women asking for money

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.

 

48 Comments »

Kate on December 5th 2011 in fear, life, work

48 Responses to “women asking for money”

  1. Tara responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    After a year at my first job out of law school, I asked for a substantial raise. I deserved it and I needed it. I was TERRIFIED. It didn’t help that I worked for two male partners who, to this day, have horrible management styles. I got most of what I wanted, but with increased billing requirements that just got worse over the next few years. I kept asking for and got raises, but it was ALWAYS the most worrisome thing I did all year. I recently quit and am going for my dream job instead which will pay me so little I will likely qualify for reduced income “luxury” housing and I’ll never repay my loans. (Side to everyone: don’t you want your assistant district attorneys to make more than babysitters?) But I don’t care.

    Anyway, asking for a raise IS a sign of a strong woman, and I’m glad I did it, especially for a job that wasn’t fulfilling in any other way.

  2. Joanne responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I got rejected from lots of job in the job search process (I’m sure many have), so by the time I secured a good position, I didn’t want to mess it up by negotiating a number that was too high. When my current company gave me an offer, they let me give a number for a salary first which helped a lot. Still felt like I had to justify my number..

  3. jeanie responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Yep, I’ve asked for more, and I’ve routinely gotten smacked for it. I’m not sure whether my being a woman plays into it. People use the recession as an excuse. “We can’t afford to pay _anyone_ that kind of money. Would you still be willing to do the job if we paid you less than that?” I have to say yes, because I have to make money, even if it’s just enough to squeak along with nothing left over to put in my savings account. But I get really, really pissed off about it. And I wonder if I’d have better results if I changed my tone and demanded more money, or actually started saying “no” sometimes. I’m afraid to do that. I am so bad at confrontation and negotiation.
    Thank you for writing about money. I’m looking forward to seeing other comments on this, because this issue is huge for me and I can’t seem to gain any ground!

  4. caro responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I’ve done the negotiating thing twice. Once, when I wanted to be relocated. The second time when I was offered a new job. Both times I got what I wanted. But here was the kicker: Both times I had another offer on the table.

    For my new job, they offered me a certain amount of money. I said I had to think about it. My old job did not match monetarily, but gave me everything else I asked for. I went back to the new job and said, hey, I really want to take this, but I’m getting a lot of resistance from old job. You could make this easier for me by giving me X amount more.

    They did, and I took it. That move effectively increased my salary by 75%. Mind-boggling. I went from scraping by day to day, living paycheck to paycheck… to living comfortably.

    Another story like this: I had a friend who made almost no money at an old job. She jumped to a new job that paid her marginally more, and realized she hated it. So she looked for other jobs, and hopped to one that paid much higher. And then, six months later, hopped to another one that paid even more than that. Now, a year and a half after she quit the original job, she makes over three times what she made there. In a year and a half. All because she was brave enough to keep pushing when she was unsatisfied, and charmed everyone she met along the way. She’s highly competent, knows how to market herself, and knows how to ask for what she wants. The last job that now pays her more than 3X what she originally made? THEY recruited HER, because her reputation as being incredibly good at what she did preceded her. Then, because she didn’t want to move so soon after taking yet another job, she got them to increase the salary as incentive.

    I think the takeaway here is that the best place to negotiate for more money is one of privilege–you have to have better options to choose from, and/or you can’t be desperate or needy. You have to project the idea that you’re hot shit.

    Which, btw Kate… you are. These people should be so lucky to have you write for them. Don’t forget it!

  5. Jess responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I know that personally, as a woman who has been fired and taken it a little personally, as a woman who is in an arts-related field, as a woman who feels she has too little experience for anything worthwhile, asking for more money definitely makes me feel sick to my stomach. Part of me feels I haven’t earned it– thats why the places that I know pay better won’t even look at me. Part of me feels I don’t deserve it– I’m just going to screw up and get fired again, right? And what if screwing up is asking for more money? Part of me *knows* they just don’t have it– it’s the curse of the arts. But when I end up doing a job that required testing (timed! with pen and paper!) at its interview and not just chatting to find out if I’m a nice girl and make a lower hourly than I did in retail, I can’t help feeling cheated. And am reluctant to go anywhere else in this barren economy because I don’t think there’s more out there for a girl like me. What to do?

