Professional women hit the peak of their careers in their mid-30s, and increasingly, they wait until around the same time to start having kids. The result? Companies lose valuable team members as women struggle to strike a balance between family and career.
Entrepreneurs Katharine Zaleski and Milena Berry launched a company, PowerToFly, to tackle this problem head-on. They connect highly skilled women — largely in the technology industry — with jobs at companies like BuzzFeed and Hearst. The thing that sets PowerToFly apart from traditional recruiting companies is 100% of the jobs it suggests for women are remote.
The duo has gotten a lot of attention for their work, in part because of a Fortune piece Zaleski wrote apologizing to the women she worked with before having her own children for how she treated them. (Critics have said it was a play for press.)
Regardless, Zaleski and Berry have learned a number of lessons along the way that could help you earn more money — especially if you’re a working mom.
Why Remote Work Opens Doors for Women
“Remote work,” Zaleski said, “is one hundred percent the future.”
“It’s a huge idea,” she went on. “It doesn’t just affect women in tech, it affects women everywhere. Biologically we’re very different from men in that we have babies. That changes your work paradigm, especially for the first few months.”
If motherhood changes a woman’s work paradigm, PowerToFly is changing their workplace paradigm. More than 600 companies have used PowerToFly to find qualified remote work employees, resulting in more than $2 million in paychecks for women working remotely around the world.
What has raising a startup from birth through the first year taught Zaleski about women, earning potential and negotiations?
Here are the top three tips Zaleski shared on how women can earn more money throughout their careers:
1. Mix Personal Life and Work
Your business life and personal life don’t have to exist in silos. When Zaleski joined forces with Berry to launch PowerToFly, her problem was a personal one: She had a six-week-old daughter at home, and she didn’t want to have to choose between family and career.
Zaleski was on maternity leave from her role as Founding Managing Editor of NowThis News when Berry asked her for coffee. Zaleski saw two ways ahead for herself: Put her daughter in someone else’s care for long workdays and commutes each day or pause her career to raise her daughter full time.
As the two women talked, Zaleski began to see what she calls “the third way.” If the first way ahead is career-based and the second way ahead is all about motherhood, the third way ahead is one that embraces career and motherhood together through remote work.
While she and Berry worked to make the “third way” a more viable path for women in technology, she learned a lot. One of those lessons came in PowerToFly’s first year of business from early investor Jonah Peretti. “Jonah Peretti said that the best companies are a reflection of a personal problem that the founders are trying to solve,” said Zaleski. That problem, she went on, “is really what motivates us every day.”
2. Ask for the Right Salary
Zaleski works with talented, educated, career-minded women every single day. Many of those women, according to Zaleski, say that they’d like to earn a certain salary. For the right opportunity, though, they’d work for less.
Zaleski thinks that that mindset is holding women back from earning to their full potential. “The right opportunity,” Zaleski believes, “also has the right salary.”
“The right opportunity also has the right salary,” says @kzaleski
Sadly, it’s not just the right opportunity that women are willing to be underpaid for. Zaleski says she sees women every day who aren’t asking to be compensated for the value they add to their companies.
“Woman constantly underbid themselves,” Zaleski says. “You know what you’re worth, but a lot of women — because of confidence issues — undervalue their work by at least 20%.”
Study after study shows women in the workforce create a better bottom line for companies, Zaleski explained. Women should understand that their education, training and experience are valuable to employers.
3. Negotiate Using Facts
Zaleski says women should negotiate for pay that’s in line with their professional contributions. Women who negotiate are likely to earn more than their peers, and they might even gain additional respect from their employers.
“When employees negotiate with me around salary, I have more respect for that employee on a lot of issues,” says Zaleski.
She and Berry believe so strongly in the power of negotiation that they train PowerToFly candidates on how to negotiate better pay. One of her biggest tips to readers who want to negotiate for salary, remote work privileges, or other benefits is to keep the conversation focused on facts, not feelings.
“People always get in trouble when they use personal positions when they negotiate instead of the facts of the issues at hand,” she explained.
Rather than saying things like, “I’d like to earn more,” try saying, “This is about my work product. I feel like I’d be a much more effective member of your team if I’m not commuting an hour each way,” Zaleski suggests.
Zaleski believes that negotiations, technology, and remote work all contribute to helping women earn equal pay as men. And from her home office in Brooklyn, New York, she’s doing her best to help that equality come sooner rather than later.
Your Turn: Have you negotiated remote work or balanced telecommuting with parenting?
Melissa Gilliam Shaw is a freelance writer and marketing professional and the creator of MilliGFunk: a travel, healthy living, and DIY blog. You can find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter (@MilliGFunk), Pinterest, and LinkedIn.