By Corbette Doyle and Bill Krueger

What does it take to be great? What a daunting title for a column yet, don’t we all want to know the answer? The best simple answer is, “It depends”—on the career stage you are in, your goals, your accomplishments, where you work, your non-work-related goals, and the support you have for achieving your goals.

So, will this column provide easy answers for achieving greatness? Of course not. On the other hand, we hope to offer food for thought on different ways of framing the issues, hurdles and opportunities confronting you daily because how we frame, or interpret, information has a significant impact on our decision-making process. It influences what information we decide to collect, how we interpret that information and, as a result, the decisions we make. Take, for example, a young woman who has received her first post-college job offer. The firm has offered her a starting salary of $50,000. Should she accept, assuming she wants the position?

This is where the framing comes in. While researchers and politicians can’t seem to agree on whether and/or why an unexplained gender pay gap exists, most would agree that new college graduates should earn comparable starting salaries. Why then does a 2012 study by the AAUW show that just one-year after graduation, women who work full time already earn 7% less than their male counterparts who had the same major, work in the same field, work the same number of hours each week, etc.? Does a 7% gap* matter? Yes! Research by Linda Babcock shows that the starting salary gap alone costs women, on average, $500,000 by age 60.

Since time off for children, fewer hours worked, etc., don’t factor into this early career gap, something(s) else is at work. This is where reframing your perspective comes into play. Do you simply accept a salary offered or do you try and negotiate? What are the risks and rewards of negotiating? Is compensation the only thing you can try and negotiate? What about flexibility, timing of reviews or training opportunities?

The goal of the, “He said, she said,” approach to this column is to encourage you to stop, step back, and think about risks, rewards and options in ways that aren’t second-nature to you. We (Bill and Corbette) bring different experiences and thus very different perspectives to the issue of what holds women back from achieving their career goals. By offering perspectives that contrast and sometimes complement one another, we hope to provide useful insight that will help readers achieve greatness—as they define it.

To ensure our input is relevant, we ask readers to submit questions they are struggling with. You are also welcome to submit questions for our next column on Adopting a Growth Mindset or Anything I can do, I can do better.

About the Authors:
Corbette Doyle launched her dream career as a lecturer at Vanderbilt University after corporate careers as both an intrapreneur and a Fortune 500 global chief diversity officer. William (“Bill”) Krueger is a senior executive with almost 30 years of experience in the automotive industry and a life-long student of leadership practice.

* The gap varies by major and, at 23%, is the highest for computer majors but the 16% gap for business majors is more surprising and of greater concern because women enter this field in numbers equal to men.