  6. Marti responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    It is easier to negotiate if you are willing to walk away from the table. So start practicing your negotiating skills with something you can walk away from. From there, move on to things you only care a little about. When you have built up those negotiating muscles, then you can negotiate with confidence for things you really want.

    And the key to feeling good about a negotiation is finding a way to seem to give something to the other party so that they don’t feel stomped on. Oh, and always ask for something more than you want in order to give the other party room to maneuver downwards while you maneuver upwards.

    It’s a game. You can’t be afraid to play the game.

  7. Grace responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Oh lordy. Kate, how timely your posts tend to be!! I just asked for money to work just the other day. I’ve been playing for free for the past year (in the name of “exposure” and “playing big gigs with big names!” dur.) This latest one required about an hour and a half set with just a weeks notice, so my live-in man-friend encouraged me to ask them to pay me. I got so sweaty writing the e-mail…but in the end, I feel it was worth it. You’re so right–as strong, modern ladies, we need to ask for what we’re worth!!

  8. Marti responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    And for freelance work, have a set price for your work. Period. For everybody. Your work is worth some fixed amount. It should never be negotiable downward. I was a freelance photographer for many years, and had an hourly price and a job price. Take it or leave it. And I priced my work high. I figured, why work myself to death doing a lot of little cheap jobs, when for the same money, I can do just one? hahaha

  9. Sarah responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I agree with Caro–to negotiate successfully, you probably have to start off having the upper hand. I was able to negotiate up my currently salary because I was recruited for the job, so I had the upper hand in being able to walk away from the offer and I could remind them that they knew I was great for this job and thus worth the money.

    A few years ago when I got a promotion, I tried to make a case that I deserved more than the standard 5% raise, but I got rejected. One of my colleagues recently tried to make the case to her manager that she deserved a raise and got rejected. It seems that if management knows that you’re not going to quit if you don’t get a raise, they won’t give it to you. But at the same time, I feel like it’s worth it for women to speak up when they think they need to be paid more even if it’s unlikely to happen. We have to work on breaking the norm that women are content to earn less.

  10. Katharine Lilley responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    This is kind of a lame story but it has stuck with me. It’s also a wimpy story! I got a job at an inbound call center for a cell phone company when I was pregnant with my first child. In our training group when we all got hired on the interviewer had us fill out some sheet that included what hourly amount we were willing to start out at. The lowest was $9/hour, the highest was $11/hour, if I remember correctly. So I put $10, thinking it was fair. Thinking there would be some kind of negotiation. Thinking we were somehow individuals for this company. But this guy in my training group put $9 and this other girl put $11 and we all simply recieved our starting rate accordingly. That guy and I felt really stupid and pissed off that we didn’t go for the highest amount offered. What did that girl have that we didn’t? Nothing except balls.

  11. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    @Tara
    Good for you!! I love that you made yourself ask, every time. And yes, I want you to make more than a babysitter.

  12. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    @Sarah
    I think this is part of my problem. Most of the time, I don’t feel like I have the upper hand. I’m a tiny little writer, competing against, hmm… approximately a gillion tiny little writers, and then there are plenty of us who are willing to do the piece for free (I’ve been there, last year, when I first started doing this kind of thing).

    But actually, I’ve noticed that this blog is one of the things I’m ballsy about. When advertisers I don’t like contact me, I say no. When I negotiate for stuff involving it, I am more confident. I made this thing, and I believe in it.

    Other than that, I’m a wuss.

  13. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    @Katharine Lilley
    NOT a lame story. A very, very pointed story. Perfect.

  14. Carol Hess responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Wince! You’ve hit a nerve, Kate. I could have written the exact same inner dialogue as you did. Truly. This really is a woman’s issue — just look how Bear reacted, and I’m willing to bet his reaction was fairly standard for a man.

    I have no words of wisdom on this subject. Even though I have my own business, I still sweat peppermints over the whole money issue. I guess my rule of thumb is “State a figure that is high enough to make you uncomfortable but not so high you’re going to pass out.”

