Women and the money hurdle

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For almost a quarter of a century, women have represented a near majority of middle managers in advertising agencies, making this one of the most female-friendly of industries. But surveys, including Advertising Age's annual Salary Survey, give us ample proof men are still the more valued half of the species when it comes to paychecks.

Women earned less than men in most job categories surveyed. (In some cases, the differential was 30%!) And they make it into the top jobs far less often.

So what's the problem? Are women missing some talent or skill that would qualify them for leadership-or even for equal pay? Yes!

The truth is women are part of the problem. If they want to get paid more, and promoted more-to be perceived as leaders and promoted into top positions-then they've got to start thinking like leaders.

Leaders tend to have what we call a "million-dollar mind-set." The first building block of this mind-set is money. Leaders think a lot about money-for their companies and for themselves. In short, they value money.

How often do women think about money? How highly do they value it?

Let's look first at how women value money in their personal lives, because everything starts on the inside-with personal beliefs and attitudes-before the rewards can be achieved on the outside.

We can say from years of corporate consulting that men proudly acknowledge money as a prime personal value, but women either don't share this value or are embarrassed to admit it. A man will candidly approach his supervisor to share his dollar expectations for a raise; a woman rarely discusses the subject. She waits quietly to see how much her boss will give to her. So begins the salary gap between women and men.

In tight times like these, women who don't value money-and talk about it to their bosses-are likely to fall even further behind their male counterparts. A good boss identifies "keepers," and then discovers how much money it will take to retain them. If a boss doesn't have the money to give everyone the raise they deserve, who gets more? The great-performing guy, who asks for it and tells why he deserves it (including how the agency has benefited financially from his work)? Or the great-performing woman, who never discussed her money expectations with the boss?

Yes, the money-minded guy wins.

Women may be thinking, "That's not fair!" No, it's not! But that's the reality. The good news is that women have the power to make this salary competition a more equal race. The single-most-powerful step we can take is to help our bosses understand our money expectations. It's so simple: just a single conversation to share your accomplishments and contributions to the company, and the financial reward you expect as a fair result. It's the same conversation men have been having with the boss for years!

Look at valuing money from a corporate point of view. Leaders have an unwavering focus on the bottom line. Yet many women feel uncomfortable in this domain. For instance, women prefer to focus on the quality of the creative product or the client relationship, rather than the quality of the account's financial statement. They often say "Yes" to client requests without assessing their decisions from a financial point of view.

Leaders must manage for many outcomes but the ultimate outcome they always manage for is money. Great leaders manage the "flow" of money along two pathways: revenue and profit. If women want to qualify for top management positions, they, too, must become great leaders in these two arenas.

UNDERSTANDING P&L

If a woman wants to lead for profit, the first step is to understand the account or department's P&L statement. Learn how money is made, how it is spent and where top management believes it is wasted. Come up with an idea to increase client billings, or network to create relationships with potential new clients. When a woman helps the agency grow, her career will grow, too. When she helps the agency make more money, the agency will share more with her. (If she remembers to have that all-important conversation with her boss!)

We're not advocating that money be a woman's only focus. We are advocating that money be her final focus. It is one of the most powerful tools that women can use to close the wage gap, and demonstrate to the agency's mostly male leaders that they, too, deserve to join the top executive ranks.

Candy Deemer and Nancy Fredericks are the authors of "Dancing on the Glass Ceiling" (McGraw-Hill Trade, 2002) and partners in Interven Partners, La Habra, Calif. Ms. Deemer spent more than 20 years in the ad agency business and rose to co-managing director and chief operating officer of Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Los Angeles. Ms. Fredericks is a consultant with clients including DDB Worldwide and Paramount Pictures.

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