Is there something women in professional services, be it legal or my field of communications, are still not getting? Sure looks like it. The U.S. Census Bureau found that women in legal occupations are only earning about 51 percent of what their male counterparts do.
In 2007, women's media earnings, reports Vesna Jaksic in THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL, were at $53,800 versus $108,200 for men. Female attorneys did a little better. Their median was $93,600 or 78 percent of male attorneys's $120,400.
In my profession of public relations, there's a different kind of compensation - and status -problem. Because the field becoming feminized - that is, dominated by women - our compensation and how we're perceived and treated seem to be taking a hit.
So, what to do? As a female player and coach, I've come to certain conclusions. They might appear outrageous. Whatever.
First of all, I notice that too many females fall into two categories in how we comport ourselves. They are the good girl who follows the traditional rules and the bad girl who breaks them, usually as a strategy. Neither of these stances have been overly productive. I know.
I was the good girl in Corporate America. I never entered the bonus ranking, where the real money is. I was so good I only received praise, including literally pats on the head.
After getting laid off by Kraft in the first round of the RIFs, I strategically made the decision [I toyed with being a science major] to experiment with being a bad girl, that is, push back at any inequity or bad treatment. Two downsides there. One, being a rebel consumed enormous energy. And, two, the model of cooperation trumps brash independence. A good read on that is Yale law professor Yochai Benkler's "The Wealth of Networks."
Women who want to continue playing in either of these sandboxes are going to be stuck and/or tired.
Secondly, what I have noticed watching successful women in professional services is that they seem to have assessed the game as it is traditionally played and created their own space or niche or, as consultants W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne call it their "blue ocean strategy." A recent example is the all-women IP law firm of Bates & Tyde. The founders, expats from BigLaw, are creating another one of those new models in operating a law firm. Others have been Valorem and Halleland. Timing is everything and mega clients like Wal-Mart and Microsoft are pushing diversity.
Seven years ago when my own communications boutiques collapsed, partly from technology change partly from the recession and mostly from my own inflexibility in running businesses, I eventually came to the same conclusion: Do it my way. But, this time, I recognized I could not do it alone.
I arrived at my way through lots of trial and error. It took plenty of chats with Silicon Valley contacts and clients to accept that failure was the platform for success. My space within communications is Jane's Place. It switches my being different [e.g. bipolar] into a competitive advantage. Just about any business can do the same, that is, transform areas of diversity into unique selling propositions.
As for becoming adept at playing well with the other kids, to my shock, I am a natural "yenta." The yenta in the old East Side New York [and Jersey City, New Jersey] neighborhoods who got your mother into a nursing home, your son into a job down at the deli, and your husband out of the bar. The yenta is a mashup of the best qualities of not missing a trick and caring.
For instance, my inner yenta picks up on everybody's environment, what they need, and it has an enormous heart that can't be hurt by ingratitude. People, even those who see me as not their cup of tea [the Greenwich, Connecticut Crusties], love and respect me. That's a 180 from the angry middle-age woman with the boulder on her shoulder. Here is my recent e-book, which you can download free, about how I rolled that boulder off and underneath found a gold mine of emotional intelligence Download CUsersjasneDocumentsjg.pdf.
Third, I'm deduced that we get smart about the realities of earning a good living. One of those, brutal to accept, is that our knowledge base, skills, and contacts atrophy fast in a global marketplace that's technologically driven. Around 1999, flush with cash, I took a sabbatical. Terrible career move. I had asked Suze Orman about that at a lecture and she looked aghast. No ambitious woman would think along those lines. Having a baby? Returning to school to get a degree? Taking care of mum? We simply have to fit that into remaining a pro in our field. Will I ever make up for those two years lost? Never. Lesson: Don't drop out. Learn to do work in ways that don't eat up our entire lives. Finally, I have integrated "how to pace it."
We women professionals are still perceived as "different." Once I accepted that, along with other ways in which I differed from the most powerful women in business, I soared. The quality of my work, compensation, and ability to select the right clients [80/20 rule] all went on an upward trajectory. It's still climbing, maybe to being cited someday in those section sections in the business media about breakthrough thinkers and doers, not just women.