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POWERcast: Advocate for Yourself, Your Team and Your Community
Episode 631st March 2022 • Leadership Forum: The Podcast • John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
00:00:00 00:33:27

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Experts on the gender pay gap and its impact on our communities, Barbara Smoot and Rep. Monique Smith know the barriers in standing up for change. In this Leadership Forum: The POWERcast, these women share tips and tools to help you gain confidence — whether you’re battling daily challenges such as public speaking or leading organizational transformations, including fair pay practices.


Tina Pierce 0:13

Welcome to the Leadership Forum, the power cast, a podcast by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. My name is Tina Pierce and I will be your host today. The Leadership Forum Podcast offers leadership tips and inspiration for public service professionals. Power cast episodes highlight women leaders in public and nonprofit organizations and their stories of overcoming challenges unique to women and politics and public service. Today, I'm honored to be joined by Barbara Smith, who is the president and CEO of a women economic and leadership development weld, national and Commissioner and chair of the Pay Equity Committee, Columbus Women's Commission, and Representative Monique Smith, who is currently serving in her first term as state representative for Ohio 16th House District, which includes the cities of Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River and Westlake Ohio. Welcome to you both. And thank you for joining me for today's conversation. Thank you. In our last power cast episode, we discussed how our personal and diverse experiences as women and challenges specific to women in the workplace can shape our leadership styles. One of these challenges is a cause that both of you are working on equitable pay. Let's briefly discuss what is the gender pay gap and how it's impacting our communities. Barb, would you like to start?

Barbara Smith 2:01

Thank you. Um, this is a subject that I'm passionate about. I served four years as a commissioner for the City of Columbus on the Columbus women commission for four years, and there's so much work to be done here. Pay Equity is basically the practice of paying employees the same when they are performing the same or similar job duties, while accounting for any temporary differences and experience level performance and tenure with the employer. The gender pay gap represents the difference between women's and men's median earnings when compared to each other. The pay gap is one of the most pressing issues for women and women of color today, the gap is largest unfortunately for women of color. For example, if an African American woman were paid the same wages as an average white man, the impact is startling. According to research done by the Atlanta women for equity, if paid the difference, a black woman could afford to buy food for family of four for two years, with like $3,000 Extra, she could pay rent and utilities with for one year with money to spare. These are real dollars and the fact that women are not being paid equitably. It impacts the quality of their life and their economic security.

Tina Pierce 3:21

Thank you so much for that. Representative Smith, would you like to add?

Monique Smith 3:26

Absolutely. Everything Barb said is what we've seen as well, when we've looked into this issue at the state house. It's those are all things that so many women know from their lived experience as well. And so at the statehouse, we've tried a couple of times to acknowledge and recognize and address this issue. But unfortunately, we haven't been able to really get momentum behind legislation that would write into law, a requirement that at least for for example, for state employees, that we do an audit to find out if there are patterns, if what the discrepancies are we have legislation that was proposed by State Representative Stephanie House from the Cleveland area she is now a member of Cleveland City Council just recently made that transition after last November's election. But she has always been a superstar on issues of equity and is an expert. And then another one of my colleagues co sponsored legislation with her, you know, attempting to do the do a survey to to identify what the problems are, at least in state government and the other state representative is named Jessica Miranda from southern Ohio. So they've joined sponsored this legislation. It's been introduced more than once and again, the idea of that legislation is to be a starting point to find data that supports exactly what Barbara was just talking about, we know that there are we know from general surveys and general information from the professional world, that there are absolutely discrepancies between what a woman and a man are paid for similar jobs. And as Barbara said, the discrepancy gets larger, if we're talking about what a black woman versus a white man gets paid, or a Latina employee versus a white man gets paid. Those gaps just get bigger and bigger. As we look into those different categories. What we would love to do at the state level is be a model and a starting point, for being able to document these things and address them. But you can't address the problem until you know what it is how big it is, if it's focusing on certain roles in an organization, and that's a first step that I think is important for our organization, in the government and for any organization to really go through that process and do some analysis, do a survey, do an audit and find out? Are there discrepancies for for similar roles? I think that that many organizations will find that there are.

