Ways Women Can Maximize Compensation Potential without Compromising Personality

“The right fit for the company” is a common phrase in recruitment processes, but hired workers hear it often as well. The way compensation works out isn’t always a clear-cut process. Many stereotypes surround women at work, who are much more frequently called “bossy” by other co-workers. It’s not as much about changing one’s personality to fit the workplace, but instead leveraging it for better compensation opportunities.

Compensation consultant and insider Stacey Hawley shares strategies from behind the scenes. She identifies four female “powerhouse personality types” and the specific advantages of each in the workplace. She writes more about this in her recently released book, “Rise to the Top: How Women Leverage Their Professional Persona to Earn More and Rise to the Top.” Stacey Hawley

Diversity Executive had the opportunity to interview Hawley on this subject. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

How is compensation, as you put it, both subjective and objective?

Companies develop comprehensive compensation programs using both external factors (market-driven, quantifiable analyses) and internal factors (industry, financial performance, stage of growth, etc.) Companies don’t just develop data points for each role. They develop compensation structures with ranges for managing pay globally.

  • The objective part involves developing compensation ranges using data and analyses. There isn’t just one data point reflecting competitive market practices for each job. There is a range of data reflecting competitive market data.
  • The subjective part involves determining where an individual should be paid within these ranges. There isn’t always a clear formula for rewarding individuals differently for the subjective factors (like experience and impact on the organization) within these ranges. Ranges exist because people have different levels of experience, performance and impact on the organization and should therefore be rewarded differently. For example, all else being equal, for the same job, the high performers should be rewarded more.

What’s the difference between the two female personality types: the assertive powerhouse, and the confident, yet humble powerhouse?

Assertive powerhouses do not hesitate to address “sticky” situations due to “concern” about what someone else might say or think. Their main goal is efficient decision-making, resolving issues expediently and moving forward. The need to identify issues, resolve challenges and move forward trumps allowing other people’s potential feelings or reactions to slow them down. They are more comfortable touting their own performance as well. Conversely, a confident but humble powerhouse is also a good decision-maker but more likely to involve other people in the process, consider other people’s emotions and be more thoughtful and considerate about the approach. This powerhouse prefers to have other people extol their praises. However, both powerhouses are equally willing to make “tough decisions” and follow-through. But the approaches — and their feelings about these approaches — are different.

Can you give examples of traits of the “politically savvy powerhouse” and the “fiercely loyal powerhouse?”

The politically savvy powerhouse thrills at networking, and masterfully navigates office social interactions to create strong alliances and advocates across departments and functions. This powerhouse is skilled at reading nonverbal cues, adjusting her behavior accordingly, soliciting different viewpoints and gaining consensus — she loves doing it! Fiercely loyal powerhouses exhibit significant understanding and patience. They trust easily in others and in companies to “do the right thing.” Their deep need to trust governs many of their career decisions, preferring long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial to changing firms repeatedly just for pay increases and/or promotions.

Of these four, is there a particular type that’s strongest, or most advantageous?

Each powerhouse shines in the workforce. In essence, companies want and need each powerhouse personality to coexist for productive decision-making, for fostering different opinions and for producing the best possible outcomes. The most “advantageous” powerhouse has a personality that is strongly supported by the organization’s culture because this powerhouse does not need to work as hard at leveraging her strengths. However, this does not necessarily make a powerhouse whose personality runs counterculture weak. They just need to be more aware of the culture and how to leverage their personality powerhouse best to succeed.

How does leveraging compensations for women get more complicated pre- and post-parenthood?

I believe this varies by woman, rather than by company. Some women “slow down” because they think they may be getting pregnant. They turn down roles or assignments they fear will minimize their future need for flexibility. Therefore they give the perception of being less engaged.

Perception is everything.

Appearing less engaged gives companies latitude to think they don’t need to pay you as much — because you might not return. Women need to continue to stay engaged, prior to conception and during pregnancy (as you did before). Women should leverage their powerhouse personality to create a solid working relationship with their bosses, which will greatly help to minimize these negative perceptions. The approach will vary by powerhouse personality, but women should express concern at what people will think and to reassure their boss they are returning. They can even go so far as to express concern that they won’t be paid the same — make their bosses share their concerns and be their advocates. I suggest soliciting your boss’ advice (prior to maternity leave) as to how to stay “in the loop” while away – perhaps just being cc’d on emails rather than completely ignored for months. This gives a strong perception that you are staying engaged and still need to be treated as a valued member of the team.

And, once a working mother returns, she most likely has to re-earn her stripes: unfortunately many people will assume she is less engaged because she has kids. Knowing this before re-engaging (post-maternity) is helpful to manage your own expectations. It may take a few months for people to realize these working mothers are still as engaged as before. Again, women need to leverage their powerhouse personality to ensure their boss is always their advocate and negating any of these perceptions.