Kathryn Minshew, CEO and Founder Of The Muse, Has Wise Words For Career-Driven Women

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It’s not always easy to be a woman in the workplace. Although we're seeing more and more women-led companies and female CEOs these days, we still have a gender problem throughout company culture. For example, women, on average, are paid 20 percent less than men for the same work.

While this is a disheartening statistic, there are ways that women can fight for gender equality in their professional lives on a daily basis. One way is by simply by taking initiative and asking for what you deserve — whether that’s a certain amount of compensation, or greater responsibilities related to your role. Not only can asking for more be incredibly empowering for you as an individual, it can also lead to a better salary, a more senior job title, and even greater respect from your higher ups and colleagues.

To help women everywhere demand what is rightly theirs in any job situation, we partnered with LUNA® Bar, which is a dedicated proponent of women’s rights and equal pay. Together, we tapped Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of career website The Muse, a wildly successful professional advice hub and job search tool, to talk about gender equality and how women can empower themselves in the workplace.

On A Difficult Workplace Situation

Minshew emphasizes that she’s worked with many incredible people, male and female, over the years, and she’s had far more positive experiences than negative. Yet when she was raising capital for The Muse in its early stages, she received a number of dismissive, even inappropriate comments that she probably wouldn’t have gotten if she were a man.

“They ranged from, ‘You seem too nice to be an entrepreneur,’ to, ‘How are you going to build a product for ambitious women if most women don't really care about their careers?’ to suggestive propositioning for dates, and more,” Minshew says. “I handled some of these situations well and others by awkwardly ending the conversation or running out of the room… smooth. In the end, I think The Muse's success will be the best rebuttal to those people. But I wish I were better at poised, cutting one-liners.”

Kathryn Minshew

The Biggest Workplace Barriers Women Face Today

Minshew believes that gender inequality is one of the biggest injustices of our time, and believes that the first step in fighting back is being aware that it’s a problem in the first place.

“While there are a lot of obstacles women in the workplace may encounter today, I think the biggest is unconscious bias — the feeling that a female leader just isn't quite as effective, or [the idea that] a woman calmly expressing anger or frustration is just being ‘emotional,’” says Minshew. “The minimizing, ignoring, or discounting of women's power and potential is as prevalent as it is hard to fight, because many people don't even realize they're doing it.”

On Being Told “No”

When it comes to getting a career request turned down, Minshew wants you to know that she’s been there — and that you, too, can turn that “no” into an opportunity.

“The first time I asked for a raise, I was so nervous I threw up in the toilet afterwards — also, they said ‘no,’” Minshew says. “Not a very auspicious start to my negotiating career! But you know what? The world didn't end. I wasn't any the worse for having asked. And the situation inspired me to get more comfortable asking for more in the future, which led to me exploring the career space and eventually founding The Muse. It was also a lesson in getting work promises in writing — the woman who'd suggested I would get a raise after completing a big project was no longer with the organization.”

She adds, “In short, it's painful to ask for more and be told ‘no,’ but it happens to everyone at some point or other. Use it as an opportunity to learn from the person you're asking what it would take to get to a ‘yes’ in the future, and think about how you might change or improve your approach for the next time. And if you're at an organization that doesn't value your skills or abilities? You may also want to consider making a move to someplace that will.”

Her Best Advice For Women Who Want More In The Workplace

“Prepare for the situation by doing your homework and laying out a plan of attack — and then do it!” Minshew says. “It can feel scary, but generally, as long as you're respectful and prepared, the worst someone can say is, ‘No.’ And the best [thing that can happen] is they help you get one step closer to the career you want.”

This post is sponsored by LUNA® Bar.

Main image: Frances Denny