As a human resources executive, Jane Perdue dealt firsthand with hiring. In the typical telecommunications jobs she handled, women and men were offered the same salaries. But men were more likely to negotiate for higher pay.
And that first paycheck affects every future paycheck because most raises are percentages of current salary. (Men also were more likely to press for higher raises.)
A major problem hindering women today? The value they place on themselves.
The oldest of three daughters, Perdue was the de facto son to her businessman father. His advice? “If you put your heart and mind to it, you can do anything a man can do — and do it better.”
Perdue believed it. Until she lived it.
She earned her MBA and spent 15 years as vice president at Fortune 500 telecommunications companies.
Often, she was the only woman at the conference table.
“I never suffered from that lack of confidence,” Perdue said. “I worked really hard and was confident in my abilities. I never felt I wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Yet, one day a boss dubbed her Aunt Polly for being an inspiring colleague whom people could talk to. He never mentioned she had just overseen a $450 million consolidation project.
That’s when she decided to take a new path.
“Leadership in business today was made by men for men,” Perdue said. “Women take care, and men take charge. That is still very much alive.”
But not true. Good leaders, she found, perform tasks well and excel at building relationships.
In 2011, she joined with Amy Diederich, friend and fellow former executive, to create Braithwaite Innovation Group, a female-owned professional development firm in Mount Pleasant.
When she moved here, she read a Clemson University study showing that in 2008 47 percent of South Carolina companies didn’t have a single woman in a decisionmaking role while 82 percent had only one woman or none in those roles.
“That just blew me away,” she said.
So she joined the Center for Women. Then she launched the center’s Women’s Leadership Institute. And now she is the center’s new board chairwoman.
“Don’t be afraid to step into your own personal power,” Perdue advised. “Make your voice heard. If you don’t, we as women are never going to hit that critical mass to affect the workplace.”