    When I was working for a big US corporation in Denmark, I discovered that my colleague made a good bit more than I did, despite the fact I had a much tougher job than she. How did I know her job was easier? Because I did her job AND mine when she was on maternity leave (and got paid not one extra penny by the way).

    So I went to the powers that be and made my case. I wanted the same salary as her — I had more education, more responsibility, more work, and more bosses. Plus I spoke much better Danish. (She wasn’t Danish either.) Granted, she had been there a couple of years longer than me, so that’s why I wasn’t asking to make more than her, just the same. Seemed very reasonable to me. (A man would have asked for much more than his colleague made and walked if they didn’t give it to him.)

    Their only response was to ask me how I had found out what my colleague made. I wasn’t supposed to have that information. That’s why they had a policy that employees were not to discuss salaries with each other. Yeah, no kidding. I would have that policy too if I was screwing people as effectively as they were screwing me.

    I finally did get a raise, but it took a long time. And I never did end up making as much or more than my colleague. About 6 months after I left the corporation, the head of personnel told me she had had to hire 3 people to replace me. Great. I asked her when I could expect a check for the back pay they owed me. I’m still waiting — it’s been 25 years.

  15. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    @Carol
    AAAAAAAGGGHHHHHH!!!!! WHYYYYY??
    (This is my first response to your post. I am angry at this corporation)

    You speak Danish? That is really, really cool.
    (This is my second)

  16. Diana responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    She is my best friend from high school. Smart, talented, and cute. She worked for a company for 15 years, then decided she wanted something new for herself after her divorce.

    Her reputation in her field was stellar, and she did a ballsy thing – negotiated her Very High Raise with a brand new company, asked for work-from-home status, asked for all expenses paid international conference travel time, asked for new home office equipment, asked for a brand new vehicle . . . and she got ALL OF IT!!! Plus $65K MORE per year!!

    She also negotiated her brand new marriage of 6 months in the same enlightened way . . . asking him to marry her only days after reuniting with him via facebook (yes, one of THOSE love stories).

    She is my strong woman story. I wish I had followed in her footsteps, but alas, I did not. I was asked to be head of a department. I had no knowledge in the field, so I turned it down, along with a $85K salary. I didn’t believe I could do it. I didn’t believe they believed I could do it. The person they hired was less qualified, less competent. But, she believed she could do the job, which made all the difference.

    Even if I had floundered and failed magnificently, it would have been better than walking away before even trying. Next time, I will be a strong woman, even if I will be quaking in my shoes all along the way.

  17. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    @Diana
    I like this comment, because you’re not being jealous, you’re just being admiring and learning a lesson. What a cool way to be.
    That’s how I want to be– I want to learn and get better. I want to believe I can do the job.

  18. Joy responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    When I got my first full-time job out of college, at the same university I graduated from, I asked for more than the initial offer. I said I needed at least x to make ends meet (which was true). I didn’t get quite what I asked for, the university has pretty rigid salary structures and my boss couldn’t get them to go much higher. But, it was still something. And a couple of years later I asked for a raise again, something more substantial than the mostly standard annual “merit raise” (which is usually less than the cost of living increased that year). Here that means you have to get “reclassified”, or a new title basically. It takes some time, but it did happen. Now that I’ve been here 5 years I’m about to ask my boss for a meeting to discuss what I need to work on and do to get another raise. I am in the very fortunate position of a)working for a very liberal institution, b)having a great boss who wants to mentor his employees and appreciates them AND does not discriminate against women. I know in a lot of workplaces this is not the case, and those women have it much harder. I think it can be tricky in a lot of cases, and you have to sell yourself without coming across as “bitchy”, etc. It makes me so mad to hear that women frequently still earn less for the same positions, and are afraid to do something about it. How do we fix this?? I think the the story you told about Bear is a pretty good example of the gender gap here; men are taught that it is good to fight for what they think they’re worth, and women are (tacitly) taught that we should be quiet, work hard, and take what we get. I hope that our generation of strong, successful women can help turn this around for our nieces and daughters, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain wrong.

