by Jon Michail
I’d like to express a point, I love women! I love empowering them to see that they are greater than they ever thought possible.
For the last three odd decades I’ve been reading remarkably similar stories about how the equal pay gap has not closed for women. A recent report, based on a US study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, claimed that women would not see equal pay until 2048. Not in my lifetime, then.
Insultingly, US World and News then made the point that this gap may not be the result of gender differences, but rather a result in differences in skill and experience. Right. So how does that match up with the fact that in the US, male nurses are paid an average of $5,000 more a year than women, even though women make up the majority in the field? Does that mean those fewer men are vastly more intelligent and experienced than the greater number of women working alongside them? I doubt it.
In view of such seemingly insurmountable indifference to the concept of equal pay for equal work, it’s time women looked closely at their roles in the business world. Women can’t control their salary levels in many fields, but they can control the type of job, role and position they choose. How do they do this? By re-positioning and/or re-branding.
Your personal brand already exists, what is missing is the personal branding ‘system’. Successful brands we are all familiar with like Oprah, Nigella and Lady Gaga, even will all their talents and fame have constantly and systematically re-invented themselves during their careers. Similar strategies can be applied to great people who are nevertheless everyday types who have created themselves to be extraordinary and leaders in their specific markets.
Alicia is a senior executive with a company that makes and distributes educational resources for primary schools. She joined the company as an office worker, and rose up through the ranks to join the decision makers. After she married, she worked part time for five years until her two children reached school age. Then she realised her career had stalled. It was almost as though her ‘mother’ status had cancelled out her ‘executive’ status. She found herself being sidelined for promotion and eventually considered leaving the company.
It wasn’t until Alicia realised that her role had narrowed and the company no longer had strong expectations of her performance that she understood it was essential to re-brand herself. She decided to change direction and become the ‘go to’ person for specialised educational materials for home schooling parents. Her new self-created role inspired much interest and eventually increased profitability for the company. The re-positioning was a success because Alicia invented a role that others in the company had never thought of. Five years on and Alicia is in the top three leadership positions of the company.
Much re-branding means reaching out to former colleagues, old contacts, recent connections and group members from all walk of life. Cyndi was the middle manager of a traditional, family-owned shoe manufacturer. They made quality shoes but they found it very hard to compete against cheap Asian imports.
When the owners decided to compete on price, Cyndi knew it wouldn’t work. When the inevitable happened, she persuaded a group of workers and some of her business contacts to help her to purchase plant and materials. By obtaining finance through a women’s banking group, she managed to keep the business going. Today, the slimmed down, mainly female workforce designs and makes exclusive designer shoes for those who appreciate their quality and unique designs. The business is now totally vertical with a growing online presence and planning to introduce some hot new product lines.
Both Alicia and Cyndi took a risk. Because they were felt powerless in their roles, they had to make huge leaps to put themselves in the position of being the power-brokers. In both these cases, they reclaimed their personal power and via successful re-branding changed the mindsets of themselves and their colleagues.
So why are we suggesting women re-brand? When they find themselves in a situation where, paradoxically, continuing means retreating, women must embrace the powers they have to get their name out there. Passion is essential. Taking a calculated risk is also necessary. If you feel unfulfilled, it’s time for a change. Re-evaluate yourself. Create a list of your best skills and decide how you could best use these in a different kind of employment.
Jennifer used social media to spread the word about her new conference and event planning business. She’d informally used her skills many times for family and friends but it wasn’t until she’d been told a dozen times about how good she was that she began to believe it. When a local business group was let down by their caterer, she stepped in. It was a very lucky break rescuing such an influential group. Jennifer’s determination and ability impressed the committee so much they were able to recommend her to other groups that needed conference refreshments. From small beginnings she now runs a business that employs forty people and represented nationally.
It’s very easy not to feel like extending oneself in the midst of all the competition and self-styled expertise. You have to believe in yourself if you want to re-brand. If you don’t do it, your boss will undoubtedly do it for you, and it probably won’t be the image that you’d really like.
Women have huge potential in addition to their skill and experience. Simply being a woman is something men are unlikely to really understand. However, my experience supporting many extraordinary women tells me the scope to transform your career is now the most opportune time in memory. So why wait till 2048 to get what you rightly deserve, the right time is now.
Have you re-branded? Let us know your success story.
Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives and entrepreneurs to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.