Esther Leonard is working to ensure others have the confidence to not only know their worth but also to demand it.
Fortune reports Leonard, a career coach and sourcer, had a growing interest in digital literacy and the wealth gap, following her move to Boston, MA, nearly seven years ago. Leonard previously lived in Chicago, IL, and had years of experience working in education and with nonprofits.
Esther The Career Coach
While adjusting to a new state, Leonard landed a position at Boston University as the assistant director of career education. She was responsible for planning diversity, equity, and inclusion events. In addition, she taught job hunting skills to students and alumni. It was during this time that she conjured the idea to start her practice, Esther the Career Coach, to amplify these efforts.
Leonard began working closely with first-generation college students who had towering student debt. This was an area of focus for her because she was concerned with their starting salaries after their time in college was complete.
“I would see them and think, ‘Okay, their first job they’re probably going to make just the bare minimum salary,” she told Fortune.
Research Is Key
Meanwhile, Leonard also recognized business and engineering students were receiving high-paying jobs. Therefore, she wanted more for her students and herself, too.
Leonard then switched careers and became a sourcer at the online wholesale marketplace Faire, thanks to a fellowship program with Colorwave. The nonprofit aims to advance people of color by evolving their skills and exposing them to leaders at venture capitalist-backed startups. Working in this arena, Leonard recognized a wage and racial gap and knew there was more money to be made.
In her former position at Boston University, her salary fluctuated between $60,000 and $70,00. Faire initially offered Leonard between $75,000 to $80,000, but she knew her salary could be even higher after research.
“So I did a lot of research—always do your research,” Leonard said, according to Fortune. “One of the salaries I saw on Glassdoor was for $100,000.”
Work To Normalize Salary Negotiations
Leonard returned to the company and negotiated for $120,000. Although the company did not agree to the requested amount, they still offered her a number shy of that. After advocating for herself, she will normalize discussions surrounding salary negotiations at her practice.
“We need to destigmatize the salary negotiation,” Leonard told Fortune. “Usually when I start talking to women about interviews and salary I ask, ‘How much do you want?’”