  19. Jess responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    This is timely! I’m in the throes of interviewing for my first real job out of grad school, and though I’m not at the point of discussing money, I am FREAKED OUT that I won’t do it right and be set back for my career. Eep!

  20. Anna responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Yup, I’m right there with you. I don’t think I’ve ever asked for more money, and it’s because of the exact same internal monologue you’ve had. I’m terrified that they’ll just say “forget it” and decide not to hire me or fire me. So I’ve been consistently paid less. The job I have now is actually paying me fairly, but I’ll probably always come up with reasons why I don’t deserve a raise. I’m working on it.

  21. Lizzie responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    In my first job out of college, I negotiated a higher salary by rounding up the offered amount to the next highest $10k. I justified it by pointing out that the extra money ($2k a year) would help me fly across the country to see my family more often, and therefore avoid burnout. I was afraid my boss, running a small and often cash-strapped nonprofit, would gently turn me down, but instead she winked and said, “Good for you for pushing back.” WIN. I wish everyone could have such a positive negotiation experience.

  22. craftosaurus responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    This is such an important topic — thank you for writing about it!

    I’ve negotiated before, by asking if there was any flexibility on salary before accepting a job (in hindsight, perhaps I should have requested a particular amount, rather than framing it as an open-ended question). Anyway, they didn’t increase the salary, but they gave me additional vacation time.

    I strongly believe that unless you’re dealing with a VERY inexperienced employer, you will never, ever, ever be offered what they’re really willing to pay right off the bat. I also believe that an employer will never, ever, ever allow itself to be taken advantage of. So simply asking the question feels, to me, like a no-brainer. If they’re not willing to budge, ok, then it’s my decision as to whether to accept the offer. Even if I ultimately do accept it, they can squirm for a minute while I think. I can’t imagine any employer would rescing a job offer simply because the candidate tried to negotiate on salary — and really, who would want to work for such an employer?

  23. Rachel responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    I realized about a year ago that, despite making more than I ever really expected to right out of college in the political nonprofit world, I was making at least 10k less than everyone else on the senior team of my organization, and they also all happened to be men (this wasn’t anyone’s screwing me over on purpose, my role just changed really really fast and informally, from middle-ranking administrative role —-> senior manager). I screwed up all my courage and asked my boss for a 25% (!!) raise. He didn’t even hesitate! And if I hadn’t asked I would probably be at the same salary level, maybe with a 5% raise yearly. ASKING IS GOOD.

  24. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    @Lizzie
    Love it!

  25. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    @craftosaurus
    I think that’s probably right– about employers. It’s the part I never think about. I always imagine that someone is offering me everything they can (why do I think this about people?), or exactly what I’m worth. That is not the way the world works. Thank you for pointing it out in such a straightforward way.

  26. Kate responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    @Rachel
    Hell yeah! I’m so glad you asked!!

  27. teegan responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    I’ve never worked in a “real” job, so i’ve never had any kind of salary or decent pay. i’ve also never worked anywhere more than a few months at a time (because i saved money and earned scholarships and didn’t need it).
    i’ve worked at a coffeeshop for a year and a month now. i and two other girls started at the same rate. one works 1-2 days a week, one 2-3. i open (at 5:30) 3-4 times a week. i intended to ask for a raise after six months, but then the espresso machine, a fridge, and another fridge broke, and we lost two days due to the hurricane. when hubby complained that i really deserved a raise (and i knew it), i went to my boss the following month to ask for a raise, he asked what had taken so long, and said the same thing to my friend who works 2-3 days a week. he raised us both fifty cents – while implying to me that he’d given me more.
    i work my tail off for this guy. when the oven broke, i was taking things home to bake overnight. i’ve fixed things up around the shop when he’s asked. i wrote a college reference for a coworker for him because he’s not a native english speaker and needed help. and i know that another employee (who’s been there a few years longer than i have, but stays clocked in while not working, loiters making latte art while i’m running around doing everything else, and charms his way out of being chronically late) still makes $4 more an hour than i do (a huge margin in town coffeeshop land).
    hubby says i ought to speak up, ask for more money, possibly as salaried assistant manager type role (which is the role i play now). but should i? what if i just get more work and not enough money/perks to justify it? especially when i just got a raise in september? (a raise which only served to pay the gas bill i rack up since we bought the house and i no longer walk to work).
    i’ve been told that the old owner (before my time) had a system with raises. new boss claims he has a system, but i don’t see it.