Tina Pierce 6:08

And thank you for that. I appreciate you all setting the context and the foundation of how important this issue is, as Barb started the conversation indicating it is impacting the quality of life and Representative Smith, you bringing in the action that needs to be taken at the state level. So we can understand the data behind that, that quality of life and how it's been impacted on not just the lived experience of women, but also the lived experience of their families, and how organizations some of the things that they can do to really create and make a difference. And it just feels intimidating. So the average person who's listening to this conversation, right, it can impact me on an individual level, but then it can impact my community, you know, it can impact the organization that I'm working with. And so while you're both working to address this issue on a state and community level, addressing pay discrimination in the workplace, again, can be very intimidating for affected women. I'm curious, have you faced paid discrimination personally? And how did you advocate for yourself?

Barbara Smith 7:24

So I have a real live example. And I learned very early on in life, that the world is not fair. And the deck the deck is stacked against people. When I was 16 years old, I worked in a steak house. And in nearly all the cases, the male and female employees did identical work, or in the remaining cases, nearly identical work, yet the male employees were paid more per hours in the female employees. We were told it was because the female employees couldn't work the grill, right? They incredible, scary grill. The real answer is that they wouldn't pay us what they thought we were working, you know, they would let women work on the grill, they wouldn't let when we were teenagers, they wouldn't let us try the grill. Unless there were no other male available to use it. Well, when we started using the grill, we've proved them wrong. And, in fact, what we did was, we went to one of the managers and asked for a raise, male manager over age 50. And his response back to us was, you know, in terms of who the ringleader was, I won't give any names or anything, his response back to us was have her sit on my lap. And I will give her a raise. Long story short, reported this to his management chain, and eventually we got he got fired. And we did get a raise. He said this as a man over age 50 to teenage girls. So the raise that we did get was five to 10 cents more per hour, so that at the end of an eight hour shift, we were gifted with an extra 40 cents to 80 cents on a pre tax basis. You know, standing up for yourself is not easy to do. But we did the work to prove their hypothesis was wrong. And we stood firm as a group. And one of the most important things that we did is we we were vulnerable. And we showed each other our pay stubs and that's how we figured it out. And that that event in my life had a lot to do with where I am today when you know seeing disparity and seeing how people are not paid what they should be paid is a hot button for me and it's an opportunity for entire communities to do better and be better.

Tina Pierce 9:48

Thank you for sharing that.

Monique Smith 9:51

That is a very powerful story. Barbara, I'm glad you shared that. You know it's interesting that once we do start asking these questions, the stories really do start to come right out. In fact, I just coincidentally was on a zoom call earlier today with a professional organization asking about this very topic. And what we did during the Zoom call was open up the conversation to ask for people's stories, does anyone relate to the idea of experiencing a pay gap? So my story isn't, it's not personal, but it happened early in my career. And I shared this a couple of times, I was working for one of the Columbus areas, large retail corporations in the area. And it was my first full time job out of college. And so as a young woman, getting her first exposure to a professional environment, it was it had a great deal of influence on how I saw opportunity and how I saw, I guess, my future. And a friend of mine, a woman who became a friend who was a bit older than me, more experienced than I was, sat down with me at lunch one day and said, You know, I just found out that my younger male colleague makes more than me, he was bragging about it. And here, I was in my first job out of college. And this is what I'm hearing from a woman who I look up to as possibly a role model professionally. It was, I remember feeling so disappointed and shocked and discouraged to think that this was happening to her. And not only was it happening to her, but she felt that she had nowhere to go to deal with it. She was afraid that if she spoke to HR about it, they would actually hold her and the other employee in violation of some of their policies on not speaking about salary. And so she was left with a feeling that she was in a in a, in an environment that didn't value her didn't value her greater experience or great greater level level of skill. And I believe it sent that message to me as a young employee, that, that I should expect that to happen, and that I would not be valued. Um, and so that was that was a very early eye opening experience that this can happen in the real world and does happen often. And, you know, as I was saying, earlier, on a zoom call today speaking with a professional group about this, and opening up the conversation to comments, they just came flooding in people, even men said, you know, on behalf of their spouse, you know, men who are participating in the Zoom conversation said, My wife has been told by her manager, that because he knows that she is married to a man with a good job, she doesn't need more money, there are all these strange perceptions that that we encounter, sometimes so explicitly, and sometimes, you know, in, in a much less obvious way. But I think the stories are just countless, in terms of these kinds of experiences for women in the workplace.

