or recording calls.
Step 4: define what success looks like to you.
When many people imagine “success” they think of rewards, monetary or otherwise. Recognitions, bonuses and shout-outs in newsletters also come to mind. Yes, these external motivators are important, but they shouldn’t be the only affirmations of your worth.
What does success look like for you? One way to define this is to set personal goals for yourself. These goals can be small, recurring goals, or they can be high and last for years. Do you want to start your own business? Earning a position in the C-Suite? Are you starting to hold executives in your organization accountable for achieving diversity initiatives?
These are goals that you have to define yourself. No one else should be tasked with assessing your worth, setting goals, and sharing your ambitions with the world. The awakening process begins when you see your ability to stand up for yourself and rebuild the world for women.
Be patient and supportive as you define your goals and hold yourself accountable. Not all goals fit well into a one-month plan or year window. Success rises and flows. Some years will be better than others; that’s just life. Do not give up. Just keep grinding.
Step 5: celebrate others and get celebrated.
We as women must work together towards the ultimate goal: to create a space where women are expected to be successful and acknowledge when they do. Form a circle of people around you celebrating. Ask yourself the following questions about the people you work, live and talk to on a daily basis:
- Do the people around you see your worth?
- Are you ready to say it out loud?
- Are they going to tell your boss, your customers, or your network that you add value to your team?
If the answer is yes, then you have a good group around you. If the answer is no, ask yourself these questions:
- Do these people tear you apart before they pick you up?
- Are you jealous of your success?
- Do they have a habit of undermining your worth or keeping silent when you need an attorney?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you need to take a close look at who is around you.
To be celebrated and others to celebrate is a one-way street. Remember, we are building a system where women are expected to be successful, and appropriately recognized for achieving that success. So send this ladder back down to help and mentor others once you succeed.
A woman who knows what to bring to the table is not afraid to eat alone. Surround yourself with independent, determined women. Help each other. Assess your worth, define your success and fight together. Together we are much stronger. And together we can reflect on the world that raised us and reinvent a world in which our daughters and granddaughters are better off.
This guest post was written by Areva Martin
AREVA is one of the nation’s leading media voices. An award-winning attorney, attorney, legal and social commentator, talk show host, and producer. She is CNN / HLN Legal Anaylst, former co-host of The Doctors and Face the Truth, and a regular contributor to Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, and Dr. Phil. She is currently moderating The Special Report with Areva Martin. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Martin Martin & Martin, LLP, founded a Los Angeles-based civil rights firm and is the CEO of Butterflly Health, Inc., a mental health technology company. As a bestselling author, Martin dedicated her fourth book to Awakening: Ladies, Leadership, and the Lies We’ve Been Toldto help women worldwide realize, own and assert their limitless power. Find out more at arevamartin.com.