Ditching the rules to claim your value (part 1)

February 5, 2015

unless you're a woman in the workplaceAs you know if you listen to the show and read this blog, I'm obsessed by the topic of how women value themselves - or rather, how they don't. I have no scientific proof, but I strongly suspect women end up working for nothing a lot more than men do. Why? Because women are conditioned to be nice, helpful, and generally to please others. We find it hard to say no. So when some nonprofit or maybe just a friend or acquaintance asks us to 'help out', we say yes.


I first wrote about this here and again here. I also produced a show on the topic. In this post I want to share the story of a listener who wrote to me last week.

She has been edging into a new career as a web developer. She's been enjoying learning this trade, which she has largely taught herself. She told herself that in order to get work she'd have to go and do a formal course, then start off building a portfolio by doing free work, then charging a low fee as she was 'new'. I'll let her take it from here:

"My husband shook his head and pushed me into a paying project immediately. I learned an incredible amount on the job, but more importantly, I was paid to learn those things. Obviously the client didn’t know this, but was thrilled with the result. My husband smiled smugly when I was dumbfounded and guilty at “lying” to the client. He replied that I wasn’t lying. I was not 20 and at the beginning of my career anymore. I needed to change the way I worked and thought about working. While I may not have known the technical skill set needed, I am a fast learner, I have a core basic knowledge and my previous experience in that industry greatly shortened the learning curve so that I could deliver on time, accurately. And he was right."

Think about that for a minute. How many women would have the balls to do what came naturally to her husband - to have confidence in their abilities, to bluff a bit, and hope everything worked out?

This experience was a revelation for my listener. She felt proud that she'd gone forth and essentially said, 'This is my price because of the value I bring to this project - which comes as much from my inside knowledge of an industry as it does the immediate technical skills needed to express it.' 

"It's hard," she added, "because it does go right back to the cultural expectations of women: be a good girl, follow directions/protocol, and wait your turn."

She says she still has trouble speaking up about the value she brings, because like a lot of other women, she has always valued herself and her skills so poorly, "and thus, no surprise, so do others," she says. It's her instinct to talk her price down, not up. But she's practicing, repeating her prices to herself so she gets comfortable with them, and sticking to her guns. 

Still, her husband's methodology isn't foolproof. You can read part two of this post here.