Barbara Smith:

And may I add to that really quickly, that something that really shocked me, when I first started doing this work with the Columbus Women's Commission, if you look at the data, and we're talking, not anecdote as to raw data, when you look at increased education level, you would think that, you know, if women go out and get their PhDs that should close the pay gap, right? You would think that but actually the pay gap widens as the educational attainment increases for women. Uh, you know, it's it's startling and extremely disappointing to see metrics like that.

Monique Smith:

It makes it can make women feel that we're damned if we do damned if we don't, well, you know, get more education, get more experience, and hope that if we just work harder and be better that that will close the gap. And and unfortunately, the data is showing us that that alone doesn't do it.

Tina Pierce:

And again, you're right is that damned if you do damned if you don't situation right. Thank you for sharing your personal stories and experiences and then also bringing the bear the fact that so many women are experiencing that. And having that space to have that conversation with one another is critically important because it exposes the issue. And then having men are our husbands, our brothers, our fathers being a part of that conversation to say, this has happened to a woman in my life I think is so key and important. And really advances us being able to tackle this issue and truly come up with solutions that are very key and necessary. And so whether it's fair pay or another barrier as leaders, we often need to advocate for ourselves or our team members. What are some key skills that have helped you when negotiating or asking for organizational change? Barbara, thank you. That's a great example, when you said we showed them that we could use the grill, you know, what are some of those skills that women need to learn and to enhance, so we're able to negotiate our acts for organizational change.

Barbara Smith:

I think Google is our friend. And the work begins even before you begin an organization. When you consider opportunities, do your research, you can get paid data and salary information on for job classifications online for free on some websites, but be sure to use comparable positions, the data is actually better for websites that charge a fee. So it will be the best it may be the best investment you may ever make to get that data, it will be worth every penny. Go into interviews, understanding and knowing what market rates are, when your company asks, you know, when the company asked you what you want to make in that role? And or if they ask you what you currently make a pivot to asking them, What does the job pay? Right? Know that in some states, it's actually illegal to ask for salary history. So can consider all aspects of compensation, not just salary, there's a whole other set of compensation, like benefits that go with comp to go with your base pay. So the number one point is really do your research on salary before you even engage in the conversation. be crystal clear about what your value proposition is for the company. And I know it may be feel very uncomfortable advocating for yourself, if need be, practice, practice, practice with what you're going to say in advance, be prepared to pivot back to, I understand you'd like to know my salary history, but I would like to know what the job will pay. And we can establish what my value is for that particular role. Say, you know, you can shake all you want under the table, you know, tremble and all that other kinds of stuff and have the courage to advocate for yourself. There's some other things to do once you get into the organization. But Representative Smith, I know has some other key points and tips to share.

Monique Smith:

Those are excellent pieces of advice. And in fact, I shared some of those same pieces of advice earlier on my other zoom call where we were talking about this topic, absolutely. Make sure that you've done your research. And you bring in hard data and examples that show that your understanding is that the pay range for this type of role in this region in this industry is x. I think that that is what helps to persuade the the hiring manager, that they're dealing with someone who's very serious and very informed and very prepared, I think it's just another piece in the process that shows that you are a very prepared employee. You've done your homework on even your own role. And so there's nothing wrong with showing that you come prepared with hard data. And I would also just say in my personal experience, I think that especially for women, in speaking with a male hiring manager, I find that this is very broad, very general, but I do find that in communicating with men data just works very well. Actual hard data and statistics. And that seems to be what really gets the point across. So I think especially if you're negotiating with a male hiring manager, it's particularly helpful. So so I just would second everything that Barb said in terms of doing research, being prepared and knowing, you know, knowing your value in terms of really and rehearsing, sharing what your value is, it does take practice. It really does. And I'll I'll be honest and tell you that I was once in a in a position, I worked for a software company in northern Ohio here and have one of my first annual reviews actually had a part of the rating system on whether I exhibited confidence when I presented myself and that really that really struck a a sensitive area with me because the truth of the matter was, I like possibly other you know, female employees sometimes felt deep down that, you know, I didn't feel solid in, in in believing in my own worth sometimes, and then to be actually rated on how much I had confidence in myself was really a curveball. So that really taught me that there is dollar value to expressing yourself with confidence and with certainty. And if you have to practice it and fake it till you make it, then do that find a practice partner rehearse what you're going to say and be prepared with your data.

