I keep reading stuff about how women don’t negotiate for more money. Apparently, we don’t ask for raises. We definitely don’t ask for signing bonuses. At first, I thought it was just a myth. There are plenty of women who do these things! Tons! Right? Who’s with me? Strong women who demand more money? Are you there?
I’m beginning to wonder if I’m wrong.
I have a friend who recently, after a long, miserable year of searching and prepping and sneaking out early to interviews, got a job making double what she did before. She left a work environment that at times sounded downright abusive for one where she’s comfortable and her ideas are valued. She asked for a certain salary, and was granted it. Hell yeah.
But that is, um, the only case like that I can think of.
And she is also a girl with hair that is so lustrous it might actually be emitting light, who is slender and gorgeous and also, magically, has really full breasts. So maybe she’s the exception?
I’m getting worried. Because I know I’m not the exception. When someone offers to pay me, I get all sweaty and excited and nervous and I’m crossing my fingers and praying that they don’t change their mind and I’m nodding and grinning and thanking them a lot. The last thing I want to do is mess it up. Recently, I was asked to name a price for an essay that someone wanted to publish, and I went through about forty-five minutes of agonizing deliberations that sounded (in my head) a little like this:
So do I start high? Then we can negotiate down, but I’ll look like an idiot if it’s too high. Worse, I’ll look really cocky. I’ll look totally obnoxious. She’ll hate me. And then she’ll change her mind. But I shouldn’t start too low, because that would be wimpy. And women are supposed to ask for more money. And I’m a strong woman. OK, I’m not a strong woman. Shit. I should go for the middle. What’s the middle? Does anyone know what the middle is?
I figured out the middle, based on other freelancing I’ve done, and I asked for that. It seemed fair.
“So what’d you ask for?” asked Bear.
I told him.
“Sounds really low,” he said. “Why didn’t you ask for more?”
I explained that it didn’t seem fair. I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to take advantage of them.
He looked at me uncomprehendingly.
(what I asked for. source)
(should I have asked for this? source)
And then I remembered this little story:
When Bear got his first real job, right out of college, he asked for a big signing bonus. At least, the number sounded really big to me. He said it wasn’t that big. It was more standard, and in retrospect he thought he should’ve asked for more.
“What?!” I said, stunned. “Why didn’t they just call it off?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, didn’t you look really cocky and greedy and stuff?”
He smiled. I think he likes being called cocky. He explained that he was pretty sure at the time that if he didn’t ask for a signing bonus it would make him look insecure and weak. It would make him look like he didn’t trust his own ability.
What ability? He had just graduated college! He had NO EXPERIENCE in his new field.
Can you tell that this story blows my mind?
And the fact that it blows my mind is a problem. The fact that negotiating for more money makes me feel slightly ill is a problem.
At my first real job, a tutoring position, I got paid a third of what the other teachers were making for three years before I realized and spoke up. The organization wasn’t try to screw me, they’d simply forgotten about me. And even then, when I finally brought it up with my boss, I was terrified and trembling. He said, “Oh, of course!” I thanked him a lot.
I don’t want to be this way. I want to be a strong woman who knows her own worth.
But also, I just got fired from my last gig for talking back to a man.
And a friend of mine recently sent me this article in the Atlantic which talks about some of the reasons why women don’t negotiate for more money at work. The main reason is that they get punished for it, because everyone thinks they’re too pushy and stuff. This makes me feel like ranting. It also makes me feel confused (which seems to be a theme with many ranting people ). Like, OK, so what now?
I don’t want to be a failed strong woman. But please don’t tell me that the world isn’t ready for successful ones. That would be…Wow. That would be so bad.
Is it really already that bad?
* * *
Have you ever negotiated for more money at work? Tell me strong woman stories! Have you ever totally wimped out and sweated a lot instead?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in an off-the-shoulder shirt.
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