THE BLOG
04/13/2015 02:29 pm ET Updated Jun 13, 2015

Equal Pay Role Model Spotlight: AAMI President & CEO, Mary Logan

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In honor of Equal Pay Day tomorrow, April 14, we would like to recognize some amazing pioneers of the gender pay equity movement.

One of the best parts of running a consulting firm is meeting interesting people and hearing their stories. Our clients come from a wide range of industries ranging from a human rights nonprofit to a medical research lab. Working with the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) afforded me the privilege of meeting with Mary Logan, the President and CEO.

Ms. Logan not only leads a successful nonprofit that works to ensure safe and effective health care technologies, she is also a lifelong trailblazer in the fight for pay equality. She is a great role model, especially for young women starting out their careers. With Equal Pay Day tomorrow, I interviewed Ms. Logan to talk about an issue we both care so much about. We discussed growing up, her early experiences as a professional woman, and the future of equal pay.

For many people, the spark for activism is ignited at a young age. The same is true for Ms. Logan, who shares that the ideals of equality and fairness were "baked into our DNA" as a child. She cites her mother as her greatest influence growing up. She remembers her mother reminding her: "Don't let anyone hold you back -- you can do anything that you want to do." Ms. Logan has carried this message with her throughout her life. Over time, she realized that the conversation about equality wasn't one that was being had in every household; she counts herself lucky to have grown up in a home that emphasized those values.

Ms. Logan graduated from college in the '70s with a degree in social work. Limited opportunities available to women in a small community in Wisconsin made finding a job difficult, so she found work doing inside sales at a manufacturing firm. Six months into the job, the owner's nephew was hired at the company. The two became friends while working together. Ms. Logan soon learned that, though they had the same job, his salary was higher. When she asked her boss about the disparity, he said that she "didn't have a wife and kids to support." Ms. Logan knew this was unfair, and overcame her natural fear of potential backlash and appealed to her boss to be paid fairly. Ultimately, he agreed. Little did Ms. Logan know that this would be her first victory in a lifetime fight for equal pay.

Later on in her career, Ms. Logan was fortunate to find that a high level attorney position opened up at the American Dental Association. In the early 1980s, the ADA was sued for allegedly engaging in employment practices that unlawfully discriminated against women. Now, the ADA needed to fill some higher level positions with females in order to comply with a consent decree. Ms. Logan seized the opportunity, and in only three years, she was promoted to General Counsel. Though she was promoted for her abilities, hiring a woman for the top legal position was also advantageous for the ADA. Gender equality became an important value for the organization, and Ms. Logan is optimistic that many organizations today are talking about equity in the workforce.

Instilling the values of gender equality is most effective when the conversation starts in the home. While raising her own daughter, Ms. Logan made sure she always told her daughter how much potential she had. She told her, "not just how cute she was, but how smart she was." She wanted to build up her daughter's confidence so she would know that if she set her mind to it, anything was possible. But most of all, she taught her daughter to do something with her life that would make her happy. Today, Ms. Logan's daughter is attending law school at the University of Michigan.

So what message does Ms. Logan have for professionals today, or young people who are soon to enter the professional world? "Advocate for yourself!" For a higher salary or better job, "self-advocacy is necessary." Standing up for yourself, especially to an employer, can be a daunting prospect. But when you build the skills, confidence and poise to advocate for yourself, you also put yourself in a position to help others. "It's important to know when and how to advocate for yourself, and it helps a lot to have someone else in your corner inside your organization." Ms. Logan worked hard to get where she is, but she also makes sure to credit the advocates along the way who supported her career advancement: "It helps when you feel like you're not standing alone... to have someone else standing in your corner."

Ms. Logan believes that every woman has the ability to pay it forward, by standing in someone else's corner to cheer them on. That's how we're going to achieve equality -- by helping one another.