Know Your Value: Q&A - National Community Reinvestment Coalition
By Samira Cook Gaines, Chief of Civil Rights & Economic Empowerment, National Community Reinvestment Coalition July 28, 2015 03:15 PM
As part of our work to engage progress makers, this year Citi is partnering with Know Your Value, a program with NBCUniversal News Group and Mika Brzezinski, to explore how female aspiring leaders can get their worth at work and create the lives they want. Samira Cook Gaines, Chief of Civil Rights & Economic Empowerment, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, was part of Citi’s breakout session Making Your Ideas Real. Below she answers a few questions.
Can you give us a brief overview of the work you do with The National Community Reinvestment Coalition?
I am the Chief of Civil Rights & Economic Empowerment. My Division works to help people create and sustain wealth in their communities and families. We do that by providing direct services to homeowners through housing counseling and business owners through our four Business Development Centers. Citi has been a great resource and support partner to our DC Women's Business Center, which provides business assistance to women entrepreneurs that are starting and growing their businesses.
Coming into your current role was a big “Know Your Value moment” for you. What did you learn about negotiating for the things you really value?
I learned to identify where my absolute non-negotiable line in the sand was located. This helped to reduce the fear of not getting all that I deserved. I knew what 'not quite enough' would feel like. I learned what other career aspects were just as important to me as money. For example, my title is something that says a lot about the mission of the organization, but also my personal and professional mission in my career. I also learned that negotiating is something that takes more than that initial moment -- my salary took all of 15 minutes, but the title took 4 weeks!
We all know about the salary gap, but there’s a surprising finding in a recent study that even when women are their own bosses, they pay themselves less than men do. What have you learned working with female entrepreneurs that might explain this and help turn it around?
In general, entrepreneurs take less in the beginning of the business, but they need to pay themselves fairly at the outset or they will always have unrealistic budgets. I find that women, in particular, will often pay themselves less for three main reasons:
- They haven't done the research to realize what their competition is charging. Once they realize that they are practically giving their time and talents away for free they quickly ask for advice on how to course correct.
- They think that if the service or skill is easy for them, it must not be very expensive. I've had to remind my clients: just because they can sing, doesn’t mean that everyone can sing, and people who can't sing will pay for a great singer!
- They don't have faith that people will buy their product or service. This is alleviated with a strong business plan and the understanding of who the ideal customer is.
How would you define a “Progress Maker” in the community?
A “Progress Maker” to me is someone who advances despite adversity and lives a life that gives to others through providing, sharing, and caring about the world they live in.
What are 2-3 tips you have to help women be their own best advocates?
- Take time weekly to review your career and personal life. Decide what's working and what needs to change. Change will often lead to negotiation.
- Write down your best case/worst case scenarios for your negotiation. Include the best time, place, day, and others you may want in the conversation. Also write down the best and worse outcomes. Then, for the worst outcome, strategize a safety net or an escape hatch that is realistic. You may never need it, but knowing that it's there gives you courage to be bold. For the best outcome, make it better.
- Dream bigger and bolder! That will lead you to what you really want if your fears weren't holding you back.
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and its member organizations work with community leaders, policymakers, and financial institutions to create opportunities for people to build wealth. Since 2012, Citi Community Development has partnered with NCRC, which operates the DC Women’s Business Center, a business development organization that serves women entrepreneurs in the DC Capital Region. Through this partnership, the DC Women’s Business Center has trained 1,416 participants, jumpstarted 26 businesses, and created 31 jobs.