I Don't Give Less Because I'm A Woman, So Why Does Equal Pay Still Elude Me?

by Angel Geden
equal pay
lolostock / iStock

I work in corporate America in Silicon Valley. I have a master’s degree in my field and nine years with my company, similar to my male colleagues. Yet my salary is not the same as my colleagues. While it may be considered taboo to discuss salary, it isn’t illegal, and a few male coworkers and I have shared our reviews and compensation packages. Like the average American woman, I make roughly 77% of each dollar that my male coworkers earn.

Also, I have four children and no significant other. Silicon Valley is not a cheap place to live. My company recruited me here, but I had no idea how expensive it would be to maintain a reasonable standard of living. To make up for the pay gap, I work a part-time job with a running-related sports company, which I discovered at a race I participated in. This part-time job is something I love, and it makes me happy to meet like-minded people who are interested in health and fitness. But this second job also takes me away from those four children. I wouldn’t do it if I could get that 23% from my main employer.

When I accepted my first role here, I felt grateful. That position moved me out of retail and into a set 9-to-5 office position. The move meant more time at home with my children. It meant more stability in hours, pay, and lifestyle. I was so grateful for the opportunity I forgot I might have been worth more than the salary they offered.

When I was promoted after two years, my boss told me outright not to negotiate my salary. He assured me it was the most I would be offered in my promotion. I simply said, “Thank you.” Once again, I felt I would be ungrateful to question what was being offered to me. Certainly, my company wouldn’t undervalue me.

It’s been another three years, and I’ve finally asked for equal pay. I almost apologized when asking for it. The words, “I’m sorry” almost came out of my mouth. “I’m sorry” — as in, “I’m sorry I’m asking for more money,” or “I’m sorry I’m disrupting your day with my request.” Maybe “I’m sorry you have to think about this and me and ugly things like money because of me.” But I stopped myself. I even said, “This actually isn’t a raise. This request will bring me parity with my colleagues.”

Now I’m wracked with guilt and worried about how I’ll be perceived for having asked — which is stupid. I’m worth it. I am a valuable employee. My work is amazing.

But my work is what takes me away from my babies. And it kills me to be undervalued by the thing taking me away from my babies.

The day I asked for my raise, I missed half of one child’s school music concert because I had to get to the office to lead a meeting. Then I missed another child’s entire concert because of another meeting. For the first 45 minutes of that meeting, I just listened to presentations that didn’t relate at all to my work. I was only needed for a three-minute update at the end of the meeting. Those 45 minutes were the 45 minutes when my son was performing with his classmates, and I felt a little piece of me dying each one of those minutes.

My children are latchkey kids, and I worked through the after-school pickup. I didn’t leave my office until I had to take a third child to baseball. At the field, I proceeded to work on my computer through the baseball game. (I did stop to take videos of his turns at-bat on my iPhone.) After the game, I bought dinner at McDonald’s, dropped my son off, kissed the rest of my kids, and told them to eat, finish their homework, and then go to sleep. My oldest was in charge because I had to head back to the office.

I worked. When I was finally done with my project around 9:15 p.m., I went for a run at the gym in my office building. I got 5 miles in and had to clear out at 10 p.m. In the locker room, I cried because I realized…my day. The babies — I missed them so much.

It’s not that I couldn’t use paid time-off. I can. I have it accrued, but I worry when I’m taking off half days for every school event. Which events warrant my attendance and which do not? Will my coworkers frown upon it? I always thought if I could just show the world that I don’t give less because I am a woman and a mom, I would be fairly compensated. Despite missing so many of these childhood moments in the hopes that I would be respected as an equal, I encountered a pay gap. Equal pay for equal work still eludes me.

I’m worth 100% of the same dollar anyone else is making. My work is pretty amazing. Here’s part of my most recent feedback at my main job:

“Just walked through the deck. She said it’s the best activities, look, and flow she’s seen. Absolutely loved…[Angel’s] portion specifically. Awesome job, and thanks again Angel!”

My children deserve 100% of their mother. I don’t know how to make that happen. But getting back more of my time, quitting my second job, adding my 77% and 23% to make 100% at just one job…well, that would be a start.

I have to breathe. And maybe go for a run.