  28. Mandy responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    Marti is right about freelancing: I’m a self-employed massage therapist, and have been one for eleven years. Money is one of those subjects with which I’m not entirely comfortable.
    But, back in May, I came across some of the fees charged by a local spa (which were noticably higher,) and decided to go online and check a few more.
    Turned out, I was the least expensive massage in town.
    And I hadn’t raised my prices in eight years, so I decided it was time to give myself a raise. The problem was, trying to decide how much of a raise. I didn’t want to undervalue myself–I am VERY good at my job–but I also didn’t want to give my regulars sticker-shock.
    So, I averaged all the fees I’d researched, and aimed for just about average, for now, and to revisit the subject when the economy improved.
    It ended up being a ten percent increase, and I gave my clients thirty days notice.
    Not only did my business not decrease, many of my regulars told me I deserved the increase, and/or was worth it!
    So I’ve resolved to keep an eye on the prices charged by my contemporaries–knowing the going rate will help a lot when I decide I deserve another raise.

  29. Raven responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I once asked for a small raise. I was being given more and more duties outside my original postion, and my co-worker, the only one with the same title who worked the same hours I did, had just asked for a raise and received it. It wasn’t big; we were both asking for a couple of extra dollars an hour, but I went in there, having spent a couple of weeks working up my courage, and I was denied.

    You see, I’m a mom with chronic issues, which meant I had to take more (unpaid) sick days than my young, male co-worker, and without medical insurance, I was out longer. So I couldn’t be as relied upon, even though I now had three extra side jobs in the company beyond my position, as well as the only one with whom certain, “difficult” clients felt comfortable dealing. The people no one else wanted to deal with? I not only took on their business, but they enjoyed my service enough to occasionally send me cards with cash tips inside. Despite my value, I couldn’t work the same hours my co-worker did. I couldn’t stay late, and even though my supervisor felt I was competent enough to take over his dispatching duties when he went to lunch, my boss didn’t agree, often implying, but never saying, that women couldn’t handle it. So, when the boss was in, dispatching went to him or my co-worker, even when my supervisor put the radio in my hand.

    I didn’t have the resources or the time to fight inequality within the workplace. As a single parent, I needed every dollar I earned, and suddenly, not only was I doing more work than my title-equal (we were friends, so I was happy for his fortune, and he even argued in my favor), in fewer hours, with greater responsibility, I was getting paid less per hour, when taking into account the medical benefits I couldn’t afford (my co-worker could, he had a wealthy boyfriend), and the extra days I was out with a sick child or being sick from lack of care and a heavy dose of daily stress.

    It wasn’t the only time I’d asked for a raise. I had a boss who would have gladly thrown a salary at me (instead of hourly pay), had he the resources in his budget to take me on full-time. I might have at my first job, it was woman-owned and -operated, but I didn’t stay long enough. The customers were atrocious, but my boss did pay to make sure I got home safely every night when the buses stopped running. When my girlfriend moved out of state, leaving the job behind, I left the job, too, because she was the only thing that made working there bearable.

    But still, it takes me a very long time to come to the table and ask for a raise. At the first job I mentioned, during hiring, they couldn’t offer me a higher pay scale (I wanted $0.50 more an hour!), but they did let me add a half hour to my daily work, so I could make rent and buy food. It was the only time I negotiated my starting pay. When I did work for a non-profit at salary and with benefits, I didn’t ask for a signing bonus. I just sat there stunned at the prospect of earning an income beyond just basic survival, and knew nothing about how business works.

    At present, I can’t hold down a 40-hour a week job in any field for which I’m qualified due to chronic, worsening illness. I’m struggling to survive on child support and my boyfriend’s kindness until I can convince the state I’m really as sick as I say (they believe that part), and that being so sick actually affects my ability to work (they think I should try to get a work-at-home job, outside my field of experience, and still be able to make $900–if such a job exists, I haven’t found it). In the meantime, I’m writing, gardening, learning about my body and how to live in it, and teaching my daughter about the world.

