Expert on the gender wage gap

Meet Olivia Jaras Founder of Salary Coaching for Women

Meet Olivia Jaras Founder of Salary Coaching for Women, she is an internationally recognized expert on the gender wage gap and salary negotiations for women and considered one of the tops resume experts in the United States, author of the book "Know Your Worth, Get Your Worth: Salary Negotiation for Women".

Who is Olivia Jaras? define yourself

This is a really interesting question. Usually winning Define themselves as a mom, wife, and friend before they go into defining who THEY are. I am a woman  with dreams and Ambitions of making a difference in this world. I'm also a mom, wife and a good friend. I love living in the middle of the woods with the family, my three golden retrievers and two cats. I'm a very outgoing person, but I like having my little escape far from any major city.  I do a lot of traveling for work and workshops, and I love it, but home is where I come to re-energize myself.

I’m quite health-conscious but not obsessive. I enjoy Cross Fit, I try to make it to class at least four times a week. I'm a very big proponent of self-care and making sure that I take care of myself.  I find that is my glass is half empty, there isn't much to go around for sharing or helping others. My life (and I would argue that this is the same reality for most women out there)  is very giving intensive, and I find that I can't give if I don't take care of myself first.

How were you as a kid?

I've always enjoyed people and making friends. I always tried to get everyone on my side. I was a little on the hefty side, which played a number on my self-esteem. I had an overall good childhood, but my dad got sick very early on and was forced to travel abroad with my mother a lot, so I dropped and it was quite lonely. This is when I relied heavily on my friends very early on, I realized the value in building a very strong friend- support network.

"We have a gender pay Gap primarily because of women don't know their worth even if they do, they don't know how to ask for it"

You have a Bachelor's degree in International Relations, Latin American Studies & Economic Development at Tufts University and also 2 Master degrees, one in Business Administration (M.B.A.) and another one in International Affairs, Latin American Economic Development, why did you decide to study all of that? 

I thought that the degrees would lead to an improvement in my self-worth and how the job market perceived me. To be honest, I was never book smart in school I struggled with getting acceptable grades. Going to get additional degrees (I thought) would somehow make me smarter and lose that chip on my shoulder. It took me eight years of higher education to realize that if you don't understand that self-worth MUST  come from within, it doesn't matter how many acronyms you have after your name, you will still feel just as insecure as you did the day you walked into the workforce as an undergraduate.

Eventually, I realized fat that chip on my shoulder I always spend because I was trying to do something that wasn't me, that I wasn't equipped to perfection for doing. Einstein's quote comes to mind here: “If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life thinking it was stupid.”

You speak Spanish and for your studies, it seems you are very into Latin America economy, is there any particular reason?

Well I grew up in Chile, and  I always had a front-row seat to inequality in Latin America,  but not on the losing side. I was born blond and an auditory capability that allows me to pick up accents very easily. So though my first language is Spanish, you would never be able to tell since I sound completely American. I also worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC, which opened my eyes to the realities of many other countries in Latin America and how hard the struggle is for them. So I got a free pass while growing up  in Chile, and then I got a free pass on being racially judged when I moved here to the US... Because I blend it in so easily. I don't take my love for granted, and I realized that to whom much is given much is asked of. I may be on a goal to close the gender pay gap on a global scale, but my sisters in Latin America will always have a soft spot in my heart.

You have worked as Market Pricing Analyst, Investment Analyst, Research Assistant and you were ICDF Budget & Project Coordinator at Inter-American Development Bank, Senior Compensation Analyst at Dartmouth College, how did you jump from that point to found your company Salary Coaching for Women?

I love sharing the story. You see I came across once an article by Sheryl Sandberg on the gender wage gap and how we should be blaming companies and government regulations. it infuriated me. Here I was working as a senior compensation analyst and I was being completely unbiased when it came to setting salaries. There were many company policies in place for me to ensure that I remain neutral, and there were also plenty of government regulations to enforce this as well.

So I took it upon myself to prove but there was no such thing as a gender wage gap, going through the thousands of salaries that I have set oh, and having hundreds of conversations, it eventually became obvious that there was a gap, but not because of the reasons most people thought we had it. It wasn't due to a lack of government regulations or company policies.  We have a gender pay Gap primarily because women don't know their worth even if they do, they don't know how to ask for it.  The realization of this kept me up at night,  I understood how to solve it, and it pained me to see that nothing was being done about it… eventually, it just felt right. It was my time to step into my true calling. I left my job to start Salary Coaching for Women.

"The confidence to succeed is a muscle that you need to build every day. Being resilient, it's willing to dust yourself off and get back up again when things don't work out the first time around"

For the people who don't know, can you explain exactly what services your company offers and what does it make unique?

