Knowing Your Value (& Getting Paid What You’re Worth)

You might remember seeing members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team on 60 Minutes, talking about their ongoing fight for equal pay.

Because they were being paid a third of what the men’s team gets, they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination.

Maybe you have similar wage frustrations or you’re just wondering if you could – or should – be making a higher salary.

“Every day, I find myself reminding women around me to know their value,” said Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host. “I also have to remind myself.”

41kjj53q9-lThat’s because the co-host found herself quite underpaid eight years ago, when she discovered that her co-host, Joe Scarborough, was making 14 times more than her. She renegotiated, is “in a much better place,” she says, and has since written two books, Knowing Your Value and Grow Your Value, to help other women get what they deserve.

Do Your Know Your Value?

Whether you need to assess your value or determine whether your compensation reflects your value, here are some strategies for dealing with salary struggles, so you can get the compensation you deserve:

Search online. Glassdoor, the Yelp-like website where you can post job reviews, has a new tool, Know Your Worth, aimed at giving real-time salary estimates. provides personal salary reports as well as an extensive Executive Pay search option, which provides specific salaries, bonuses, stock options, etc. of senior management at top companies.

Ask the experts. You could ask professional associations if they could share salary surveys with you or job recruiters if they can give you some indication of salaries similar to yours.

Get specifics. Your company might have readily available information that could help you learn more specifically what someone else might be paid for a job similar to yours. Do you know how your company usually advertises for jobs? You can search on those job boards or on an executive search firm’s website to see if a salary range is listed. If your firm filed a financial statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, some of these filings might contain pay records; you can search their company database. Or if your company has been involved in a lawsuit, you can go through court records and search for documents pertaining to your company, which may contain salary information.

Weigh Your Options

Once you quantify your true value and your salary does not match up, what’s next?

Negotiate your way to higher pay. Compensation issues are tricky and there are no hard and fast rules to addressing any inequities with your boss or HR. However, 75% of people who ask for a raise get some kind of bump, according to data from PayScale, so the odds are in your favor. But before moving forward, make sure you have a track record of your successes and consult your employee manual for any possible policies on how to handle pay negotiations. Then be as specific as possible in referencing your accomplishments and productivity.

Flickr photo by Sarah Mirk

Discussions about salary aren’t always comfortable or easy, but if handled carefully, thoughtfully and tactfully, you have a good chance of getting more, if not all, of what you’re asking for. “If you go into a negotiation communicating effectively and elegantly, but also with your own sense of self, chances are, you’ll get what you want,” Brzezinski told Time. “Obviously, you have to back up your request with data, information and a clear articulation of your value.”

Know your rights. Suing an employer for wage discrimination can be tough to prove. To bring claim under the Equal Pay Act, an employee must show that a man and a woman, working at the same place and doing the same job (equal work) are receiving unequal pay. The U.S. women’s soccer team’s suit accuses U.S. Soccer of violating the EPA and they’re hoping their pay inequity fight has a broader range. “This is history-making – what we’re doing, what we’re fighting for,” said team captain Carli Lloyd. “It not only resonates with this team and with generations to come, but it’s global as well.”

For most women, it might be best start any pay inequity discussion with the EEOC – or your state level equal employment agency, suggests Evelyn Murphy, founder of the nonprofit WAGE Project, since they offer free advice before you decide to shell out for a private lawyer.

Or, you might find it helpful talking with a lawyer to consider next steps; lawyers can act as advisors in the background, for example, while you negotiate with your employer.

One thing to keep in mind: The wage gap adds up. Over a lifetime, a woman will earn nearly half a million less than a man simply because she is a woman, according to the Gender Pay Inequality report.

Think about you could do with another half a million dollars.