What is your work worth? Are you getting that?

Chances are good your answer depends on your gender. And here’s a chicken-and-egg question for you. Do women get less because we ask for less? Or do we ask for less because we so often get less?

Public opinion researcher Brittany Salzburg was thrilled when a local newspaper accepted a piece she wrote. And dismayed when the editor responded to her follow-up question about payment.

The paper does not pay writers, the editor told her. “Frankly,” he added, “because of the mention of money, I will not run it now. Thanks for your interest.”

Salzburg leaned in, as the experts tell women to do. And she was punished for having the temerity to even ask about compensation for her work. Oy.

The ensuing Tweetstorm showed she has plenty of company among independent professionals and in the corporate world too. The challenge for women: “You have to be assertive, yet not too confident, yet apologize for breathing.”

As for me, I did not apologize for breathing. But I did take on an assignment for too-little money.

Oh, I had a litany of reasons for saying yes. It was going to be fascinating work. An opportunity to stretch. I might make some good connections. They’re a non-profit, after all. And I like them.

Are you buying it? My friend Trisha Daho certainly didn’t. She’s a business acceleration consultant and she was having none of my explanations (excuses?) for the low fee. I could have and should have charged about ten times what I did, she said.

Trisha calls that playing small. Which women are prone to do. And which we should stop. Now.

Because people will always pay us less if we let them.

Maybe you’re thinking, “doesn’t apply to me.” You might be surprised at how pervasive the pay differential is.

You’d even find it on eBay. Really.

Inc.’s Kimberly Weisul reported on research into sales on eBay. When it comes to selling brand new items, women’s feedback scores are a bit better than men’s. And they set start prices slightly higher than men do.

And yet – they get paid 19.7% less, on average, than men. For the same exact merchandise.

Yes. Women get fewer bids. And they get lower final prices than equally qualified men selling the same products.

Can we extrapolate from eBay? Probably. The researchers say, “We suspect that even greater divergences are present in other product markets where gender is always known.”

Weisul’s article closes with a call to action: “Women, it’s time to raise your prices.”

So how are we going to do that? A few quick tips (that work for men too!):

  • Do some research. Whether you’re applying for a corporate position or going for a gig in the freelance world, find out what other people are being paid for the same kind of work.

Yes, some are cagey about compensation. But you’ll find websites loaded with salary data. Mentors who can give you some guidance. And mastermind groups willing to share what many regard as “personal” information.

  • Sell yourself. Be ready to tell a prospective client or boss why you’re worth what you’re asking for. Be specific about your results, accomplishments and achievements. (No, that’s not bragging.)
  • Get better at negotiating. Take a class, read a book, and practice. Get comfortable with the back-and-forth of money talk. And do your best not to take any of it personally. Yes, I know how hard that can be. For those of us who aren’t naturally thick-skinned, it takes practice.
  • Know when to say when. Whether it’s full-time employment, a contract job or a freelance assignment, sometimes it’s just not worth it. Settling for less than you should be paid is demoralizing. And it sets you up for lower pay in the next position too.

Plus, there’s just a certain satisfaction in telling someone (politely of course – no need to burn a bridge) that their offer doesn’t meet your requirements.

Remind me of that, will you, next time somebody offers me a fraction of what my work is worth.

And you? Comment below and share your experience and insights. How do you get the dollars you deserve?