How Women Undervalue Themselves in the Marketplace – Illumination and a Plan for Change

Change begins with awareness
by Deborah Tutnauer, MEd, MSW

The women’s liberation movement began over 40 years ago and still the majority of CEOs of major companies are men and the majority of Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries are men. Most of the wealth of the world is in the pockets of men.  Women are still paid 75 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfortunately women often unknowingly undervalue themselves as much as the marketplace undervalues them. The problem that we will explore is both an internal one and external one.

Because women historically have not been in control of the money, and because women’s relationship with money is a relatively new phenomenal in the greater scheme of humankind, society has cultural expectations and biases about women and money built into our collective psychological  DNA.  In our collective Jungian consciousness there is no precedent for women valuing themselves from a financial perspective, nor women interacting consistently with money.

For many centuries money was used to enslave women – hurt women and have power over women. Now women must become comfortable with the notion of earning money and embracing power.  In order for women to have power – the power to shift our world in a positive way – they have got to make friends with money on a very deep authentic level now and for generations to come.

We need women to step up and change the world. Our world is deeply disturbed and hurting on many levels.  In order to become more feminine based in how it operates, and thus ultimately more balanced between the masculine and feminine, it’s women who need to take action. It is women who must embrace the role of money in their lives. It is women who have to challenge their own fear and stereotypes, shifting internally while facilitating cultural and societal change as well.

Men must also shift in their relationship to money. While women must step up, men must re-think the meaning of money and the meaning of work. Men traditionally are caretakers of the family from a financial perspective. It is in their collective DNA and in the very makeup of their brain chemistry.  It is a positive thing – this great depth of feeling of responsibility to support their family. Money is a huge part of this. The balance is the ability to hold that part high, while not de-valuing women who have a different family role and a different relationship to money.

Do you know that in the United States and probably most of the Western world, the most important services in our society are jobs that are filled with women and are almost the lowest paid on the professional spectrum?

Why is that?

There was a professor when I was in social work school who believed it is that way because women accept it. She postulated that women are teachers, nurses, social workers and elder care workers in a huge percentage over the number of men who take those jobs – because they accept the low pay.

It’s a great thing. In fact society would cease to function otherwise.  In our world, taking care of children – taking care of the elderly – taking care of those who are struggling is crucial.

But why do football players make more money than those jobs?
Why do stock brokers (highly male profession) make more money than those jobs?

I’m going to propose to you it’s because they demand it, and they get it.

Why can’t women demand it for themselves?
Why don’t women demand it for other women?

It’s because there are all those layers of history and culture and more recently skewed media portrayals of what it means to be a woman. There is a self-worth issue. There is generations of undervaluing women’s worth layered into every aspect of life.

It’s the voice of Grandma who pipes in, in a woman’s mind,  “Who do you think you are young lady to ask for that kind of money?!”

Internal self-worth challenges come up particularly among entrepreneurs, coaches, and people who are solo entrepreneurs and service providers. It is in this realm that women are forced to look at the product or service they provide and place value on it in the market. Though one would think this is a concrete and external process, in reality it’s deeply tied to one’s own sense of self-worth.

I coach a lot of business people. Rarely do I hear men undervaluing their services or expertise when they have to set a fee structure or price a product.  I hear women do it all the time.

When men ask for more money they are perceived as self confident and powerful.

Women who ask for more money are often perceived as bitchy or masculine.

Interesting isn’t it?

We absorb information and energy from the moment we are born from our families, from our culture, from our teachers, from the media and all of that forms the stories the live in our conscious and unconscious mind. Through that filter  through which we see the world, things that might actually not be good or fine, appear to be OK. Our internal filter doesn’t allow us to easily see the disconnect or ethical issues.

Women dominating underpaid professions appear to be fine because that’s the way it is. But it’s not fine.   Women getting hired at an investment banking firm for 20% less salary than a man in the same position seems like the norm with all the old ingrained stories attached to it.

Change must begin somewhere and the change starts here, today.

We stop accepting 75 cents on the dollar as women, by understanding our relationship to money and by letting go of the negative connotations about money – those big old beliefs of what being a woman and being feminine mean. Women can be powerful and feminine. Women don’t have to sacrifice their children to be wealthy. Women don’t have to wonder if it’s OK to ask for what they are worth when pricing their services. Instead we must become aware of and then dissect our own filters regarding money and value, making shifts as needed.

If you’re heading down an entrepreneurial path, you must explore your consciousness around this topic.  If you are a woman, it’s important for you to learn how to be hard-driving, committed and powerful while also honoring your unique communication abilities, your rhythm and your intuitive nature. You must also learn how to price yourself well and with full value; and when you’re in the workplace and find yourself possibly cowering inside around money issues, take the time to dig into that. See it.  Recognize it.  Work with it.

Experiment with this suggestion by Barbara Turley of Energise Wealth

Try and reflect on the money situation your family was in when you were about 6 years old and what your parents believed was true about money and making money. Our family’s belief system is the strongest one we are exposed to because, as humans, we all have this sense of belonging and we don’t want to be different from our family. This is how we are molded and these beliefs then form the basis of how we think and act as adults.

For thousands of years money, wealth and business have been seen in an extremely masculine light so this is unlikely to totally evolve overnight.

What we can do as women and men however is simply be conscious. Understand that learning good money habits is equally as important for kids of both genders, and foster the idea that, with the right practices in place, everyone has the opportunity, indeed the right, to become financially independent.

Change begins with awareness, moves through the challenge of stopping old patterns while creating new ones, and continues with the assimilation of the new way of being within oneself, along with facilitating shift in society by communication and action.  As so well stated by Mahatma Gandhi — “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Deborah Tutnauer-bioInspiring change for over 25 years Entrepreneur Business Coach, Deborah Tutnauer, MEd, MSW helps frustrated entrepreneurs discover, define and embrace their expertise and values in a deep internal manner and create a solid business and marketing structure for financial sustainability and joy.  Deborah is a speaker, author, event leader, and consultant.

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