Earnings Expansion (or erosion): Are You Creating Your Own Glass Ceiling?

by Jill Foster on March 26, 2009

Guest post by Mary Conley Eggert, former small business owner and current Director of Business Development for Tech Image. Mary is passionate about bringing new technologies and technology companies to market. And her agency (www.techimage.com) was named one of the 2007 Top Tech Communicators in the U.S. per an independent survey of 300 IT editors. She can be reached at www.linkedin.com/in/maryconleyeggert.

To bill (or to donate…)
One of my mentors worked as a consultant to the American Veternary Medical Association (AVMA), and shared this story when I raised the question of billing vs. donating some of the services from my small business.

The erosion of earnings among AVMA members provides a powerful lesson on how we women may be our own worst enemy with regard to glass ceilings.

(image The Glass Ceiling by Abomination, Creative Commons)

Baffled by erosion of earnings
….About 15 years ago, the AVMA called John in to their offices when they saw that the average earnings per member was declining so sharply that the viability of many veterinary practices was in question. The AVMA leaders were baffled by the erosion in earnings, and had asked John – a highly regarded researcher in the industry – to identify the source and recommend solutions.

Difference in billing between male and female practitioners
John interviewed male practitioners and female practitioners, and found some surprising differences in their billing practices. While male practitioners were happy to bill for Fido’s surgery in spite of the difficulties Fido and Fido’s owner experienced through such a surgery, their female counterparts discounted their rates to show empathy for the patient and owner, sometimes waiving fees altogether. (How many of us forego billing for services that would have cost our clients or friends $100s if not $1,000s of dollars if they were to secure the same service elsewhere?)

And if so, what does that say about our value?

Through John’s research in the field, the AVMA realized that male and female practitioners derive their satisfaction from different sources, and many women prefer praise to profits even at the cost of their businesses. (Can you relate?! I know I can. ;-) )

The resulting price pressure
Given the close proximity of veterinary practitioners, the billing practices of these female practitioners placed competitive/price pressure on the male practitioners, reducing expectations for fees and compensation across the industry.

Stopping the earnings erosion
John’s team realized that the problem was one of perception, and could be fixed through proper training and communications around the value of veterinary services. The AVMA implemented a training program, educating all practitioners on good billing practices, and was able to put an end to the erosion in earnings.

Speaking up for what we’re worth
Most industries don’t have mentors like John surveying and coaching owners on the importance of speaking up for what we are worth. It’s more common that we poke fingers at the establishment itself for low wages in female dominated professions – nursing, teaching, etc.

Our compensation ‘ceiling’ is what we make it.
John’s study and my experience suggest to me that our salary or compensation ceiling is what we make it. The key to earning what we are worth is knowing what we are worth (and communicating that in a way that others see the value and are willing to pay it).

Know your value
To learn more about your worth, join your industry association and ask questions, or check out Web sites, such as www.salary.com or Salary Expert.

In today’s buyer’s market, there is no excuse for not knowing and speaking up for your real value.

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