  30. Raven responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    @Marti: I need to learn from your example. After a content farm just screwed thousands of loyal copywriters out of work (including me, although I met their criteria to stay in the elite pool, I haven’t been given access to it), I’m realizing that my freelance writing has often been above and beyond what most of the other copywriters were providing. I think with a bit more effort, and the courage to scout out places accepting freelance work, I might have better luck with a single piece every couple of weeks, than trying to churn out ten to twenty pieces in a week for the same compensation.

  31. Layla responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    I don’t personally do it as I work for the government so it doesn’t work that way. But someone once said to me that men do those things because they just blag it and pretend they can do things that maybe they can’t, whereas women will ask themselves if they can do x y and z before committing themselves, and therefore aren’t great at selling themselves in the same way or worry too much to blag it. It’s how we’re socialised, and it’s wrong and very sexist but it’s how society views women and brings us up to feel less confident and not as sure of ourselves, in general. It definitely needs to change but it will have to change in childhood as well as with our own awareness as we get older.

  32. TheQueerBird responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    This is such a great post, and I love seeing more conversation around it. Wife and I both talk about how we feel nervous in jobs; are we asking for too much? Doing it wrong? At the same time, we both feel like we’re worth more than we’re making… but we’re getting by just fine, so isn’t that just greed?

    I have my own business (in the process of making it all official!) and have trouble saying, “Yes! I know what I’m doing and my services are valuable!” Instead, I come up with some apologetic version of that…

    But again, reading and talking about it is giving me more confidence to say “This is what my work is worth.” It’s so frustrating that men somehow get taught how to do that, and we don’t.

  33. Stephanie responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    I am a 36 year old software engineer. I have never accepted the first offer made to me, not even for my first job out of college. But my field is heavily dominated by men, so maybe they’re rubbing off on me?

  34. Rebecca - we are large people responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    This x1000.

    I just started my own business (as a personal stylist) back in the summer, while also doing freelance search engine marketing (SEM) on the side. When I got my first SEM client, the phone call was probably the awkwardest one I’ve ever had in my life, because I had to tell him what my rates were! I think I even used the phrase “let’s get down to brass tacks”… and while I was saying it, internally my monologue was “who even uses that phrase in real life?!”. I named a range that seemed kind of high to me, and he agreed immediately. I probably should have asked for more! But even though he happily agreed, every time I send him an invoice, I worry that he’s going to balk at the cost. And he never does.

    So, I think part of it is how I’m wired as a person – to never feel like I’m good enough and always worry! But some of that is going away more and more clients agree to pay me higher hourly rates – it’s affirming to be paid a number that seems crazy high and have no complaints!

  35. Krys responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Working in a creative field, (husband and I own a photography company and I custom make jewelry and paint as well) an amazing mentor and successful photographer told us years ago if no one is telling you that you are too expensive then you are too cheap. In other words if everyone is happily paying your prices it’s time to raise them.

    We constantly reevaluate pricing and our work on a regular basis and when someone comes back with “wow that’s too expensive” we don’t apologize or make excuses or “deals” and we feel that those clients show we are “rightly priced”. Strangely we find many times they “look” around and want us after all (and will even pay more if we are booked solid or after they see the product). A lot of that is the confidence you talk about, you have to respect your work enough to not settle (even when at times we were very shaky in the early years about turning anything down). That willingness to walk away is hard, hard, hard but seems to resonate with most clients. And if they walk away and stay away, they didn’t appreciate your work enough and don’t deserve a deal!

    If you are in a creative field you need to remember that while there are lots of people willing to work for “free” they don’t have your vision or voice and if someone wants your voice they need to pay for your uniqueness. Your voice is worth it and if they say you are expensive, then happily walk away knowing you didn’t sell yourself short. With the quality of your writing, I believe you’ll have more that say yes than no!

  36. melissa responded on 05 Dec 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    uuuuggggghhhh are you kidding? I don’t even like asking for my paycheques! lol

  37. Quin responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 12:27 am #

    It really is true that women get paid less for the same jobs. I’ve worked at a coffee shop for a little over two years, and I still make less than almost any male there (the women all seem to be in the same boat). About a year in a (male) coworker mentioned in passing what he made, and it turns out he’d been hired at the same time as me, for the same position, but at $1 more an hour (which is substantial when you’re being paid minimum wage).

