Gender equity advocate Claire Wasserman offers detailed – if perhaps familiar – advice to working women on getting the pay and treatment they deserve.
Gender equity advocate Claire Wasserman, founder of the nonprofit Ladies Get Paid, explains that women often blame themselves when they fail to advance in their careers. But the wage gap and underlying discrimination are real, as Wasserman explains, so she offers women tools and strategies to fight both and move ahead. She delves into biased gender expectations, imposter syndrome and perfectionism, as she provides practical advice on networking, interviewing, negotiating a salary and getting promoted. Her message: Believe in yourself in order to take charge of your career and foster change.
For decades, books detailing strategies for success in the office have been bestsellers, with their most famous advice becoming koans guiding ambitious workers. But the 2000s have seen a rise of such books written for women and minorities specifically. Previously, apparently, most people bought into the illusion that the same tactics and principles worked for men and women – and for other often discriminated-against groups as well. Wasserman details how men and women work in different universes and how women must embrace tactics appropriate to their universe.
Personal goals and Interests
Wasserman advises women to navigate your career according to your goals and interests, untethered by familial or cultural influences. Change your indoctrinated mind-set by challenging your guiding assumptions, discerning their origins and identifying how they affect your decisions.
When your work is aligned with your goals and values, everything feels lighter, just the way it does when you’re in an environment that doesn’t require some sort of contortionism.Claire Wasserman
Embrace areas and activities that ignite your curiosity, and identify tasks or situations that deplete you, so you can avoid them as much as possible. While no job is perfect, seek a position where your interests, strengths and values intersect. Commit to pursuing a career that supports your purpose and lifts you up.
In one case history, Wasserman discusses Reece, a high achiever who earned top grades and attended prestigious schools. However, she seldom spoke up and had little confidence. Reece suffered imposter syndrome, feelings exacerbated by the common gender-power imbalance.
Any critical feedback sent her into a tailspin of self-doubt and reinforced her sense of being unworthy. Imposter syndrome can trigger a cycle of working harder and feeling worse.
Letting go of imposter syndrome means flipping the script from one of scarcity (‘I’m not good enough, I’m faking it’) to one of growth (‘I’m learning and evolving’).Claire Wasserman
When Reece saw male colleagues taking credit for her work, her thinking changed. If they were stealing her ideas, they must be the imposters, not her. When women try to please by conforming to male-oriented cultures, they put themselves in subservient positions. Counter this behavior by using unapologetic, assertive language, and taking credit for your work and ideas. New challenges mean a learning curve, so understand that feelings of vulnerability often accompany growth.
Perfectionism is an unrealistic criterion for achievement. Like imposter syndrome, perfectionism stems from the belief that your worth is tied to your performance, so any mistake brings on paralyzing self-loathing.
Society conditions women to avoid self-promotion, but networking requires you to highlight your accomplishments – and so does nailing a job interview.
Enter the job-hunting process believing in yourself. Once you identify a job you want, find out if you know someone at the company. Before interviewing, research the company and its culture. Be prepared, based on understanding that the interviewer wants you to be a fast learner, a team player and a good cultural fit.
The process of getting a job and negotiating your salary is the ultimate form of self-advocacy.Claire Wasserman
Identify examples from your life and work experience that show why you’ll perform well and fit in smoothly. Highlight a time you made an impossible deadline, stretched limited resources or rose to a challenge.Mention achievements that align to the role you want.
Negotiating is a process and most employers expect some back-and-forth discussion.
Negotiating reflects an exchange of goods and services; you bring value, and the company knows they have to pay for it. In short: your salary is not a favor.Claire Wasserman
Remember that you’re valuable and that it will cost the company more to start interviewing again than to give you what you want. If a company can’t meet your salary demands, negotiate benefits such as flex time, vacation, tuition and commuting reimbursement.
Boundaries, Balance and Self-Care
Women often devote so much time and energy to their jobs and home lives that they may lose sight of their own needs. In particular, women of color often take on the burden of “emotional labor” as they try to make others comfortable at the cost of their own well-being.
Never underestimate what you and those you’re connected to can do for each other — if not today, then in the future.Claire Wasserman
Be intentional about your priorities, career choices and overall well-being. Consider how you spend your time, delegate when possible and schedule self-care, such as exercise, meditation, daily breaks, limited work hours, reduced screen time and a healthy diet.
Hard work will get you only so far. Internal obstacles, sexism and male-oriented cultures can create prohibitive barriers. To navigate your organization’s politics, call attention to your contributions, build relationships with intention and find internal advocates.
Establish a productive relationship with your manager from your first day on the job. Learn his or her expectations and priorities, communication style and preferred modes of interacting. And, solicit feedback — women often receive less specific feedback than men.
Don’t let your current lack of network, a language barrier or a marginalized status keep you from achieving.Claire Wasserman
When you reach the executive suite, you’ll be positioned to help change entrenched systems that make it harder for women to flourish, including gender discrimination, wage inequality and the lack of paid family leave. When women unite, they share the load and elevate one another.
Passion and edge
Wasserman is earnest and writes with great passion and edge. She wants women to break out of any self-imposed limitations and to become aware of built-in barriers. To achieve this, Wasserman exhorts readers to overcome obstacles and relies on not very edifying case studies and examples. Most will seem familiar to readers of self-help books. While Wasserman’s zeal and mission are admirable, and while she has certainly found a welcoming audience, this is a work of broad strokes, homilies and familiar advice. Even if she’s short on clear, concrete tactics, Wasserman provides an empathetic, handy overview of contemporary advice for women in the workplace.
Other works helping women self-actualize – including at work – include almost anything by Brené Brown; Jennifer Barrett’s Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less), and Cara Alwill Leyba’s Girl On Fire: How to Choose Yourself, Burn the Rule Book, and Blaze Your Own Trail in Life and Business.