5 Ways Women Can Take Control of Their Salaries

Last Updated Mar 10, 2010 9:33 AM EST

This week BNET's own Stacy Blackman writes about two studies showing that female MBAs earn less money. The studies cite the usual reasons for pay and position inequity: childcare, lower starting salary, bosses making assumptions about goals. The good news here is the role of maleable factors like attitude and perception. That means if things aren't fair for women in the workplace, we can change our behavior to make them fair.

If you want to increase your value to employers, take control of your own career. Look around at the people who are getting promoted ahead of you and making more money. What are they doing that you're not? Here are five things you should be doing to correct the balance: 1. See salary negotiations as a game. A Diversity Inc. article suggests that your attitude going into a negotiation can affect the outcome:

When men are asked to pick a metaphor to describe the negotiating process, they tend to pick fun activities such as "winning a ballgame" or a "wrestling match," according to Linda Babcock, an economics professor at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon and author of a book on gender and negotiation, "Women Don't Ask." Women, on the other hand, tend to lump negotiating in the same category as, say, "going to the dentist."
2. Speak up. Make sure there aren't any assumptions going on. If you want a promotion that would take you 2,000 miles away, don't sit in your office and hope. Walk into your boss's office and say, "I'm throwing my hat into the ring for the Alabama job. I'm ready to be the head of marketing. What advice do you have for me as I pursue this?" This way the boss isn't thinking, "Gee, Sheryl would be good for this Alabama job, but she's got little kids and a husband. She wouldn't want to relocate."

3. Don't whine about home life. A lot of people assume that women will be the primary caretaker of their children, and therefore having a child hurts a woman's career. Most of my co-workers have been two-career couples with children. The interesting thing is, the women stand around talking about daycare or nanny troubles. The men undoubtedly have the same concerns, but they don't talk about them at work, and definitely not with the boss. If you're constantly talking about your problems, your manager is going to think you have problems. And no one wants to promote problems.

4. Commit to your path. If you want the corner office, jump on that path with both feet. Don't expect someone else to take your hand and lead you there. Ask the person who sits there how he (and most times it is a he) got there. You'll find out that it's a lot of work, but at least you'll know what you need to do. Don't expect to be able to get there with less work than your predecessor put in. And if you don't want the corner office, commit to that choice. Don't feel pressure to be on a path you don't want to be on.

5. Don't take it personally. This is business, it's not personal. Or at least it shouldn't be. If your manager criticizes your work, she's not criticizing you as a person, she's telling you where you need to improve. So, fix it. You may disagree, but if she's taking the time to point out where you can do better, she's giving you a big hint about what you need to do to get ahead. Take the advice seriously.

Women: What career-limiting behaviors have you noticed -- and changed -- at work?

Men: What do you think we need to be doing differently to be treated the same as men?