    We just finally got our first female manager, and I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask her for a raise, but the last two times I’ve asked (my former manager) I haven’t even gotten a real discussion. Just a brush off about the budget and some jokes about how much it sucks to be a woman (seriously! He joked about women making less!).

    I know I deserve the raise (my pay has only gone up 24 cents in TWO YEARS), but I’m terrified that I’ll get nervous and back down.

  38. Laura responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 10:18 am #

    (@Carol…. “sweat peppermints…” Ha! I love that phrase!)

    In my previous job (which – now – seems like a previous life), I actually had to turn DOWN a raise.

    I had been working as an hourly (not a salaried) employee. And the 60 hour weeks? Well, those were the EASY ones! As a result, the time-and-a-half I earned almost doubled my base salary (which was pretty low, even for that long ago).

    The company decided to reward my hard work: “Hey, you’re now becoming a salary employee! We’ll give you a 15% raise! And a bonus!” … Now, understand, with overtime I was pulling in close to $40k. So, 15% of $20k isn’t a whole lot. And $5000 (max! maybe not that much!) bonus/year doesn’t really make up the difference.

    When I told them I’d be happy to accept, but that I was going to only work 40 hours a week, they freaked out. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t over-the-moon happy to continue working as I had been (except making much less) but with the new salary.

    I actually pulled out a spreadsheet, showed them the math. Showed them how what they were really offering was a huge pay cut. And how I wouldn’t accept on those terms.

    I was only 25 at the time. I almost passed out from nervousness. At the very least, I melted a bit into a puddle of my own sweat. I think I might have teared up for fear of being yelled at (I hate this in myself… anger/sadness/high emotion/nerves … all turns up as tears, which is then very often misconstrued).

    But – I finally got what I wanted – a slightly higher base salary AND the ability to earn overtime still. Of course, they did their best to make me feel guilty about it. And thereafter would often use it as ammunition for me to take on more work. I figured – at least I’m getting paid for it.

    I was proud of myself, though. I wasn’t (and still am not) used to standing up for myself or my abilities. And I left shortly thereafter to work for a company that values employees and pays them more than fairly… and I’ve been here for over 16 years now.

  39. Hunter4086 responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 10:42 am #

    When it comes to payment for our creative efforts, I am secretly amazed (and aghast) between my approach and my boyfriend’s.

    I “ask” for the money – tentatively naming the price – steeling myself for I expect the other party to raise their eyebrows slightly and give that small snorty exhalation that means ‘bitch, please.’

    I also give away a lot of things for free, muttering in my head that it’s about the exposure, the ‘getting it out there,’ and ‘when I’m better known I can name my fat price!’ Basically, it’s this whole half-ashamed half-timid mental process that makes fair payment seem presumptuous.

    I watch my boyfriend talk freely & happily of his work, and how he names the cost as just one more factual aspect of it. And people pay him. There is no disbelief, no snorting.

    (Or they do not pay him, but then they do not get to have the work either. Either way it is very straightforward for both parties.)

    I’ve wondered if the difference is because my work is personal and his is scholarly, so I feel more vulnerable.

    Or maybe I am just late in learning that my self-doubt doesn’t have to underwrite my market value.

  40. anya responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Whaat? One should never be afraid. I am an engineer and worked part-time the last 2 yeas of my 4-year BS . At that first job I earn a quite low salary, but it was in my field, in a research department of a factory, and I liked it. ( Also, my direct boss, a very nice guy). They offered me two raises when working there. My guy-friends kept telling me : They offered you money, it means you should have asked for more. After I graduated, they wanted me to go full time, for double the part-time wage. I said no, I am an engineer now, and have double the experience. ( I bought myself a studded belt just to make me feel tough enough to have this combo). They were like, hmm, we are going to think, blah blah. I quit. They guilt-tripped me a lot, I did not care. I found another job in a month or so ( as I was now starting my master’s degree). I found another job. A 6-hours part time, paid more per hour than the previous. ( So I can still go to school!). In the summer, I went full-time. I asked for more money. I got it with a promise of re-negotiation. Then, I wanted my legal time-off to study for my thesis and have like 2 days with my family. They turned me down at first,
    I pointed them at the Civil Work Code, they told me I’m ungrateful. I took my PAID time-off and THEN I left. They bought me a pair of earrings as a good-bye present. Right now I’m finishing my degree doing some free-lance-ing on the side. There are jobs. A lot of them, I had calls from lots of companies. You just have to ask for what your time is worth. And buy a studded belt to put on while negociating

