As a working mom, it can be challenging to hear advice like “Just know your worth” or hollow statements like “Of course you are valuable”.  When society’s suggestions and sentiments don’t translate to helping you feel empowered and able to own who you are and what you do, it’s probably time to take a deeper look at what’s going on for you.

There are clearly policies and initiatives that need to be addressed when it comes to the wage gap between working men and women, the inequitable treatment of female minorities, and the lack of advancement for women, but what I want to focus on is what’s actually within your control.  I want to help you see that no matter what society or government does or doesn’t do to help working moms, you don’t need to wait for someone or something to acknowledge you or assist you.

Even with a completely level playing field, and all the same opportunities given to everyone, you still have some internal work to do when it comes to understanding and owning the difference between your financial value and your inherent worth.  When these things are left unexplored, you will unfortunately most often fail at negotiating for better treatment, better pay and better balance in your personal and professional life.

None of this means you shouldn’t do things like march for equality, speak up when you’ve been mistreated, or set boundaries when appropriate and necessary; these actions, and more, are absolutely your right to take part in.  But what you should also spend some time exploring is your mindset around making money, the value you offer and your financial worth, as opposed to your intrinsic worth as a woman.

Whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur, or a working mom just getting back into the workforce after staying home with your children, you most likely have some cleanup to do around your work and its value.  It doesn’t matter whether you are requesting a promotion from your boss, pitching to a potential client, or even discussing your role at home with your partner, your thinking around your work and its value will definitely affect how you negotiate for yourself.

It’s important to understand that how you delineate between your moral value as a woman versus your economic value as an accountant and a mom, will impact so many areas of your life both personally and professionally.  I want to help you get clear about the difference between the two so that you aren’t dependent on society to determine your economic worth versus your innate worth.

This week I’m going to discuss the importance of understanding your inherent value as a woman as well as how to own your financial value and worth.

Understanding your inherent value

For a lot of working moms, it’s difficult to really own our inherent value when society seems to dictate what makes women valuable or not.  It can be confusing when we are bombarded with explicit and implicit messages about things like how we need to look and what we need to do, in order to be accepted, appreciated and valued by others.

Early in my career I worked for some wonderful tax partners, but after 10 years at Deloitte & Touche I knew I needed to leave because the tax partner at the time was dismissive and unsupportive of me.  When I sat down with him to ask him why, he said, “Because I believe you are taking a job away from a man”.

He clearly didn’t value my hard work and diligence like his predecessors did, only seeing what he chose to see – a working mom “taking a job” away from a man.  After leaving and getting a position at Ernst & Young, I shared that story with my new male tax partner and asked him why he seemed to have a majority of working moms in his department; he explained, “Because I see them as the most valuable, hard working, and least egotistical employees I can ask for”.

Looking back, I appreciate that tax partner at Deloitte being so blunt about why he was treating me badly because otherwise I might have stayed and tried to change his opinion of me or tried to make him respect, like and value me.  I think he actually did me a favor by not sugar-coating his beliefs about working women, allowing me to not assume that everyone would appreciate my hard work and ability to balance both my personal and professional life.    

But the most important thing I got from that period of my life was the realization of how easy it would have been to assume that my value depended on other people’s evaluation of me.  It was many years later when I discovered how important it is to understand my inherent value as a human being, without needing, and oftentimes craving, validation and to be valued by others.

Whether you had an amazing upbringing or not, none of us can avoid the messages we start hearing as young girls, like how our bodies need to look to be considered attractive or the messages that making other people happy is what a woman and mother is supposed to do.  For working moms the message is even louder – you’re already not spending time with your children by working, so don’t even consider taking time for yourself or addressing your own wants and needs. 

Unfortunately we often look to men, or people in authority, to base our sense of worth and value, missing the most important irrefutable truth – you don’t need external validation to determine your internal value.  You are already worthy and valuable just by virtue of being a human, right here, right now, at this moment in history.

This isn’t a hollow “rah rah” speech; I really want you to let it sink in, that you honestly don’t need to earn approval and appreciation from others, because their opinion means nothing compared to your opinion of yourself.  You don’t need to jump through hoops like a circus dog, waiting for the applause and hopefully getting a treat at the end of the performance.

You already check the only box that matters – you exist.  Think about a newborn baby; they aren’t less valuable just because they haven’t done anything other than come into this world; their value is in the fact that they just exist, and the same goes for you.  Your inherent value just is, whether you realize it or not.

Once you can acknowledge that that’s enough, and you let go of the weight of society’s expectations and messages, the easier it will be to get down to business and start creating and owning your financial value and worth as well.  Once you remove the many layers of guilt and self-judgment, you can start taking charge of knowing, and then asking for and accepting, your financial value.

