Who Am I to Be Financially Feminist? (A Guide for Female Entrepreneurs)

06/22/2015 10:35 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

Feminists are given a bad wrap. When I was growing up, women who wanted to excel in the workforce were demonized as anti-family, bra burning egoists. Women have made many inroads since then but even so, women who seek equal rights are still degraded as "feminazis" by others and even disparaged by our misguided selves (you've seen the "I am not a feminist" movement?).

Sadly, feminism exists for a reason. Gender inequality is one of the most persistent human rights violations of our time, and in the U.S. it isn't getting any better. In fact, it's getting worse. According to a recent report released by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 17th among 22 industrialized nations in labor force participation for women. This is in stark comparison to our nation's number six rank in the 1990s.

The $.77 a white female earns in comparison to every $1.00 a white male earns equates to a lifetime loss in gross income of about $1.2 million for a college graduate and $2 million for a professional school graduate. And it is even worse for black and latina women.

But I'm not a sociologist. I'm a wealth coach. So why do I care about the current state of the feminist movement?

Here's why: Because how women are perceived in the workplace has a direct correlation with how equally we're compensated -- even when we run our own businesses.

That's right. Even when we seek to escape the old boys club and strike out on our own, women still often make less than our male counterparts.

I worked in the corporate world -- in a male-dominated field -- for 23 years. I know from first-hand experience that it can feel like women have to be more manly to gain success. That's why, with hopes of being rewarded for their skills, so many promising female corporate employees end up trying to be someone they're not. Instead, what often happens is women end up dealing with the double standards that exist for behaviors, unfair judgments, and ruthless competition from colleagues of both genders.

According to a 2012 Harvard Business Review survey of 7,280 leaders, even though women were often rated as being better overall leaders than their male counterparts, many women in leadership positions don't feel their appointments are safe. There is constant pressure to perform mistake-free and, because many feel their positions are vulnerable, women tend to take feedback to heart.

When women opt out of their corporate environments, those feelings don't get left behind with the no-longer-needed hanging file folders. Instead, they get packed in to who they are, and they carry them, even when setting out on a new entrepreneurial venture.

Some of the most prevalent concerns my female clients come to me with stem from what I see as a chronic problem: We don't feel our own value and so we come to doubt our self worth.

To get grounded and begin to recover from these limiting beliefs, I ask my female entrepreneurial clients to engage in a powerful mini meditation. You, too, can do it, right from wherever you are. First, close your eyes for a moment and then take in a nice, deep breath. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and then take one more really deep breath to release any tension you are holding on to. Then, ask yourself how many times you have asked yourself the following questions:

  • Who am I to question things that have been done the same way forever?
  • Who am I to double, triple, or quadruple my fees?
  • Who am I to run a successful company that grosses multiple millions of dollars?
  • Who am I to follow my passion and make money doing it?

What else have you said to yourself? Fill in your own blank -- Who am I to .... And add that in to the meditation.

Begin to notice the limiting beliefs that hold you back. Then, consider what might happen if you shifted your thoughts to empowering beliefs that focus on the importance and value you bring to the world.

I've done this work myself and the end result is powerfully transformative.

From completing this work, clients I've coached have:

  • Noticed new life possibilities
  • Been heard more by others
  • Seen ideas gain traction and take off
  • Gained confidence in the contributions they offer to clients and the world
  • Learned to value the services they provide and set higher client rates

This work doesn't just help us in our professional lives. When we start to show up in a bigger way, we can help our families and communities in bigger ways. We can provide greater financial support by paying our kids' tuition, for example, or by writing large checks to further causes we care about.

For today's financial feminists, it's time to shift away from a mindset limited by who we are not - and instead move toward a self-image that's shaped by who we really are.