Six Common Mistakes Women Make in Their Careers

Happy Equal Pay Day…or whatever.

Equal Pay Day encourages people to advocate for true employment equality for everyone! That includes you.

What a novel idea, right?

Women earn about $.80 cents to a man’s dollar while women of color earn significantly less than their white counterparts. Black women earn $.61 cents on the dollar while Latinx women generate $.53 cents and Asian women earn $.85 cent. Basically, being a woman is hard but being a woman of color is even more difficult. That means I have to work twice as hard to be able to purchase a bottle of wine.

Equal pay discrepancies are a cultural issue that is constantly perpetuated by executives and their homogenous board of directors. However, when we as women don’t advocate on your own behalf, we play a role in the continuation of the ugly cycle.  When we do nothing it’s almost like we’re saying “I enjoy making $.60 while my coworker with the beard makes a full dollar.”

When we continue to make common mistakes such as accepting positions that pay women less than market value or knowingly going into roles where we make less than our male counterparts it puts us in a bad situation that sets a precedence for our daughters.

I interviewed an HR professional who has served in the industry for a quarter of a century including the 1990s when women sported power suits with shoulder pads so high they reached the heavens,

She has answered some of your common questions around the mistakes that women make in their careers. In addition she has provided her advice in the form of serious solutions for better results in your career.

Here are six common mistakes that women make in their careers and solutions from a human resource point of view.

Title: Chief Administrative Officer

Years in the industry: 25

Mistake #1: Not Negotiating for Equal Pay.

AYS: What prompts a pay difference between men and women?

HR: “Bias in the hiring process: women are offered lower salary rates and also tend to not negotiate as fervently.”

Pro Tip: Do not accept the first offer. It’s just a starting point. Reiterate your worth and value and the return on investment.

Mistake #2: Working for Companies that Don’t Value Women.

AYS: Why is there a discrepancy in salary based on gender? How can companies overcome this practice?

HR: “Bias in the review process: I don’t see this situation as often today as I used to. There’s been enough awareness and a shift in women being in lead positions that internal equity in pay is starting to be more evident. Aggregate data across all industries does not show that to be true though”.

Pro tip: Ask your network about the organization. Chances are you know somebody who knows somebody who works there or has in the past.

Mistake #3: Not Using a Brag Sheet in Your Annual Review.

AYS: If pay bias is based on the company’s culture, who is to blame for the inequality? Who can spark change?

HR: “The HR function can and should analyze pay with a lens of equity on gender, race/ethnicity and other differences annually. That analysis should be shared with the leadership to raise awareness of any issues. A very robust performance management system is important as well to ensure pay is based on true outputs and outcomes”.

Pro tip: Come armed with facts about your contribution to the organization during your annual review.

Photo by  Omar Lopez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Mistake #4: Not Knowing Your Worth.

AYS: How frequently are the pay criteria for roles re-evaluated at your organization? Are staff that currently serve in the role provided an increase in addition to a merit raise?

HR: “Pay criteria is reviewed annually due to the need to stay abreast of market pay which is starting to move quickly. Staff currently in roles do receive market adjustments when appropriate as well as merit increases”.

Pro Tip: Do your research on the salary for similar positions in other organizations. Websites like is a great tool.

Photo by  Mathieu Turle  on  Unsplash

Mistake #5: Not Asking the Right Questions About The Company During Your Interview Process.

AYS: What policies/ measures (if any) are in place at your organization to encourage and/or deter senior leaders from making biased decisions during the hiring process?

HR: “Regular formal training on bias and also  informal, impromptu discussions related to the topic or decision at hand”.

Pro tip: Research the company. Set up google alerts and read past board meeting minutes.

Mistake #6 Not Shooting for the Moon.

AYS: What’s one piece of advice you could provide to millennial women who wants to grow in her career and be seen as a legitimate leader in their organization?

HR: ”Apply for positions that may feel out of reach and surround yourself with strong mentors and supporters”.

Pro tip: If you can raise a child, deal with a husband or use mascara for eyeliner and to cover stray gray hairs you’re more than qualified for the job.

And because I just wanted to know…

AYS: Has a woman of color’s hairstyle ever impacted her ability to secure the job?

HR: “In the 90’s - yes. Today - no. The nomenclature used in prior years regarding hairstyles was whether the candidates’ overall appearance was professional enough. The definition of what is considered professional appearance has expanded over the years to include cultural differences”.

Pro tip: Be authentically you! Check out an article in Essence for more information on hair discrimination.

Thank you to my friend and former Vice President of Human Resources. She recently served in her Vice President role for one of my previous employers. If I am not mistaking, she was the first woman to hold a VP title within that organization that was founded in 1952. I encourage my ArYouSerious readers to apply some of the advice where its applicable.

Also, continue to advocate for yourself and demand equal pay for equal work. Now go get those coins!

—Love + Light

Ar’Sheill Monsanto