HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Like many women throughout the week, Elizabeth Smith heads to work. The only difference is that her office is at her kitchen table.
She owns her own marketing business called Space Bunny Designs
Before striking out on her own, Smith spent more than 20 years in the corporate world of advertising and marketing.
"I've won several Addy awards. I've won marketing awards for the International Shopping Center Organization," said Smith.
At the time, the numerous accolades never quite added up financially. Her rude awakening came during an event involving some of her male counterparts.
"Everybody would say 'oh well I got this bonus' or 'I got that bonus' or 'I've got this much of a raise,' and I began to notice that their raises were more than I would make in six months. I went to my boss and said, 'there's a problem here'," said Smith.
Many women experience the same problem, not being paid what they're worth. They want a raise, but don't know how to go about it, especially in a down economy.
So how can women get more money in their pockets? Here are some do's and don'ts from area experts, starting with doing your homework before heading to the negotiation table.
"Do some research and see what people in the industry make and kind of do some homework on what people in the company make, and then evaluate yourself and see what you've done to increase your worth to the company," said Greg Bragg, Jr., owner of Consolidated Construction.
Experts also say it's important to be prepared.
"I'm very impressed when someone has actually prepared and said this is what I'm interested in and I'd like your help on how to achieve it," said Andrea Rosler, Huntsville Hospital human resources vice president
They caution against making an ultimatum.
"Never give an ultimatum. If you go in and say give me a raise or I'm going to have to leave, then you're probably leaving," said Stephanie Sellers, program director at the Women's Business Center of North Alabama.
Another business owner suggests being proactive.
"I expect you to come with your A-game. I expect for you to be a stellar employee. First of all, being aware of what you bring to the table, not nickel and diming," said Valerie Rowan, owner of Bodyology.
But it's important to be realistic.
"Don't come if you've missed too many days. Don't come if you've been late. Don't come if you haven't done the job," said Archie Jefferson, owner of J's Special Event Center.
Looking back, Elizabeth Smith says she would have handled things differently years ago when she approached her boss for more money.
"I would have been more informed with what was happening in our state that I was living in at the time, what women were making," said Smith.
While the salary gap between men and women has narrowed since then, the ultimate dream for many women remains the same.
"Just to be paid equally. I think is what we all want," said Smith.