I believe this was my first DWWP piece. I have since left the company where I was the only woman. I now work at a company filled with women getting shit done! This piece still inspired me to negotiate what I was worth. Enjoy!
Back in 2012…
One of my fellow directors at work recently quit. As a parting gift to me, he told me how much he and the other male directors in my department make. Their salaries were on average, 28% higher than mine. They have not been with the company years and years longer, they do not have more responsibility than I do, and they do not do a better job than I do (just my opinion, of course). The whole situation angered me to no end but also forced me to evaluate why I make less than my male equivalents. Fundamentally, I feel that I make less than them because I am a woman and not viewed as an equal. However, I also had to look within myself. Did any of my behaviors bring me to this place?
1) Equal title does not mean equal pay. I made the mistake of assuming that the salary I was offered was the same salary of the other directors. I am paid well, I’m a director! Of course they are paying me the same. I assumed that my boss was being fair and looking at me as an equal. He gave me an equal title after all. This was my poor assumption. He actually looked at me as his granddaughter, and really thought he was doing me the biggest favor in the world by promoting me with a title. He also knew he could save a few bucks in his budget if he gave me a lesser salary, and that I most likely wouldn’t question it or ever know any better. He was right; I was grateful to be made a director. I didn’t question the salary, and I didn’t do anything but thank him over and over again for believing in me and giving me the responsibility and the title. I should have asked him if he was giving me the same salary as the male directors and if he wasn’t, then why.
2) Salaries are to be negotiated and not automatically accepted. Far too many women I know have never negotiated their salaries and have happily accepted whatever was proposed. I am no different. I am not sure if men go to a special school where they learn to negotiate salaries, but they do seem to do a better job of this. I interview people and make job offers frequently. Of all the people I have hired or looked at hiring, not one woman (contractor or employee) has ever negotiated or countered a rate that I proposed. Every man that I have hired has negotiated at least one round of salary/bonus offers. In every negotiation, I have generally given the candidate more than what I originally came in with. The thing is, as the hiring manager, I fully expect to have to negotiate salary. The first number I come in with is generally lower that what I’m willing to pay. I start low, expect them to counter and keep my mouth shut if they don’t. Why wouldn’t I do this for myself? I don’t think I have ever been taught to talk about money, and I think women specifically are taught to be grateful and not ask questions when it comes to money. I am sure that I would have received a higher salary if I had negotiated.
3) Women don’t know what they are worth. At least I didn’t have a clue. There are no other female directors in my department and very few women in the whole company. I had no one to advise me, as I’ve never worked for a woman, had a woman give me a raise, a salary, a promotion or any direction on any level. I once had an admin assistant yell at me for not filling out a form properly, but other than that I don’t have a lot to compare against.
4) Age matters. I’m younger than all of the male directors in my department by at least 10 years. I have no children in college. I didn’t have a spouse until recently, and I don’t have a mortgage. I believe that my boss looked at my age and thought that I had plenty of years left to make money, that I don’t have a lot of family members to support and therefore, I don’t need an equal salary yet. After all, I’m not even 40; my coworker who is 63 needs that salary. He only has a few more years left to work. There is nothing I can do about my age, but I do believe that combining my age with my lack of a penis was really the double whammy to my salary, or lack thereof. On the positive side of that, if I were to lose my job today, I would have a much better chance of finding a job than my older equivalents. I guess age discrimination goes both ways.
5) I focused on doing a good job and not on money. I don’t actually think this is a fault or a negative trait, but because I was so focused on not disappointing anyone, making everyone see that I was just as good (if not better) as my male counterparts, that I didn’t even give a thought to the money. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if they forgot to pay me. I don’t know if this is a trait of females, first children, or just something specific to my work ethic. We all know the guy at work that wants everyone to know he makes a ton of money, is constantly talking about money, what he is buying this weekend, what he spent on dinner, etc. He is clearly focused on the monetary aspect of his career. I have always been focused on the professional advancement of my career. If I had paid closer attention to the financial aspect, I probably would have done some investigation into salaries for female directors with my background and known a thing or two about my value. Since I’m obsessing about being successful jobwise, I really haven’t had time to evaluate the money. Next time, I will make time.
Since the “parting gift”, my salary situation has been rectified. Not because I burst into my boss’s office and demanded that things be changed, but because a MALE director went to my boss and told him that I knew the truth and that he should fix things. Granted, I was preparing to discuss things with my boss, but my friend got to him first. I am not sure if I got my raise because of fear of a lawsuit, but I’d like to think it is because my boss views me as equal to the other directors and values my contribution to our company. However, as a woman, I need to be much more aware of the fact that I am most likely not being viewed as an equal and I will have to make my own equality and not expect it to be a right that I’ve earned.