  41. Alii responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    I can’t find the article I’m thinking of, but it was a thorough takedown of how it’s not that ‘women are not asking’ it’s ‘men are not paying attention’. The point of the article was that because the work environment is built around a weird idea of arrogance as the baseline. It’s not that women need to be more like men, but that men need to realize they can’t just do what they’ve always done without repercussions.

    Gah. Can’t. Find. Article. It’s going to drive me absolutely bonkers. :(

  42. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Based on my own experience, if you ask for more than you think you deserve you have a really good chance of getting it. Or, if not getting exactly what you want then getting close to it. I always give a higher figure than I expect to make and then once the negotiating is done I, like Bear, wish I would have asked for more.

  43. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    @Alii
    I want to see that piece! Here’s one about how women don’t ask: http://www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes/comments/hvv2m/i_work_for_a_large_multinational_tech_company_i/

  44. Deanna responded on 07 Dec 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    I recently heard from an old friend who I had lost touch with. She does freelance work in several areas and…get ready….she does everything for free. The people she provides services for get paid, but she has this thing about working for free. I believe she is insecure and doesn’t feel she is worth anything, but she claims it’s because she is spiritual and money is evil. Hmmmm try telling that to the bank when paying your mortgage.

  45. tirzahrene responded on 07 Dec 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Heh, I don’t know, but I need to figure this out fast. My part-time employer is asking me if I want to take on more responsibility there. I didn’t want to say yes because I’m intimidated and I’m busy, but I kicked my ass out of the intimidation-as-excuse and now I just have to negotiate pay so it’s worth my while to cut back on my other work and do this. And I have NO idea how to figure out what to ask for.

  46. Kate responded on 07 Dec 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    @tirzahrene
    Is there anyone you know through work who has been in a similar situation?

  47. Beverly Hayes responded on 10 Dec 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    If you’re a woman struggling to get what she’s worth in the marketplace you MUST read “Secrets of Six Figure Women” by Barbara Stanny. (I am not affiliated with her in any way — I just read her book and it was life changing! I was already making the six figures — but the psychological components regarding worth and self worth, which many of us grapple with, was also addressed throughout. It is totally worth reading. I recommend it constantly and, if you’ve read this blog post and replied, it should be required reading!

    In addition, anybody who isn’t comfortable negotiating for salaries, etc. needs to take a negotiation course. A lot of your companies will pay for it as a training opportunity so here’s a chance to ask for something other than money (which will end up helping you get more money) and so many other things that have nothing to do with work! If you have to pay for it yourself, you should still look into a course because it helps hone your skills and you’ll get comfortable with the act of negotiating.

    Finally, practice, practice, practice. Write your script before you have the conversation. Read it and say it in front of a mirror 50 times so that the words are ordinary coming out of your mouth. Be so conversant and fluid that you will stay on task and remain focused and unflappable despite the crippling nerves that may try to fell you!! Whenever you receive a job offer, you should always ask for more — just for the sheer ability to exercise those unused, uncomfortable negotiating muscles.

    Needless to say, I’ve had some pretty angst producing negotiations in my life and I always felt better for having asked, than for simply accepting whatever was offered. Although I didn’t always get exactly what I wanted, most of the time I got a lot more than I’d have gotten if I didn’t pipe up and say I wanted more.

    Good luck to all of you!! Read the book… it’s really great!

  48. Eat the Damn Cake » Little Victories: asking for a raise responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    [...] when I wrote this post about how women almost never ask for more money? Apparently women don’t ask for raises. I [...]

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