In order to get that promotion, receive that raise, turn down that client who doesn’t appreciate what you offer them, or discuss the value of your role in the home with your partner, you first have to check how strong your internal foundation is.  I’m not talking about arrogance, I’m talking about awareness and acceptance – you exist, therefore you are already valuable.

I want you to see that you don’t need the 3% raise, the client to sign the engagement letter, or your spouse to tell you that you matter; you already do, without any of those things.  In order to own your financial value and have those often challenging conversations about getting paid what you’re worth, you first need to own that your inherent worth isn’t dependent on anyone and anything else, and it’s definitely not dependent on the exchange of money.

Before you own your financial value and negotiate for what that’s worth, your thoughts about you are what need to be addressed so that other people’s thoughts about you are interesting, but not defining.  You don’t need to be skinnier, smarter, more extroverted, or more assertive to be worthy or valuable.

Interestingly, once you know that your inherent worth isn’t dependent on anything, you actually gain an incredible freedom to go after bigger goals and dreams.  You then have a firm foundation to move forward, add more economic value to the world, and get paid for it. 

How to own your financial value and worth

In order to understand and own your financial value, you first need to get clear that your inherent value is something that you don’t need to take any actions to achieve; you just are inherently valuable.  It’s like in the game of Monopoly – you can’t pass Go and collect $200 until you’re sure that your inherent value doesn’t require you to do a damn thing.

But in order to increase your financial or economic value, you do need to take actions and produce work in the world that other people will pay for which means that your intrinsic value doesn’t require any action on your part, but your financial value does.  The reason this is so important to understand is because it will make the actions you take, and the conversations and negotiations you have for money, so much easier for you.

First off, your job in a financial negotiation is to explain the financial value of what you offer, and it’s the other person’s job to agree or not.  Their agreement, disagreement or counter-offer has nothing to do with your intrinsic value as a human being, and has everything to do with their thoughts about the value you are offering them.

It’s important to know that what you are paid is a reflection of what the market sees as the financial value of the results you produce, therefore it’s your job to produce valuable results and be able to explain that value to others. If someone doesn’t agree with you after you have explained the value of the results you can produce, then one of two things has happened – you either didn’t explain it well or they just don’t agree with you about the financial value of the results.

The critical thing here, when someone doesn’t agree with you, is to know that it says nothing about your inherent value and worth; it’s only a difference in opinion about the financial value of what you offer.  They just have different thoughts than you, which doesn’t mean anything about your worth as a woman, employee, entrepreneur or mother.

Once you have discussed your financial value and the other person disagrees, you have a few options.  You could choose to accept what they’re willing to pay, you could decide to find another company, client or partner to work with, or you could look for other ways to add value and readdress the negotiation at another time.  The less you make an unfavorable outcome mean about you, the easier it will be to see the next steps to take.  

Thankfully, the less drama you have about someone else’s thoughts, whether they agree with the financial value you offer or not, the easier it will be to review and possibly reevaluate what you offer.  The more you can see that In order to create more money, you have to create more value that someone else is willing to pay for, the easier it is to find the people who value what you offer.

Therefore in order to own your financial value and worth, you need to stop connecting your financial value with your human value, or else you will waste so much time and energy trying to “prove” yourself to others.  To help you make clear decisions about what kind of value you can offer and how to go about creating it, you need to separate the two.

It’s actually pretty simple math – your economic value equals what someone else is willing to pay for something you produce; that’s it.  On the other hand, your value as a woman and a working mom doesn’t need anyone else, their thoughts, opinions or validation in the equation.

By owning your inherent value first, your financial value will be much easier to explore, increase and negotiate.  Whether you have someone in your life like the tax partner who didn’t value me and told me I was taking a job away from a man, or you are unsure about how to increase your financial value and find others that will pay for what you’ve worth, one thing is irrefutable – you are worthy, just because you exist. 

Now take that awareness as a starting point and begin to explore how and where you can add more financial value.  When you know what your inherent worth is, as well as financial value and worth, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving whatever goals you have. 

Summary  

  • Even with a completely level playing field, and all the same opportunities given to everyone, you still have some internal work to do when it comes to understanding and owning the difference between your financial value and your inherent worth
  • It’s important to understand that how you delineate between your moral value as a woman versus your economic value as an accountant and a mom, will impact so many areas of your life both personally and professionally
  • Whether you had an amazing upbringing or not, none of us can avoid the messages we start hearing as young girls, like how our bodies need to look to be considered attractive or the messages that making other people happy is what a woman and mother is supposed to do
  • Think about a newborn baby; they aren’t less valuable just because they haven’t done anything other than come into this world; their value is in the fact that they just exist, and the same goes for you
  • The more you can see that In order to create more money, you have to create more value that someone else is willing to pay for, the easier it is to find the people who value what you offer.