Right now, I travel all over the world teaching workshops for companies and organizations showing their women how to advocate for themselves and negotiate for what they deserve. I teach them how to put their finger back on the pulse of their relevant career Market. But I also  lead a mastermind of roughly 270 women. This is a community where women who are not willing to settle for anything less than a meaningful and lucrative career come home.  Women who realize that they spend way too many hours working for them to not be incredibly passionate about their job. They come to us knowing that they are settling and want more. In this private group is where I spend my time these days if I am not on the road. I love my girls and it's my way of being able to serve a bigger audience. You can check out more details

You are a world-acclaimed salary negotiation expert, author of the book "Know Your Worth, Get Your Worth: Salary Negotiation for Women", gender gap expert, international speaker, one of the top 10 resume experts in the USA. What´s the recipe of your success?

Thank you for the accolades, but what people don't see behind success is that it comes in the heels of a lot of failed attempts. The confidence to succeed is a muscle that you need to build every day. Being resilient, it's willing to dust yourself off and get back up again when things don't work out the first time around,  it's taking rejection and using it as fuel to try harder next time, it's getting back up when you know all the odds are against you. Long term success doesn't come to the lazy or those who approach life with trepidation. I don't know if it is such a thing as a recipe as much as it is a secret that lies in plain sight come on but not many take advantage of it:  Life rewards you handsomely for taking action and deciding to believe that you are meant for greatness.

 What is the reality of your day-to-day?

To me it's really about living the quality of life that allows me to take advantage of every day that I'm fortunate enough to see. I'm usually up at 4:30 and by default. It's been years since I had an alarm clock- but my cause and passion for what I do wake me up.

I usually, write my monthly mastermind packs at this hour (the ones I snail-mail every month to our members). Then at around 6:30, I do our morning routine with my kiddos and school drop-off. Most mornings I will then head over to the gym workout, even if I don't want to go. After working out I hangout and the spa  for a little bit (remember I make TLC a priority)  and come back home to my home where I built my Office/ Recording Studio to continue working. Then I pick up a micro dose at around 5 and enjoy life here in the middle of the woods. I'm usually in bed asleep by 9:30 p.m. Now admittedly, I travel a lot to teach workshops, media events or do keynote speeches, when I'm in event mode, I’m all in.  It's not a particularly glamorous life, but it's the lifestyle that I've designed for myself and family… and quite honestly, it fills me to the brim.

"The confidence to succeed is a muscle that you need to build every day. Being resilient, it's willing to dust yourself off and get back up again when things don't work out the first time around"

Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?

I'm not afraid to fail, nor am I willing to give up my dream. And everything that is beyond my genius zone, can probably outsource to someone who is better than me at it.

What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?

I love what I do because I'm good at it. I love being able to identify the inner genius in others and show them how they can capitalize on it in the workforce. The most difficult part is disconnecting. Taking vacation is hard because I don't want to be disconnected from what I do. It's such an important part of my life and it brings so much meaning to it. But it's easy to get wrapped up and forget that I have a life outside of Salary Coaching as well.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?      

Don't give up.  “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? 

Outsourcing what’s beyond my zone of genius.

As an expert negotiator, what are the reasons is so difficult for women to ask for a raise or thrive as they deserve?

Self-doubt and our innate ability to focus on multiple things at any given point in time. A man can mono-focus, so when it comes down to negotiating it's all about just negotiating.  For women, we go in thinking it's about negotiating, it's about my family, are they going to like me or not after I asked, what if I don't get it did I leave the oven on, who's doing kid pick up today am I properly dressed for this, but I really deserve this, probably not, I shouldn't be here asking anyway, at least I tried, if I think about it I earned enough they're never going to give me that amount it's too much, I'm so stressed out I don't need this anymore maybe I should just quit, but I deserve more, after putting my kids through college…  and so on.

What are the do and don'ts in a negotiation?

The only don't in a negotiation is not be prepared. As for what to do in actual negotiations I have a lot of strategies and techniques, and I could spend all day talking about them but suffice to say that you already have all the tools inside of you just by being born a woman.  I would be happy to share with your readers some tools and tricks, just have them email me at and we will hook you up.

"Surround yourself with those who truly support you and constantly nurture your dream. There will be times when your dream needs to take a backseat to life, but never start believing in it"

What do you like to do in your spare time?

It depends on the season, but right now, in my spare time you will find me building mountain bike trails on our property for my kids. Or listening to a good book while I work around the house.

Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once,  others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all,  you are married with 2 daughters so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?

I think women place unrealistic expectations on themselves if they want to please the expectations of others. I think that if you strive to be the very best version of yourself you will achieve a good balance -by your internal definition. You will be satisfied with yourself, and those who choose to stick around you will also be satisfied. It doesn't take away that you will inevitably feel pressure from the outside world to comply with societal expectations, but once you realize that it's external pressure and not a true measure personal fulfillment, you can get over those expectations pretty quickly.

