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Ask Betsy: Getting Paid What You’re Worth as a Woman in BCM

March 11, 2019 Leave a comment DRI Admin

Both in the Women in BCM – Ask Betsy webinar and live at DRI2019, we encouraged you to send in your burning questions for our presenter, BCM veteran Betsy Sayers, MBCP, and you delivered! We’re pleased to present the next installment in a continuing Q&A series.  

Q: How do you handle the issue of fair pay in our profession? I am a 3-person department as well – me, myself and I – and I do everything. I am under-valued and underpaid. I love what I do, but really would like my pay to reflect what I do.

Betsy: I remember having this problem for several years. When I look back now with the benefit of decades of experience I realize that in those days I was under-valued and underpaid as a result of one of three things.

Turns out, I’ve experienced all three either my company:

  • BCM was seen as an admin support function and not an important service area
  • The executive did not understand how key my role and the program I represented would be in a real event, or
  • Didn’t want to do BCM properly and was only paying lip service to my program and work.

Before knowing what to do next in my effort toward being valued and paid properly, I needed to figure out which one of these was at play.

If my company really didn’t want to do BCM properly it was simple – I needed to move on.

If BCM was seen as an admin support function and not an important service area I needed to delve deeper into why they thought that and expand their understanding of BCM. An important first step was simple – I stopped calling it BCP! This was not an administrative job of putting together a big report that would sit on a shelf. I needed to convince them that this was a due diligence related essential change to how we do business. Was I 100% successful? Of course not. But I did make a lot of progress, including advancing my career from team leader to manager to Director of IT Security & Continuity Management.

I think one of the major challenges we face is that BCM is intangible ‘until you need it’ and many companies will never need it. The expression ‘Plan for the worst and pray it never happens’ is basically what we are asking our companies to do. We are not operational – we don’t manufacture widgets or provide a service directly to our customers that enhance the corporate bottom line. So unless you are in a highly regulated industry, our program is not viewed as an ‘operational’ necessity.

A strong BCM professional is typically a highly organized individual with above average competency in soft-skills (e.g., verbal and written communications; data analysis; problem solving; etc.). Candidates who most often have the training, experience and interest in this line of work developed their skills not on the factory floor or in the computer room, but through a Business Administration degree or equivalent work experience. The days of thinking only ex-cops and physical security staff could do this are long gone.

More and more often women are shifting into BCM from an administrative background. Given the above intangible nature of BCM and the challenges we women face daily related to gender intelligence, no wonder we have a problem.

I believe there is a real challenge for us because we came up through the administrative support side of our organization rather than the operational side. Especially if you are still in the same company – it was tough for people who worked with me for years as their admin procurement person to suddenly wake up the day after I won the competition and know how to treat me as the new manager of data center operations!

It has been my experience that trying to explain it didn’t work…but exercises worked wonders! I created exercise scenarios designed to demonstrate the value of BCM and my role as EOC Manager during an event. These exercises provided the opportunity for my executive to realize the ‘consequence of error’ associated with my function and just how reliant on me they were. I even added an inject related to a media story where there was negative reporting that in most companies this job was under the authority of a VP or Senior Manager, while at our company the health and safety of employees in this tragic situation was assigned to  a junior staffer.

I’m not suggesting you add this inject to your next exercise! I was at a point of no return – I had another job offer and was on my way out the door anyway and decided to at least leave with a clear conscience that I had exposed their reputational vulnerability.  Maybe it would make things better for the next person.

The exercise scenario clearly displayed the important role that the BCM professional plays before, during and after an emergency event that was not tragic. It became very clear to players at all levels of the organization that this was not an administrative support role and while not our typical operational service, it was an important and essential due diligence requirement to do it properly.

To my surprise my boss and I were called into the CIO’s office, he expressed deep concern for the gaps identified during the exercise and tasked us with providing recommendations for improvement within 30 days. Needless to say, one of the recommendations was that BCM needed to be led by a manager (increased profile, position level and pay). That didn’t mean I automatically got the job, I had to enter and win competition for it, but it did make change happen.

If I had not walked them through the scenario using an exercise, I’m sure I would still be trying to convince them today.

Good luck Gwen, hope there is a piece of this answer that will help…Betsy