WOMEN MAKING WAVES: Ruzana Glaeser

Women Making Waves is a bi-monthly series by The Women Wave that spotlights badass women who are playing active roles in making waves in their communities.

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Here at The Women Wave, we believe in the power of sisterhood and the importance of lifting up each other’s voices -- which is why we’re honored to feature someone who has dedicated her life’s work to just that. Introducing Ruzana Glaeser, the co-founder of Bright Meets Brave, a website that serves as a community to empower women and enlighten men on struggles women are faced with daily. 

Ruzana’s powerful story of coming to the US from Russia on a scholarship to study reminds us of the wonderful opportunities this country affords and how it’s on all of us to continue making it a better place for all of us. Now, with her partner Karina Selfeld, she’s created a space for women to connect through their own stories of bravery, resilience, strength, and power.

Ruzana is a successful sourcing professional whose expertise lies in negotiations and relationship management. She has experience working for manufacturing and retail companies, in the US and abroad, for large corporations as well as small privately held firms. Aside from the busy business world, she feeds her passion for empowering women through researching, blogging, mentoring, and connecting. We’re so happy to collaborate with her for #WomenMakingWaves.

Read her insightful Q&A with us below!

What was the last fear you conquered?

It’s important to acknowledge that having fears is natural. We are hard-wired to have that feeling as it helps us identify potentially dangerous situations and triggers our mind and body into ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response that can be critical to survival. 

I have a fear of rejection; always had, and it’ll always remain to a degree. Conquering our fears doesn’t mean we no longer have them, it means we are aware of them and proceed regardless. Don’t waste your energy on eliminating whatever fear you have, rather strive to do things in spite of it.

There is one quote I refer to often: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” and I have recently read a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that described just how I feel about the place of fear in life: “Fear should always have an opinion, a say, in what’s happening. But its proper place is in the backseat, buckled up tight and along for the ride. It doesn’t get to navigate and it sure as hell doesn’t get to drive.”

What advice do you have for women who experience financial anxiety or feel powerless when it comes to money?

Societal norms take a long time to break, and women in most western societies are still associated with nurturing and supporting roles. Men are associated with money and leadership. Therefore, it’s understandable when women struggle to equate their worth to dollar signs or dig into financial management and investments. It can be overwhelming to think about everything there is to know about how to manage your finances. I encourage women to become comfortable with uncomfortable, because not speaking up and not asking for what we deserve only hurts our financial health! And our financial health is closely tied to our mental and physical well-being as well. We need to have all 3 in order to be healthy and we mustn’t continually put any of them off until later. We must take care of us first. 

As far as financial anxiety – start small! Take one thing that’s tied to your finances and focus on improving that. Tackling one thing at a time will give you confidence and strength to continue conquering bigger financial opportunities. My advice: start small, and celebrate your wins! I find that when we focus on one thing and develop a plan, our anxieties subside. 

What’s the biggest mistake people make when negotiating a raise or promotion?

The biggest mistake is lack of preparation. If your preparation process didn’t leave you exhausted, then you haven’t done enough of it. I firmly believe in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When you are well prepared for negotiations, then nothing can throw you off your game. You know what you are worth, you have gone through your assumptions and answered the questions you wish you wouldn’t be asked. You have gone through perspective-taking exercise of evaluating your ask from your manager’s perspective to find gaps in your argument. When you walk into negotiations and you are prepared, you find the process to be rather smooth. But that kind of execution only comes from intense preparation. Women tend to spend a lot of time on finding the courage to ask, and not so much on preparing a bullet-proof content. 

How do you determine your worth / value?

I am glad you asked, because it’s actually a rather painless process. There are 3 things

that we must consider when we determine our worth: market value, your value and potential.

Market value – what is the current market rate for somebody in a similar role, similar geography and industry. I recommend utilizing not just one, but a few tools such as Glassdoor’s appropriately named “Know Your Worth” tool, PayScale’s “What am I Worth” tool, or Paysa’s “Analyze Your Worth” All these tools take into account your level of education, years of experience, geography, industry, management experience and many other factors that are all relevant inputs in determining your worth. I recommend doing all three of these assessments (or more) to have a better gauge! Take the average of the three, and that’s your market value.

 Your value – the guideline I use is: hard numbers, soft skills. Think of your accomplishments in the past; if you are in IT- how many projects did you deliver on time and on budget; if you are in Marketing – how many campaigns did you lead, and what was the impact; if you are in Sourcing – how were you able to improve supplier performance or what cost savings were you able to deliver. Numbers don’t lie, so think of objective things that you have accomplished. And then think about soft skills that we all must possess to be effective leaders. It’s been proven that women score higher on most leadership soft skills, such as: taking initiative, resilience, developing others, collaboration, advocating change, motivating others, etc. Think of specific examples where your soft skills played a critical role in success. 

Finally, Potential – look at your mindset, ambition and grit. Every company values high potentials, and many hiring managers will make salary decisions based on potential, so don’t overlook this critical piece. Do you have the growth mindset that fosters future learning, agility, and adaptability? Do you have the drive to reach certain stretch goals? Do you have the resilience to continue when going gets tough and ability to critically think in environments that are constantly changing? 

I leave you with these two facts to motivate every woman to figure out what her worth is:

1. There is a direct relationship between what one perceives they are worth and their salary.

2. Those who are able to self-value fare far better in mental health and success…

To remember how to assess your worth, I have come up with this mnemonic: Market

Your Potential (Market value, Your value, Potential value)

What inspires you about the moment we’re living in?

 I grew up in Russia, I lived there until I was 15. Coming to the United States was a dream come true for me, when I won a US government scholarship to finish high school here. I was fortunate enough to be placed with a host family that helped me come up with a plan of how to get into college as a foreign student. I have always viewed the US as a country of opportunities, where people can overcome adversity regardless of their upbringing and class. I come from a very poor family; when I left Russia my sister and I not only shared a room, but we shared a couch. My prospects in Russia were rather dim, there was no way I would be able to attend college, so my options were to find a husband who would support me and have kids. 

Coming to the US, being able to attend college here, opened my eyes to two things: 

1. You need to be comfortable with uncomfortable; and today it’s perfectly acceptable for us, women, to ask! We have the resources at hand to get information quickly from all corners of the country and the world. If you have any obstacles, in today’s world you have the tools to overcome those obstacles. It might not be easy, but you have access to people, and people are willing to help if you ask!

2. Support! There is no shortage in availability and ease of access to platforms that focus on women empowerment. We have role models (although still quite few) in politics and business of successful women, and representation matters. We have strong females who are eager to be mentors, sponsors, connectors. There is power in numbers, and here and now females are bonding together to help each other up.

You can follow Bright Meets Brave on Instagram here!

Xo,

Sterling & Tricia