Imagine giving up $431,000 over the course of your career for one simple mistake: failing to negotiate your first starting salary.
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Or ask the question: would you ever work 59 days a year for free?
It’s just one way to quantify how much women miss out on by making 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts bring in.
They are striking figures that Caroline Ghosn, founder of “Levo League,” an organization aimed at helping women in the early stage of their careers, wants her fellow millennials to know about.
Ghosn launched “Levo” (Latin for “lift-up”) in 2012 after realizing young women needed better career guidance during the first few years after college, especially when it came time to negotiating salaries and titles on their own behalf.
According to Ghosn, “Many women millennial and Gen-Yers are not aware that these types of statistics still apply to them. Too many women fail to realize it until they are looking directly at the facts.”
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POWER OF MENTORS
One way to avoid these pitfalls, and accelerate a successful career, is through mentorship. But finding willing mentors can be difficult. The lack of established professional organizations for women is a stark contrast to the “old boys club” fraternities, organizations and sporting clubs that men utilize for advice and networking opportunities.
Ghosn decided to create a female equivalent for the digital age, and Levo League was born. The organization helps to bridge the mentor and networking gap for women by providing users with job opportunities, skill-building tools and professional connections through their site and in-person events. Their goal is to help women “lean in” to their careers and, ideally, accelerate their success in the first decade out of college.
If Levo League sounds like a project Facebook (FB) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg would embrace, she already has. She and AOL (AOL) President Susan Lyne were a part of a larger group of angel investors that contributed to Levo League’s initial round of funding and both actively participate in the organization’s mentor program. Levo has since raised another $7 million in start-up funding.
SCALE: MENTORING FOR THE MASSES
Growing up as the daughter of the CEO of Nissan-Renualt, Carlos Ghosn, Caroline is no stranger to the limelight or challenges in the business world. Ghosn was following a more typical path to success, finishing her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and then heading to New York City to take a position within the elite management consulting form McKinsey & Co. when she was struck with her idea.
“I understood what success required in an academic context, but it was unclear how to attain success as an adult, much less as a woman where the lines between assertion and aggression might be different,” she said. “There was a need for guidance on a scalable level - pockets of programs exist to connect women with a mentor or access to the right job opportunity or professional development, but we needed something to connect the dots and scales a consistent experience. “
Dana Perino, the second woman to serve as White House Press Secretary and also an anchor of “The Five” at Fox News, understands the scaling challenge. She’s encountered many young women in her professional career that she’s wanted to mentor, but time constraints only allow her to take on a small number of mentees.
To help scale the impact successful women could have on the next generation, she created “Minute Mentoring.” The program is modeled on speed dating, and allows mentors to impart their best advice to several groups of women over the course of an evening.
The guidance mentors can provide is invaluable. Perino points out, “Every successful person can point to someone who took an interest in them and their career at some point. Those mentors help shape the next generation of workers. A mentor never knows what it is he or she may say that will make a lasting impression and be the difference between mediocrity and excellence.”
Ghosn’s Levo League offers a digital way to scale mentor guidance to the masses. Levo’s “Office Hours” put a mentor in a live 30-minute Q&A chat with Levo users. Anyone with an Internet connection can listen in and participate.
According to Ghosn, many of the 400-500 Levo mentors develop several personal relationships with the participants in their online sessions. And “Office Hours” has featured marquee name like Sandberg, Lyne and even Warren Buffett.
THE “LEVO” BUSINESS
Beyond “Office Hours,” the site hosts a variety of career-related content to help women in the workplace. Columns provide advice on everything from “how to ask for a raise,” to dressing for success in today’s workplace, to changing careers. Levo has local chapters in 27 different cities around the world that host networking functions so that Levo users can interact with each other and the mentors.
But Ghosn is quick to point out that Levo League is a business, and brings in revenue from its recruitment and retention services. Levo partners with companies seeking out the very specific job candidates that Levo’s content is tailored to which is appealing for businesses. The Levo job and internship board lists opportunities from the White House internships to jobs in other start-up firms, to Fortune 500 companies.
In honor of Equal Pay Day, Ghosn kicked off an #Ask4More campaign for the month of April, to raise awareness around the issue of competitive compensation.
The Ask4More microsite allows visitors to list their salaries and eventually see how much they make relative to their male -- and female -- counterparts. At the end of the month, Ghosn and team will release a report based on the data collected on the site in the month of May.
Ghosn notes, “The data might bear out some surprising results – its purpose is to get the conversation started…with quantitative anchors.”