• Make sure you’re worth it. This process of getting higher pay starts with knowing the value of your work in that position — what you bring to the table. Whenever possible, seek to increase your worth to your employer by taking on additional responsibility, volunteering for extra work and making sure people besides your boss find your work helpful. In a commission- or direct-revenue-generating job, your worth is clear — and usually, compensation is commensurate with this productivity, so it’s gender-blind. But in more subjective work-performance environments, your contributions may not be as clear. Your pay may ultimately be based on how useful you are to the users of your work. So it’s critical that your efforts be helpful to your “customers.” Like your company’s external customers, satisfied colleagues can support your case for higher pay.
• To get equal pay, make an equal commitment. To get paid like the boys, work like the boys. This may mean working late; running out the door at 5 p.m. is no way to position for a raise. Of course, for moms with young children to stay late means, they need to get their spouse to help out more with child care. If you married someone who won’t do this, that is a major obstacle. If that’s your situation, you need to get your partner on board with the idea that by helping out with the kids more, the whole family will benefit financially. This is a theme of “Lean In,” the recent best-seller by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.
Many women who don’t believe this and rely entirely on their husbands financially for 20 years while taking care of everything at home are setting themselves up for potential misery if their husbands become disabled or they get divorced. Then, without a work record to fall back on, they have little worth in the job market.
Women who have careers early on but take several years off to have children should look for ways to compensate for this on their resumes by getting part-time work in the same field and bolstering their credentials with pertinent education or certifications.
• Don’t give your boss ammunition against you. That means not mentioning things that may result in their devaluing you or minimizing your contribution to the company. In your conversations with your supervisors, don’t focus on your children unless you absolutely have to; there’s a limit to how much they need to know about your personal life. Unfortunately, some people will assume that, because you have children, you may not be fully committed to your job. When you go into a job interview or a salary review, don’t talk about work/life balance; talk about work. This advice may not be politically correct, but it’s based on social reality.
• Blow your own horn. Promote yourself as you go along in a job, and throughout your career. By this, I don’t mean running around saying how great you are. But forget about being humble, a trap too many women fall into. There are tasteful, acceptable ways to promote yourself. Make it clear what you’re doing that’s of value and why.
• Just like men, you must negotiate. Base your case on your demonstrated accomplishments. Look down the road and what you have to do to make a compelling argument. When it comes time to talk money, will you be able to justify your claim? When the time is right — normally, during your annual review — make your case by listing your accomplishments and what you’ve done for the end-users of your work.