Gender Equality: Women Must Advocate for Themselves

This blog is the first in a three-part series based on the TEDx Mission Viejo talk, “Advocate Change: Gender Balance For a Sustainable Workforce” by Executives Unlimited Founder and President, Tomilee Tilley Gill.

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.” – Jana Kingsford

There are certainly women in leadership positions in the United States, an admirable achievement and one that gender equality champions have been striving to attain for the last 50 years: Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve System, Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of General Motors Company, and Lynn Elsenhans, Chairman, CEO and President of Sunoco, to name a few. Although there are notable pioneers, we still have not reached a critical mass of women in leadership roles. Several reasons for this exist, but helping women develop confidence and skills to advocate for themselves is the first step toward achieving gender equity in the workplace.

The Hidden Confidence Gap

As President of Executives Unlimited, Tomilee Tilley Gill interviews many extraordinary women and men, and discovered an odd phenomenon when she asks about total annual cash compensation. Women generally understate their earnings by 20%. Men, on the other hand, breathe in, puff their chest out and confidently spew a number 20% higher! Women need to value their worth. There is no room for modesty in a compensation conversation.

Women: Advocate for Yourself

As Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, shared in her book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, even women who appear confident and who possess high-caliber communication skills can have trouble articulating what they are worth and to demand what they want. Even if, as Brzezinski describes, your first attempts at negotiations are awkward and uncomfortable, you need to develop a negotiation style that works for you. Learn how to get the best results through negotiation.

Don’t Wait to Get Noticed

In general, women expect that their actions will speak louder than words in the workplace. If they work hard enough and show loyalty and dedication to the company, top management will no doubt understand they are interested in a promotion or deserve higher compensation. Women need to use their words! Why are they silent, when it’s time to toot their own horns? Women should not let the men in their office be the only ones to command attention, along with promotions and raises, because they ask for it.

Dedicate Time to Network

According to the Women in the Workplace study of 132 companies by and McKinsey & Co., women have less access to the people that accelerate their careers. Women too often misallocate their time on actions that don’t contribute to their success. Networking and nurturing relationships that will promote your advancement needs to be a priority. Set a monthly goal to make at least two new connections, and make sure some of those connections are male senior executives.

It’s time for women to value their time and contributions and advocate for their successes! As a national provider of retained executive recruiting and placement services, our team at Executives Unlimited helps companies identify their next leaders—men and women. Please call us at (866) 957-4466 or contact us online today.

We encourage you to like and share Tomilee’s TEDx Talk with your network.