How to get paid what you're worth: A 3-step process from CEO Minda Harts

Minda Harts, founder & CEO of The Memo.
Courtesy Minda Harts

Minda Harts is the founder and CEO of The Memo LLC, a career development organization for women of color. One of The Memo's goals is to provide resources that help close the pay gap for women of color.

In 2017, the most recent data available, the average Black woman earned 61 cents to every dollar earned by a white man, according to data from the National Women's Law Center. That equals $23,653 per year. Over the course of a 40-year career, that adds up to $946,120 in lost wages. 

In 2019, Harts published her first book, "The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table."  The book "provides clear, concise, [and] actionable advice to help women of color — those of diverse and multicultural backgrounds — as they navigate office politics and drama and advance in their careers," Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner and the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and a member of the CNBC Advisors Council, told Grow last year. 

Below, Harts, who is also an adjunct professor at New York University and host of the podcast "Secure the Seat," shares her three-step process for making sure you get paid what you're worth as well as other key financial lessons.

On how to get paid what you're worth

I use a three-step process:

  1. Get information. This could be from PayScale or Salary.com or asking for informational interviews from people in the industry to get a sense of the salary range.
  2. Consult mentors. I engage mentors in role-playing exercises and help develop mini-scripts. 
  3. Make my case. I can't control what my manager might say, but I can control my ask and be fully prepared

I believe we have to learn how to have courageous conversations around bias and ask ourselves, "Are we learning or defending?" For far too long, many individuals haven't been held accountable for their bias and it has had a negative impact on marginalized groups. And when there is a callout, hopefully the recipient will listen courageously as well. Calling out bias should be part of each employee's job description.

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Video by Courtney Stith

My most important money lesson: Just ask  

Ask for what you want. I used to say "ask for more," but that is too vague. Be clear on what your needs are and make your asks aligned with your needs. If it's money, ask for a little more than what you expect to receive. If it's fringe benefits, be able to support your ask with a strong case to bypass any potential concerns for the other party.

Negotiate your salary

One of my first jobs was at Dairy Queen with I was 14 or 15 years old. I made minimum wage, which I think at the time was like around $6 an hour. I tried to negotiate then because I thought that seemed low, not even knowing much about wages. I just felt like I deserved more than the minimum wage.

I think having that experience early on made me always push for more because I knew my worth, even when others might not. I wrote about this experience inside "The Memo" in my chapter No Money, Mo' Problems.

Ask for what you want. I used to say 'ask for more,' but that is too vague.
Minda Harts
founder and CEO of The Memo LLC

Why I didn't talk about money growing up  

My beliefs around money were you didn't talk about it. Culturally, in many Black households, we are told that anything related to money isn't anyone else's business. I think some of that was birthed out of shame, not wanting others to know you didn't have as much a survival mechanism. Many of those beliefs hurt me early in my career and fed into my impostor syndrome and preventing me to ask for my worth.

Why intergenerational wealth is important to me  

Wealth, to me, is being able to leave something tangible for the next generation in my family. I don't have any children, but I have godchildren and nephews. I want to make good monetary decisions now, so they can benefit and help build their dreams later. 

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