How a New Attitude Helped Me Earn More
By Patricia Smith
The money is where the men are. Nothing has contributed more to my success than this recognition. Almost without exception, women who earn significant money, or actually adequate money, do the work which men do. Women who fail to accept this and make it work to their advantage are missing opportunities for which their foremothers fought very hard.
As a high school teacher in the early 70’s, I worked with both women and men. I had colleagues of both sexes whom I respected greatly. When I left that profession in 1977, I vowed never to do a “woman’s” job again–defined as one which was predominately held by females. Since money was a primary reason for working, I decided that if I was going to expend my time and energy, I wanted to maximize the return. I didn’t believe then, and I don’t believe now, that this decision requires a change in values or ethics.
My first job was a sales position in the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning industry. Nationwide, I was one of a handful of women among hundreds of men. In my office, I was the only female sales representative. These three years were not a high point of my career for many reasons. However, I discovered that I enjoyed working with men (most of the time) and that I needed to behave more like them if I was to succeed. I began to learn how small adjustments could make a significant difference. For instance, in a “man’s” position, confidence is one of the most important qualities to have. Humility has virtually no place. I learned that successful men actually fake confidence on a regular basis.
From there, I went to sell for a very large corporation that clearly had made a concerted effort to hire women. 50% of our sales force was women, and never have I worked with more professional people. Always interested in the different approaches of male and female colleagues, I studied my male co-workers, their attitudes and behavior. I continued to recognize what early feminist writers described: men see themselves as successful more readily than we do. Successful men concentrate on their achievements and less on their failures. Men point out their accomplishments and use them to bargain for more responsibility. What women consider setbacks and label “failures,” they simply consider the price of success. And I have learned that women can easily adopt men’s behavior in this respect, as soon as we understand how it’s done and the resulting benefits.
Like most of us, my career has never followed a straight path. I sold in a business-to-business environment for 14 years. In 1991, with three children aged 9, 2, and 1, my husband and I launched our own advertising agency. Certainly, the last 9 years have not been uninterrupted success, but we have survived, and our client list has grown. My responsibilities have expanded beyond sales, and the experience continues to introduce me to more corporate environments, each with its own climate.
As a result of my support for the women’s movement and my observations, reading, and experience, I admit to becoming increasingly frustrated. Women are wasting opportunity in much greater numbers than men. The great majority of women remain underemployed. There is plenty we can do about it, and we must if we are ever to reach parity in the workplace. In response to my frustration, I wrote a book entitled Each of Us: How Every Woman Can Earn More Money in Corporate America.
The simple recognition that “the money is where the men are” has served me well. I have also seen other women benefit from this philosophy. Since I have at least as many insecurities and ambivalences as other women, if I can do it, so can other women.
Success results from pursuing opportunity, not waiting for it. It comes from deciding how best to meet the goals at hand and executing the plan. It is not about doing what we are told. Success is about taking risks and assuming responsibility for the outcome, not waiting to act until the outcome is apparent. Success is about contributing to a team effort and not allowing personal feelings to interfere with a common mission.
For a woman, success is much easier than you think.
Patricia Smith is a businesswoman and the author of Each of Us: How Every Woman Can Earn More Money in Corporate America. Read the first two chapters of her book online: http://www.eachofus.com.