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Empowered for Equality: How Women Can Advocate for Their Worth at Work

An important fact can’t be ignored: There is a disparity between what women and men are paid in workplaces all over America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a woman working full time earns an average of 80.7 cents for every dollar a man earns. While progress has been made toward workplace equality, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that gender pay parity will not be reached until 2059: a shocking 40 years away.

However, there’s a lot more to workplace equality than simply giving pay raises and title advances. To learn more, we spoke with Lauren Hasson, founder of DevelopHer: an organization that helps empower women to own their outcomes, build outstanding careers and negotiate for the salaries they deserve. She shares some proactive ways companies can level the playing field — and women can advocate for themselves at work.

1. Engage workers with events and training

Clearly, treating all employees equally is the right thing to do. But beyond being ethical, it can also save your organization money. Hanson says that hiring and training a female worker, only to have her become disengaged and leave, ultimately costs much more than investing in employees from the get-go. So how can you make sure female workers feel valued?

Many companies give across-the-board raises, but these don’t speak to workers’ individual worth and contributions. Instead, Hasson suggests offering training on topics such as gender equality, salary negotiations and personal development geared toward female employees. This gives them the tools to advocate for themselves and their worth. 

To help with recruiting efforts, Hasson recommends a women’s hiring event. She describes an event she attended that was hosted by a company’s female employees, who held a panel for female applicants to ask questions about workplace life.

Another way to raise awareness about workplace equality and self-advocacy is to bring in outside speakers who focus on these topics. When workers feel their value is recognized, engagement and loyalty tend to increase.

2. Make advocacy discussions a two-way street

Hasson says that women can, and should, speak out for what they need. 

“The employee is part of this equation,” Hasson adds. “It’s not only on the company [and] on society to fix.” 

Of course, speaking up isn’t always easy for groups who haven’t been given a platform in the past — and employers must create an environment where women feel empowered to approach them. 

Discussions between workers and managers should always be a two-way dialogue, Hasson says, where both feel comfortable giving and asking for positive feedback. To encourage an open and honest exchange, she suggests an exercise where each party asks how they’re doing at providing value to the other. She calls this holding up a “social mirror” to reality. 

To ensure they’re creating a supportive environment for female employees, Hasson also encourages employers to solicit feedback in an anonymous survey where they ask, “How are we doing with workplace equality and empowerment?” Then, note any areas…

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