There are many reports of how women and men differ when it comes to asking for what they deserve in the job market, and it’s often said that we accept less than what we’re worth. But, why? Some might say we are simply less aggressive than men when it comes to negotiating or making the ask, or we don’t even know the tangible value of our skills.
(And, I get it: Some of us have no problem with this. We strategically get what we’re worth or hustle to make up the difference for what we don’t get. But too many of us don’t.)
One NPR reporter brings up a different side of this coin by exploring the link between our choices in major or skill-building with our career choices. Lisa Chow recalls interviewing an Georgetown University economist Anthony Carnevale on the subject and finding that women are “overrepresented among majors that don’t pay very well (psychology, art, comparative literature) and underrepresented in lots of lucrative majors (most fields in engineering).” She continues to report that even when women choose high-paying majors, they often don’t choose high-paying jobs.
“I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And I’m working as a reporter at NPR. ‘Oh, you left a lot of money on the table,’ he told me. “You left probably as much as $3-to-$4 million on the table.” (See a full graphic of majors and salary possibilities here.)
I actually had the same dilemma as a college student. I initially chose to major in business management because I knew it could lead to my fantasy life of wearing Gucci suits and Jimmy Choos to a corner office someday.
However, I couldn’t stomach the math courses and at the time, really had no passion for numbers and entrepreneurial hustle. I felt truly in my zone when writing and editing. I was more of a creative soul who could come up with the money-making ideas but wasn’t really into the economics of those ideas. I chose journalism—obviously not for the money— but because writing, reporting and editing stories on the everyday happenings of life really puts a fire in my step in the morning.
(What’s money without happiness or fulfillment? Eventually, you’d end up wasting a lot of it trying to combat that horrible, unshakable feeling of doom and gloom when doing something you don’t like—day in and day out—anyway.)
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t diversify my streams of income. Lisa Chow’s insights have reminded me of something I’ve learned since working here at Black Enterprise: I must be just as creative, strategic and aggressive about my business and income possibilities as I am with words and communication.
We all can get what we’re worth and live happy, balanced lives doing what we are led to do by our purpose. Hey, you may want to be that Fortune 500 CEO, but if your heart is in an Italian field painting portraits, you can take that Fortune 500 attitude to the art world and run with it. Your skills shouldn’t be limited to just one occupation or job if you don’t want them to be. Gone are the days of my Granny, when employment was defined by “check one box” standards. Today’s business world denotes having a savvy since of business and profit and making those things work for you.
I challenge all my power women to pursue what truly makes them happy and learn ways to monetize the skills they were gifted. Think of your career, no matter what industry you choose, as a tree rooted by your major or choice of study, with branches that represent the skills you have that could be applied to multiple, money-making endeavors. Leave the linear career path train of thought in the 60s where it belongs and get what you’re worth, today.
#SoundOff: How are you able to diversify your streams of income in your chosen field or industry? Follow Janell on Twitter @JPHazelwood.