Tina Pierce:

And love it keeping that in mind, you know? Where Where would you suggest that women who are currently impacted by discriminate discriminatory practices? Where can they go to learn the needed skills to advocate for themselves and others? How can they find that practice partner? What organizations can they join, that will help them learn those negotiation steals those communication skills and build that confidence?

Barbara Smith:

I have a few to share it. But I have one more data point to help establish the sense of urgency around this and the long term implications this has for women. We've only talked about pay equity today. Right? There's another set of numbers out there important to look at. And that is the wealth gap. Women's funds in central Ohio did some research on the wealth gap. And one of the things that it said was that women, on average, own about 40 cents on the dollar to what white men, I don't have exact numbers in front of us about 40 cents on the dollar, Latinas, four cents on the dollar, black women, two cents on the dollar. These are the real long term implications that are extremely difficult to fix, the longer they go on. So it is really important to be able to advocate for yourself and to learn these skill sets. I'll give you a couple of organizations that I know do phenomenal work, that AAUW has an excellent program on how to negotiate for yourself. I also would recommend the American negotiation Institute. Weld provides women, the specific tools to enhance their individual economic status programs, a community of support, we pour into you so that you have the confidence to advocate for yourself, we provide you the skills to have those conversations, those those mission critical conversations that ask for the value that you are bringing back to your organization. Thank you.

Monique Smith:

I love those. I love those resources. I think that's extremely helpful. And I hope that listeners are taking notes based on all of Barb's wealth of knowledge, I'm taking mental notes. I wanted to say that, you know, for some younger women, it can be helpful to use social media sources. Now I'm seeing on Instagram, that we can follow accounts that focus on. There's a, an account called womenneur like an entrepreneur, but it's women womenneur, if I'm pronouncing that correctly, and it is just full of tips for every aspect of being a strong businesswoman. And I believe it's run by a woman of color, I believe it's run by a black woman. And so there are points in there as far as management skills, and then negotiation negotiation skills. There is another organization who I'll admit that I follow and learn from through Instagram. And it's a it's an organization that is trying to get more women in the stock market and being comfortable with investing. And it's called Ellevest, e l l e v e s t. Run by a woman named Sallie Krawcheck who was a Wall Street person. And, and what I'm seeing in those kinds of accounts is just, again, a mix of advice and recommendations and resources on every aspect of having that strong presence in business, including how to negotiate. And so there are coaches out there, who I think you know, to Barb's point, even if if if it means spending a little bit of money for a little bit of one on one time with someone, a woman in particular who has expertise in this area who could possibly practice and rehearse some of these things before we go into interview situations or negotiation situations. I think that's money well spent. And so I would explore what's on social media in addition to all of those great resources that Barb talked about. I also just wanted to mention, a woman I know who has been the president of her family's company and she's also been, you know, an executive in sales. She has benefited benefited a lot in presenting herself with confidence and speaking publicly just through an organization called Toastmasters and Toastmasters is completely free. And it's sort of a club that allows people to practice public speaking and it it gives you an opportunity to flex those muscles in an environment that is supportive with other people who are learning right along with you. And I would encourage folks to find possibly a local chapter of an organization like that.

Tina Pierce:

You know, I absolutely love it. I'm sad. I sit here and I took notes. So I can share this with my mentees from AAUW to Toastmasters, Ellevest. Weld, there are a wide range of organizations, that women can come and join, to get information to build that confidence to gain those skills, to be able to walk into a room confidently and negotiate. And I just have to add those figures, the data that you shared, Barb, in regards to the wealth gap. That that's galvanizing. It shows us that we need to tackle this issue, not just related to the pay gap, but also that wealth gap, two cents on the dollar, four cents on the dollar. I mean, and we think about the role that women play in our families and in our communities and how that money does go to build that generational wealth does go to build the backbone of our educational institutions. Our communities, it's so important and critical, as you said that we tackle this issue with a sense of urgency. I know we're running short on time. So I just have one more question. Before we before we end, I cannot thank you both enough for joining us for this conversation. Not only are we being inspired, not only are we being educated, but hopefully, we're also being moved to do something to take action to join an organization to share this information with another woman, another individual, because again, we need males that can help and be allies with this to walk into our companies and share this information as we think about that organizational change. So again, I can't thank you all enough for being here today. But before we close, I do want to want to ask if there's any last tips that you would like to share with our rising women leaders.

