Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Disempowering Pattern

I’ve been self-employed since 1993 and thoroughly enjoy the freedom of setting my own hours and the rewards of forging my own trail while pursuing the work that I love. It’s truly not an easy path, however, and has taken years of self-growth to feel comfortable in setting an hourly rate for my services that feels good to me and is, what I feel, reflective of the skills, talents, integrity and wisdom that I bring to the table.

Much of my work during the last 19 years has been in the area of helping people empower themselves, particularly women. Over the years, I’ve made an interesting observation around economic empowerment. It is not unusual for women who want to work with me to ask me if I’d be willing to reduce my fees. This is NOT true of the men who want to work with me. The men often indicate that they feel they are getting a bargain.

I’ve come to believe that women in general have been conditioned to think that their work is somehow of less value than men’s work. So when they enter into a business relationship with another woman, they often go to that place of disempowerment and ask the woman if she’s willing to accept less than her asking fee. It is a conditioning that I feel we, as women, need to overcome in order to truly step into our power and to help prepare the way for the birthing of a partnership paradigm.

There is much work to be done by women to empower themselves in this area. We first need to recognize our own worth and then not be afraid to ask for what we want in the way of compensation for our work. We also need to honor other women’s worth and avoid coming from a place of scarcity by being willing to pay for the services rendered by another woman without expecting a discount. If the service or product is more than we can afford, we need to be upfront about our financial situation and have that conversation. If, on the other hand, it is not a matter of being able to afford the service, but only that we expect a discount because the service is being performed by a woman for a woman — that, in my opinion, simply continues to expand the consciousness of women’s disempowerment and inequality.

This is not an issue women can blame on men. In fact, my experience is that men are actually modeling the way for us. We, as women, need to recognize this disempowering pattern and choose to rise above it.

I’d love to start a discussion on this topic. What are your thoughts on this topic?

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4 Responses to Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Disempowering Pattern

  1. Megan David says:

    Carol, I wasn’t aware that women expect a discount for services just because they are offered by another woman. I’ve never been on either side of this one so I’ve never encountered it. It really ticks me off as it is so disrespectful. I will make certain that I do not give a discount if asked, when and if I decide to offer a service of some kind in the future. Instead I will ask a fair price and stand my ground. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. Thanks for your reply, Megan. I really don’t think that women ask for a discount from other women out of conscious disrespect. I think it goes to a deep place of feeling unworthy. So another aspect of this issue can be explored. If I feel unworthy of getting the price I am asking for my services, that unworthiness will be mirrored back to me in all my encounters with others. In other words, if I offer a service for a specific price and yet I’m feeling unworthy to be asking that price, then those who are attracted to my service will mirror back my unworthiness by asking me to lower my price. It’s not just a one-way exchange. I think that healing this issue can begin by women recognizing how they fit into the pattern (if they do) and then taking the steps needed to heal their sense of unworthiness.

    • Megan David says:

      Carol, thanks for clarifying that. I think I see what you mean. I can see that if I were to ask a price that I didn’t feel 100% confident about, or not worthy of, that it might show in my presenting it to others.

      It’s interesting though that men don’t seem to mirror back to you the unworthiness you feel. Perhaps because women are often more intuitive they are more sensitive to what’s going on on a feeling level and pick up the unworthiness where men may not. Or men interested in your service might be okay with the price because it’s what they would ask for whereas a woman might feel she would ask for less and therefore you should too (on an unconscious level). It’s a complex issue and an interesting one to explore.

  3. Michal B says:

    This has been a very engaging and challenging dilemma for me throughout my career. One day when I was reviewing a stack of previous client files my spouse said “That’s quite a body of work you have there.” It changed my outlook completely. I knew I had always worked hard to do the best possible work within the scope of the assignment. But I had often lowered my margin rather than risk asking for what it would take to accomplish the task to complete the job. For a few years it was much better. Now, I just hope to have the dilemma to consider again.