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How Not to Think if You Want to Get Paid

09/11/2013 10:56 am ET | Updated Nov 11, 2013

In a recent article, Meghan Casserly of Forbes writes that in a 2013 survey of 66,000 undergraduates at 318 universities conducted by Universum, women expected to receive lower entry-level salaries than male undergrads.

The findings in this study suggest that the pay gap between men and women's salaries begins on Day One of their career. Casserly asserts that the real gap is the difference in pay expectations of men and women. She reports that the study goes on to say, "The expectations of female students are markedly lower than their male counterparts -- and have been for the last five years..." Now, the big question is: why?

If recent college graduate women start their professional career accepting less than they are worth, closing the gender pay gap may prove to be insurmountable. There are a number of reasons why women's pay lags behind that of men. Contributing issues such as gender segregation in occupations, discrimination and inadequate family leave policies are systemic, interrelated and complex. And yet at the heart of the issue, women are not advocating for themselves.

Part of the root cause of our hesitance to negotiate and demand equal pay may be attributed to women's expectations. I find this idea intriguing and believe that these low expectations can continue to manifest themselves throughout a woman's career. It is a way of thinking that undermines our confidence and ability to get paid what we are worth. I have considered three beliefs that might sabotage our efforts:

1. Believing money isn't really all that important. Women are more commonly found in mission-oriented careers such as education, social work or healthcare. Thus, money often isn't a primary motivator and women don't prioritize asking for more compensation. Also, if a women's salary is not the primary income for the household, she may not be as focused on increasing her compensation. But, in the professional world, the reality is that worth and value are linked to pay.

2. Believing that if you want to be a mother, you will have to build your career (and compensation) around the mommy-track. Many women expect that on the path to motherhood, professional growth will be slower than their male counterparts, and that directly impacts compensation. When women resign themselves to accepting lower pay once they become mothers, or focus their career around these personal aspirations, it becomes much more difficult to get back to full market value.

3. Believing in the societal pressures of being a high wage earner - especially when it comes to their spouses. A new study out of the Simmons School of Management reported that the majority of women breadwinner respondents said they do not share their financial situation with their family, friends or colleagues because, they say, it's just not anyone's business. The top reason, according to the survey, was that they were most likely to say they don't want to "embarrass" their partner. Women worried what others might think of them and their partner's unconventional roles.

These are the things that we need to think about as working women -- from asking for a raise to developing your personal growth and career path together. Overcoming these self-limiting beliefs can be the best things a woman can do to make sure she is going after what she deserves and not accepting a penny less.