Let's say I'm asking for a raise, pay that reflects the work I do and the value I contribute to my company. The question is . . . how?
I sought out Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe and the best-selling book Knowing Your Value. She'll be coming to Loews Hotel in Center City on April 10 for the first stop on her "Grow Your Value" tour, a live workshop event with an interactive contest that asks women to enter one-minute videos online showing why they deserve a $10,000 bonus to further their careers.
The contest deadline is 11:59:59 p.m. March 22. Get going, ladies! (For contest rules, visit www.msnbc.com/knowyourvalue.)
Brzezinski says she made rookie mistakes when asking for a raise.
"I made it personal, instead of about business," she recalls.
Women "apologize our way into conversation. We're too self-deprecating during negotiations. That's like dumping money out of your purse.
"We worry about being friends with people as opposed to respected business partners first. What should be in your head are data you bring to the table. The rest is clutter."
Before "the ask," Lisa Penn, managing director at SEI Private Banking, urges writing down on paper a list of accomplishments and value added. Ask friends and coworkers: What am I good at? What do you come to me for? What information do I give you?
Write down their answers. Take the list to your meeting.
Three big mistakes
Stop apologizing, Brzezinski says. Do not utter the words "I'm sorry" at any point in the conversation. That means at the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Stick to one goal. "You don't need to address other plans or projects in the conversation. The one focus is your goal. Don't leave the room without accomplishing that," she says. "We love our lists. But we sometimes miss the big picture. Men sit around and scratch themselves and talk about baseball for a reason. It's all a negotiation and a way to relax. So let it happen."
Practice. Before you have the talk, role play.
"Work with someone to speak in public," she says. "Make a toast. Get used to being looked at and how it feels weird. Send in a video for my tour competition. Even if you're not a finalist, that exercise will be so good for you! It should not feel weird. It's not weird. Do it again and again and make it normal."
At a Hartford, Conn., book event, women got up on stage and pitched, in a minute or less, why they had value and deserved a bonus.
"Amazing women came out of the woodwork," Brzezinski says. "The winner was in her 50s, had been fired from Wall Street and opened a secondhand store. The runner-up was a 28-year-old single mom who wanted to go to college. Another finalist was a woman dumped by her husband. She opened a fitness center and needed more equipment. And a grandmother walked to the conference. She had just graduated college in her 60s and wanted to open an animal sanctuary."
After Hartford, Brzezinski says, she realized she was on to something special. Philadelphia, here she comes.
In Pennsylvania, the median annual pay for women in 2013 was $38,000 a year, as opposed to $50,000 for men. If progress continues at the current rate since 1960, the report says, women will not receive equal pay until 2072. In New Jersey, ranked fourth in the nation, the median pay for women that year was $48,000 vs. $60,000 for men, according to a new report, "Status of Women in the States: 2015," by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
If the pay gap continues at the current rate, women in the United States will achieve equal pay in 2058.
But in some states, a woman born today likely will not see wage equality in her lifetime. Five states - West Virginia, Utah, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming - will not see equal pay until the next century.
Overall, the winner for women's employment and earnings is Washington, D.C., the report says. Last is West Virginia. Pennsylvania ranked 19.
"Women's status on employment and earnings either worsened or stalled in nearly half of the states in the last decade," says Heidi Hartmann, the Institute for Women's Policy Research president and a MacArthur fellow.
Typical working women in the United States lose out on more than $530,000 in a lifetime due to the gender wage gap. Race and ethnicity play roles, as well. Hispanic women have the lowest median annual earnings at $28,000, well below the earnings for all women ($38,000). Among Asian and Pacific Islander women, for example, Asian Indian women earn more than twice as much as Hmong women ($60,879 and $30,000, respectively).
See the data for yourself at the Institute for Women's Policy Research's website, www.statusofwomendata.org, an interactive tool with each state's information.
And wish me - or should I say us - luck!