I notice several women coaches, either as friends or clients have a common issue—the inability to charge appropriately for their services.
They undercharge or give their services for free. They are invited to events to speak for free, asked to do promotion work for somebody else for free, negotiate poorly with corporate clients and often coach/train for minimal amounts.
Although I have no issues in charging for my services, I often give my skills away for free and hesitate to promote myself.
Writer Sarah Hagi had written many years back—”Lord, Grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” In my own journey, I had once resolved to model this ability to display confidence over what I considered as a poor knowledge and skills.
I think this is more than an individual unique pattern. I have seen it repeat multiple times. And it made me curious—what social structures lead to these patterns?
This pondering took months and then one evening, it came together.
What was common to all these women and me was this—we had each been trained to value care for family and home as an important duty.
This duty included the following skills:
- Food prep, cooking, and serving
- Taking care of kids from baby stage- from personal hygiene, food, study, extracurricular activities, play
- Household hygiene and appearance
- Washing, ironing and maintenance of clothes
- Managing house helps and expenses
- Hosting relatives and guests
- Attending social events and acting appropriately
- Hosting and organizing social and religious events
- Maintaining high level of communication etiquette with senior family members and especially men.
- And more
And all these skills do not have monetary value nor do they figure in a woman’s resume.
A large number of very complex brain functions and evolved-through-time skills are brushed under a socially-mandated identity of a “good, attractive and efficient wife and mother.”
The only value of all these skills combined—is a tick mark on social appearances.
And that social appearance only guarantees a family and social network which in turn will provide money and material goods for the good woman.
There is a psychological fallout.
The Psychological Fallout
Some of us have been unwittingly trained to devalue the monetary value of our skills. And what is more—we have over time considered these skills as nothing special; just something every woman is expected to have.
Psychologically over time we deleted our abilities and the industrial pride around those abilities.
The direct fallout of the rise of Industrial Society where certain skills required in factory settings were evaluated in monetary terms and granted a wage. This wage could be used to buy food and shelter. Over time, the personal and professional became more distinct and separate. The professional skills became a distinct category of financially-worthy abilities that folks were encouraged to develop.
And professional experience was when skills deemed as professional had to be experienced and developed in the mandated professional context. “I have ten years of experience leading diverse teams.” Not “I have ten years of experience leading a ten-member household, 24*7, with no vacations.”
The complex skills restricted to the personal domain was considered as necessary social and life skills and relegated to the expected normal.
A woman managing household is NOT a bread-winner. She is the grateful beneficiary of money earned by bread-winner and obligated to utilize it well for the family.
There is a psychological fallout for this kind of thinking.
The brain learns —of devaluing certain skills and experience, of building a belief system that what we do doesn’t count as long as it isn’t in the professional sphere.
You would notice it in other ways. For example, I am often asked— “Can you cook?” I feel surprised. Somehow my professional skills are placed in binary opposition to my household skills – not a continuation of abilities. For example, “She organizes international programs. Naturally she knows how to organize her home and food.” Or “She organizes home and food well. She organizes events. It is the same vertical.”
I have found when some women set up their own service-oriented businesses like coaching/training, several things happen.
Structurally, men who have been nurtured to be “bread winners” easily claim many years of experience because it is in “professional” domain, while women who have worked 24*7 for years without break using complex brain functions, can report no experience since their experience was in the so-called “personal” domain.
When motherhood happens, that is mentioned in application as career break or gap.
It is time to change that, no?
Time to RECLAIM your resume?
The etymology of the word “resume” comes from Latin which means “Take Back.”
It is indeed time to take back the Take Back.
Rewrite it to include your extensive experience in personal domain.
I have observed many women flinch when I tell them this—there is resistance. We have been taught over years to devalue our skills and experience.
Therefore I invite you to join me in understanding the utter complexity of the skills we possess:
- Food prep—deciding menu that would work best for the family members through careful evaluation of personal preferences, specific outcomes; procuring and segregating materials for increased shelf life; cutting vegetables/meat in specific shapes to suit the overall dish; planning ahead for marination and soaking
- Cooking—deciding sequence of elements of food, deciding elements of which food is to prepared when to arrive at table fresh and warm, deciding how much flame, which vessel, what spices in what proportion and when.
- Serving – planning and strategizing how to serve, in what vessel, how much to whom, and how to preserve and reuse leftovers.
- Household management—Keeping track of all members including supporting staff, supervising work carefully and maintaining relationships, paying bills on time, negotiating with bread-winner to get the required money in time to pay staff and vendors, negotiating extra for personal expenses, keeping track of all household processes like cooking, cleaning, washing, laundry, school activities, kids needs, family downtime and ensuring they are done well.
- Social network management—Deciding which event to host, when, where, who to invite, content of event, prep for event, supervising guest management; deciding which event to attend, ensuring prompt responses to different significant network members, responding to crisis, ensuring family linkages, evaluating and adapting as network changes.
What I have written is still on the surface. I love showing folks live as they do a work—the many decision points, the choices made and skills required to make those choices and how they naturally assimilate experience in executing the “normal” task.
I love to “unnormalize” tasks.
I invite you to pause more, pay attention how you do what you do.
And then maybe consider adding it to your resume.