Shermin Lakha started her law firm almost five years ago and says she wants her company to make more money.
“As a business owner, something I feel like I really struggle with is asking for what my value is from my clients,” Lakha, the founder and managing attorney of LVLUP Legal, said. “Sometimes I talk to male counterparts and they always tell me ‘Sherin I wouldn’t do half the stuff you do and I would always demand more.”
Lakha was one of dozens of women at an event hosted this summer by The Unlocked Foundation. The nonprofit organization is in its first year and aims to teach women how to navigate conversations about compensation.
“It’s really hard for me sometimes to find someone who I can really speak to,” she said.
The Unlocked Foundation connects women with mentors like lawyer Mia Poppe, a practicing attorney for more than 20 years and the Managing Partner at Poppe & Associates.
She says women need to believe and promote their professional value in a way they may not have learned.
“It is my belief that we raise our female children not to be self centered or self-centric and I think we do that to the demise of the success of women,” Poppe said.
“A lot of times the conversation is focused on transparency and what is happening to women and those things are important. And there are also things that are affecting women that women control, such as the expectations gap. Women expect to make less money,” Savaria Harris, a founder of The Unlocked Foundation, said.
Harris says for decades women have demanded less and had weaker networks than men.
The Pew Research Center reports women are paid 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. These results are similar to the pay gap in 2002, when women earned 80% as much as men.
In November of last year, the city’s Salary Transparency Law took effect, requiring employers to put a “good faith pay range” in all job postings. Harris says it’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
“For the first time there is information that they can see in terms of, you know, ‘what is the range of pay for this role?’ At the same time we are seeing some employers take advantage of that and post very, very wide ranges,” Harris said.
Harris says that’s where a mentor comes in to offer perspective.
Poppe helped Lakha reevaluate what she charges her clients because currently she says she’s offering her services for less than her competitors.
“It’s great to have a safe space to talk about compensation, about what my value is and really grow my business,” Lakha said.
The foundation says it has members from all over the country and the world holding events several times a year.
Some free tickets are given out for each in-person event. Tickets start at $30.