At the end of the day, life is about you, your experience in this world and the Legacy you leave. I think it's your responsibility to fulfill whatever that means to you and nobody else.  So if being a full-time mom, or a full-time a career woman who opted to never have kids,  or a woman who wants to juggle both at the same time, this is fantastic, just as long as you are doing it because you are energized and fulfilled by doing it.  And how do you know if you're doing this for yourself or others? It's pretty easy. If you feel depleted by everything that you are juggling, that's a sign that something isn't in line with your true self. Yes at times juggling many things can be tiring, and downright exhausting, but at the end of the day, you will still feel fulfilled by all of it.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are for a future where there is no gender wage gap. My mission in this world is to build a movement where women take back the responsibility of learning what they deserve and stop settling for mediocre. I’m nowhere near done.

There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?

Absolutely yes. The thing is all too often people think that women face the glass ceiling only in the c-suite.  I have a couple of stories to share, but I'd like to share this one to make my point:  At the time when I was working for the inter-American Development Bank, my boss hired an intern that reported to me... end even though I had an MBA and a master's degree in Economic Development (both degrees which were highly relevant to my position), my boss decided that it was fair to pay the center ( who had not yet completed his undergraduate degree) $200 per month less than what I was earning. When I went to lean in and advocate for myself he figuratively kicked me out of his office, scolding me for being so ungrateful. He warned me but next time I attempted to bring this up, I would find me out of a job. Needless to say, I did not get a raise.

Everybody has had dark moments in their lives, what have you done to get out of that phase?

I've had plenty. As most women have. Including when my dad died, when my brother (and best friend died) or when my husband was deployed in Iraq.  I think my way of getting out of the dark moments has always been to think that life is happening for me, not to me.  There's a reason why everything happens the way it does. We may not understand it as it is happening but in the grand scheme of things every experience is grooming you for that one day when it's your turn to shine. All of the grief and hardship I’ve faced in my life have made me incredibly resilient. And if anything I attribute my ability to help other women to the fact that I have hit rock bottom in multiple instances and figured out how to get back on the saddle. Truthfully, resilience has served me way better than any of those graduate degrees, not only to overcome the tough spells in my life but also to be able to empathize with others and help them overcome their dark moments.

"I'm a self-proclaimed realist and I think it's the time that women acknowledge their responsibility and earning what they deserve. Truth be told, being assertive, direct and uncompromising is the old way of negotiating"

What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become an entrepreneur like you?

I can leave you with 1 golden nugget of advice:  The fact that you are breathing and reading these words right now means that you are incredibly lucky to be alive. It also means that your work here is not done. if you are a young woman, it also probably means embarked on your journey two contributing to this world that one thing that you were meant to bring to life. Nobody can tell you what that one thing is. It's something you already know in the depths of your heart what your calling is. Nobody can tell you what it is.

Know that not every step towards the greatest version of you and your gift will not be a direct step forward, oftentimes it'll be a side step that will give you further insights and lessons on your way to greatness... at times the things you are compelled and called to do won't make sense, but as long as you follow your heart,  hindsight will be 20/20 and you will be able to connect the dots when you look back and say “I  see why it all happened the way it did…”. Surround yourself with those who truly support you and constantly nurture your dream. There will be times when your dream needs to take a backseat to life, but never start believing in it. Remind yourself of all the people who are struggling because you have yet to manifest your vision.  Always remember: If not you then who?

I think in your position, many people may have the wrong the idea of who you are (personally),  and what do you (professionally),  with this idea in mind, what is being Olivia and what's not?

I think oftentimes some people who don't know me are intimidated by me, but I am a very genuine person, and as soon as they get a little closer, they start to realize but I'm a very warm and approachable human being. Sometimes people will think I am a staunch feminist, someone who preaches that women need to be assertive, direct and uncompromising. But that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a self-proclaimed realist and I think it's time that women acknowledge their responsibility and earning what they deserve. truth be told, being assertive, direct and uncompromising is the old way of negotiating. Women have way better tools in that in their tool kit just by being born in a female body, regardless of gender. They just need a little guidance on how to use these tools.

Who is the woman you admire the most and why?

First would be my mother, because she is so incredibly resilient. Life has thrown her curveball after curveball yet she always gets back up. She has sent an incredible example for myself and my family. The second woman whom I admire the most would be Oprah Winfrey. She is hands down the best negotiator of all time

Name: Olivia Jaras

Sector: Coaching

Company: Salary Coaching for Women

Designation: Founder

Country: The USA/Worldwide

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