Since becoming a CEO, Elizabeth Miles, a co-founder and chief executive of Iken Business Ltd., a legal software company based in Bristol, U.K., has been "shocked to find that (on average) women employees are grateful for pay increases, whereas men expect and demand more. It's as if women can feel less deserving."
Does how a woman negotiates her salary reveal her sense of self-worth and level of self-esteem?
Stacey A. Gordon, an entrepreneur and president of the Los Angeles Professional Chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs, replies to Miles: "The members of the NAWMBA board were just discussing this. We find that personal value is affected by external value. Therefore, it's not so much a self-esteem issue as it is the perception of a woman's value in the workplace."
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"I know my personal value, but when the person with the power to promote/hire me perceives my value to be less-than because of their own values and ideas about me or women in general, it may cause me to ask for less than what I'm worth because I don't want to price myself out of a good job. When that happens repeatedly, it may eventually affect self-esteem."
A thoughtful response, but Miles objects: But I am a woman, and I know the value of the women who work in my business. I certainly don't perceive women to be less-than, and it still happens."
"The main point I am making is that this appears to come from within the women employees themselves. This is my experience as CEO of a software house that employs both men and women. I myself have sat on the other side of the fence and have been grateful for advancement in salary, status etc. Now that I am in charge, I have to watch myself as employer because men put far more pressure on me re advancement than women do (on average), and I take on an ethical position to make sure that I take fair decisions despite this."
"One issue that seems to me at play here is women's sense of their own worth and entitlement. Any feelings they have about that don't come from me as their current boss I am sure, because I have sat where they sit now, and I remember those feelings myself."
Suhasini Sakhare, business unit head at Zeta InteLex, a legal process outsourcing unit based in Nagpur, India, isn't shy about pointing out that while women do accept unfair treatment, they continue to do their best. And while there is no bottom line incentive not to hire the most skilled workers at the cheapest price, Sakhare opines that it does reveal that that system is at odds with "the basic principles of human creativity."