Ask and you may receive … “equal pay”

This topic has been in the news a lot lately.  Like other headlines, this topic strikes me as alarmingly retro.  Before you get all worked up, let me share my viewpoint:

I conducted my first salary negotiation at age 19.  I got offers for a swim instructor job at a nonprofit org at $9/hr, and at a private school at $10/hr.  I had to offset the $300 Red Cross certification course I had just taken, and both offers sounded low to me.  So I dipped my little toe into the waters of negotiation and told the private school the whopping lie that the nonprofit had offered me $11/hr.  They matched this value and I worked there, paying off the cost of the cert the first week of the summer.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was an instant 10% raise.

Hey, if it worked for a pimply teenaged Philosophy major, everyone should give it a try!

Once I entered the real “working world” however, I received the guidance that I should not ask about salary and just do whatever convincing talking it would take to get the job.  Because I was a worthless, skill-lacking [millenial] (this term was not invented but that was the truth).

But as I got into my temp-to-perm job, the “temp” period ran out and I was tired of having no health insurance.  My boss assured me that she wanted to grant me full employment, but the HR paperwork was slow-rolling.  So I researched personal health insurance and offered my boss the low, low price of increasing my wage by the required amount per month so I could buy insurance, and I would stop bugging her about the paperwork.  Request granted, surprisingly easily.  That was about a 20% raise, plus peace of mind being insured.

Then another 3 months rolled by without full employment secured, so I turned the screws a little tighter.  I interviewed at the top competitor and disclosed the salary offered there.  Before the competitor’s determination was even made, my boss felt compelled to grant me full employment at a slightly better salary.  Good thing too, because I do not think I would have gotten the other job!  Another 5% raise.

Fast-forward two years.  I just just gotten a Masters’ degree, and once again had a large educational bill I needed to offset with a well-paying job (I would have been hopelessly underwater at my last job much longer).  I received an offer from my current employer and had the nerve to tell the HR guy on the phone that I was anticipating [about 15% more].  He said “no negotiations on this offer.”  I said “no problem, when can I start??”

Hey, you win some you lose some.  But through raises reflecting work superior to my peers both male and female, I was making the sum I had requested within 6 months.  So ultimately, a win.  And it was through my doing, not luck or another woman.  My manager was a man.

So I just puzzle over this question.  Maybe pay is not equal because women generally do not ask for more and men generally do.  Maybe some workplaces are anti-woman.  Maybe… <gasp> some men are doing better work than some women in some places, or are better qualified in some cases.

I do not think it is possible to really know whether someone else, man or woman, is really doing better work than me and deserves better money.  But I do know that you do not get what you do not ask for, and what you do not work for.  I am all about pushing limits – those of others, reality, and myself.  And it has worked for me in different areas of the country, in different industries, and in organizations of different gender makeup.  And so I hope this approach is working for others as well!


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