Barbara Smith:

So I have a couple and the first is choose your employer wisely. There are a lot of companies doing some fantastic work and are really doing the work looking at their data, you know, addressing institutional barriers that hold women back. And let me point you to the Columbus women's Commission's website, where you'll see close to 300 companies have signed a pay equity pledge called the Columbus commitment. And they have agreed to take a set of four actions to address any pay disparities and racial pay disparities in their company. They're doing the right things. So this isn't just about, you know, shaming and all that other kind of stuff. Here are the role models for us to look at, encourage you to take risks, go for that international assignment, move to another state and take on a new role in a new job, move across an organization to get new skill sets and deepen your understanding of the business and therefore your value. Each of you individuals out there you have an amazing journey in front of you. Think about how you define success, and what you want in your career and your life. And don't be bashful going for it. You know, also form a circle of wise women to surround yourself with these women will be your personal kitchen cabinet, your board of advisors, and for real there are going to be some days where they're going to be your lifeline. When you're in the middle of cray cray. I have one final quote to leave you with. And this is Maya Angelou who I do I just I love to work. It's got the words in it. But we don't have to use those words because this is her quote. She says that I love to see a young woman go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch, you've got to go out and kick ass. So that is from our dear Maya Angelou, who is you know, as you know, in her during her lifetime, she was an inspiration to many young women and old woman like all women like myself.

Tina Pierce:

Thank you so much for that. I'm sitting here inspired in an awe, Representative Smith, any any final tips that you would give to our rising women leaders?

Monique Smith:

Well, I would say that for me when I was when I graduated from college, you know, I had to take a very winding path to get where I am now. And I sort of had to play the long game and keep myself open to opportunities that came up along the way. So for me, I majored in political science but found very quickly that in the world of politics, you sort of have to start with unpaid internships or low paid campaign jobs. And for me, I was a young person who needed to pay the rent right away immediately. And it wasn't an option to do unpaid work it as my main focus. So there, there's the key. So I ended up in sales and marketing, I started as a temp at a company and I wiggled my way in to make them hire me full time by building relationships there and showing up every day. And I'm very proud that I ended up on that path, it was very different from anyone else in my family working in sort of like a large publicly traded, you know, corporate marketing environment. But that was because of sort of grit and hustle, it was not because of my pedigree, it was not because of my GPA, it was not because of my major it was because of hustle. And I think that you can, you know, achieve so much just by being persistent and being creative along the way. And, you know, for me, my true passion in my heart was politics. And just because I couldn't afford to devote my, my full time attention to that didn't mean I was going to let myself not do it at all. So eventually, I satisfied that passion in the evenings, on weeknights, and on weekends, by working for free, in addition to my pay day job, working for other people's campaigns, getting other good people elected, who I cared about who cared about the policies that I cared about. But what I didn't know, what I truly didn't know was that I was getting a master's degree in political campaigning that whole time. For years and years, I was working for free for everyone at every level, from City Council up to presidential campaigns. And I didn't know that I was being trained myself on how to run my own campaign someday, I truly didn't have a plan with that for myself, I always thought it might be nice to run for something someday. But when I was ready, when the opportunities presented themselves, because I was out there showing that I was interested in a particular in this particular area, people saw that energy, they saw that enthusiasm, and then that became my path into doing the thing that I love. And and I was able to finally make that transition from the job that just paid the bills to the job that I'm passionate about. But I had to work for free after hours for other people and learn along the way. And I would encourage everyone to find ways to take on a leadership or an ownership position of a role, even if it's an unpaid role in addition to your paid work. Find a community group or an organization, everyone needs volunteers. Everyone needs reliable leaders who can take on a project from start to finish and get it done. And when you start doing that, and when you create a reputation for yourself, as someone who can do that, it will be seen it will be noticed and eventually it might not happen quickly. I'm I'm in my 40s I try to keep people guessing about my age, but it took many, many years for me to finally have those doors open. And so I would encourage everyone to just allow yourself to follow that winding path and pursue every opportunity along the way.