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Let’s face it, no one who grows up as a woman today thinks they will be discriminated against when they hit the workforce. Pay equality is a complex topic. But let’s face it, being paid less because you’re a woman will hit hard when the bills come up. Then reality sets in.

Oh, the rude awakening. Women today still will not reap the rewards of their education to the extent that their male counterparts will. Their education costs just as much, but the end result in cash-in-the-bank doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine if you went to a restaurant and men were charged 20 per cent less for their food than women? How would that make sense? In a very broad sense, that’s a bit of what’s happening today.

Let’s take a far too common scenario that often shows up a few years after school—the single-earner or the single-parent:

In 2006, a male single parent took in $57,300, on average, and a family with two parents and a single earner took in about the same. However, a single parent female took in $38,900 in 2006. The numbers don’t change radically over the next four years for the men, but the female single parents climbed to $44,800. Women are catching up, but are still lagging behind by a solid $13,500.  

Forbes magazine reports that women today earn 19 per cent less than their male counterparts. They also state that women will tend to choose a job for its lifestyle benefits whereas men will dig into difficult environments more willingly. Then there’s the factor of raising children as well, but it certainly isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Many of the tricks promoted during pay raise negotiations work for both genders, but for us women in particular, let’s look at what other pieces play a role in our career development:

1. ENVIRONMENTS: Look for companies that promote the advancement of women. Many companies do have programs that support networking, mentorship, and provide that outside boost of courage for women.

2. MENTORS: Seek out mentors. Women who have gone before you have a wealth of knowledge and can guide you through pay negotiations. Be courageous, introduce yourself, and seek out formal networking opportunities. Keep your questions relevant, focused, and genuine. Women who are very successful are often very perceptive and they want to see who and what you’re made of.

3. AFFIRM: Affirm your abilities to yourself.  Spend a few minutes every day reminding yourself of what you do well. There will be plenty of challenges in life, from relationships to family members passing, and the good parts deserve reinforcement. You’ll make plenty of mistakes, so keep your self-esteem powerful. 

4. SUPPORT: Surround yourself with honest, caring support, and positive communication. Friends and colleagues can either align to your goals or drag you away from them. Value your relationships that provide love and care because you’ll need it when the chips are down. 

5. STANCE: When you’re asking for a raise, or asserting a challenging idea, use your body language to reinforce your presence. Grab the floor with your feet, and engage your pelvic floor and derriere when you speak. You’ll find you feel stronger and more capable of commanding attention and focus.

6. EYE CONTACT: Eye contact is critical in any negotiation. Don’t be afraid to keep an even, steady gaze when it’s needed to get a point through.  Men typically will assert challenges by a subtle posturing of their stance or chest, and expect a response. It’s a part of the dog-park language that exists in all of us, so be prepared to meet the boys on their own turf. 

Photo: Medioimages Photodisc/Thinkstock

Mary Michaela Weber is one of Canada’s top communications consultants, known for using wit and a smart sense of strategy.

Her company, Voice Empowerment Inc., brings her background of over 20,000 hours of training to CEO’s and Executives in Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, Ivey League University professors, and up-and-comers across North America and the Caribbean.