Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Luckiest women in the world? Only if we stand up for ourselves | TheUnion.com

Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Luckiest women in the world? Only if we stand up for ourselves

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to The Union
Hollie Grimaldi-Flores
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Did you happen to catch the Oscars last month? Chances are, even if you missed it, you have heard some of the fallout following Patricia Arquette’s passionate plea for gender wage equality in the United States.

During her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, Arquette said, “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality in the U.S.”

It seems she struck a nerve. Saying Arquette “lit the match” with her plea for wage equality for women, California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus unveiled legislation to tighten California’s laws prohibiting wage discrimination based on gender.

However, according to a new report in World Economic Forum, “Currently, there’s no country in the entire world where a woman earns as much as a man for doing the same job.” The United States ranks 65 out of the 142 countries included. (Iceland is number one, followed by Denmark.)

As a woman working in Nevada County, I am curious as to our own standing.

Finding out what our male counterparts make in the workplace is no easy feat. Salaries are held “close to the vest” due to that very obvious issue. Same work, same pay? Certainly if you are working at an entry level position, but as you move up through the ranks, it is really hard to know if you are on the same pay scale as the guy sitting beside you.

I asked around. When inquiring about high-ranking county jobs, I was told executive positions are male dominated in this county and it can be tough being a woman in an executive position. Although respected, we women tend to have to prove ourselves more than our male counterparts to be taken seriously.

And I think that says a lot. Whether we are getting the same pay or not, we are inherently forced to work harder to prove our worth.

I have worked in a variety of industries. Often the wage was standardized — as with the female dominated secretarial department (my first job in California), but in others there were factors I could control, from bartending (tips) to bookkeeping (where I set my own rate.)

Personally, I believe it comes down to the art of negotiation, which has a myriad of factors behind it. This is an area where men seemingly excel. Generally, they are confident in overstating their worth and then fighting for it! As women, our ability to negotiate is tied much more closely with our belief (or, perhaps, lack of) in our own value, our tendency to take what we do for granted and our desire to get the job, no matter what the cost.

When I was first hired in media, I was so thrilled to be on board I did not even ask how much I would be paid! When the number was disclosed, I had to ask if they meant monthly instead of annually (it was a very small number!)

For the next decade it was all about proving my worth, going above and beyond the call, asking for more and not getting it, doing more in the hope of being recognized and rewarded and ultimately, taking on a position that did not fit my interests and goals, in pursuit of money. I know in that industry, women doing the same job, or more, are indeed making less than the man sitting beside them.

Back to the original question, how do women in Nevada County rank in terms of wage equality?

Maybe a better question is: how do women in Nevada County rank in terms of self worth? As women, it is our willingness to do more, give more, try harder, that moves us up in rank.

As Oprah has said many times, “if you’re a woman born in the United States, you’re one of the luckiest women in the world.” We already come with more opportunity than many. It is up to us to leverage ourselves with strong negotiating skills and drive.

This community is full of strong female business owners and leaders. Our hospital CEO, county treasurer, assessor and tax collector, and assistant CEO and county counsel are all female. There are more than 100 women-owned businesses in Nevada County. And in the major business sectors, steps are being taken to equalize the pay scale regardless of gender.

If being a woman born in the United States is hitting the lottery, being able to raise our daughters in Nevada County is like hitting the Powerball, if we learn to stand up for ourselves. My daughter has the tools to succeed anywhere, and I know firsthand, she is one tough negotiator.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at hgflores@theunion.com.

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