Ladies, We Have To Start Demanding What We Are Worth

by Wendy Wisner
Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

Okay, women of the world, listen up. We need to have a little talk here. It’s going to be about making money, knowing your worth, and standing up for your rights. It might be uncomfortable, and maybe a bit stressful at times. But you’re a woman (i.e., a badass). You’re up to the task.

First, we’ll start with the basics. I’m sure you’ve heard that there is an outrageous pay gap between men and women. Yep, it’s 2017, but women still consistently get paid less than men for doing the same job. Let’s dig a bit deeper and look at the cold hard facts on that.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, we women make up about half the workforce, and we are the sole breadwinners in about half of all households. Overall, we have actually attended more college and have also garnered more graduate degrees than men. Go us!

But despite all that, we still earn less than men, about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. And this is the case whether we work in occupations dominated by women, men, or both. So, for example, in the case that a woman has the same exact job as a man, with the same education and experience, in almost all cases, she will earn less than him simply because she was born with a vagina.

Are you enraged yet?

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research says that a move toward equality is happening, but at the same freaking snail’s pace that it has for the past 50 years. At this slow-ass rate, it will take at least another 44 years for women’s pay to be on par with men’s. And it’s even worse for women of color: The researchers estimate that black and Hispanic women may not get pay equality for another 108 years, and 233 years respectively.

Okay, I’m going pause for you to scream at your computer screen and punch the wall. Feel a little better? Good, because now I’m gonna need you to channel all that righteous anger into some action. This is not acceptable.

Ladies, the system may suck. Some of our elected officials may be mansplaining, self-centered, misogynistic twats, but — besides getting our asses to the voting booths and kicking them out of office — we do have some power in this mess. But it’s a power we’ve been told not to use, to scale back on, to stifle, and to mute.

That power is our voice.

Working women of the world: You are awesome. You are a group of incredible, talented, versatile, multitasking bitches. But you don’t use your voice quite enough. You don’t stand up for what is yours. You get offered a job, for example, and you don’t negotiate a higher pay rate. You don’t ask for a raise. You feel like shit anytime you need some time off (usually to take care of a man or a child). You worry about pissing someone off, coming across as too aggressive, self-centered, or loud.

But do you know who has no problem asking for a raise, and who has no problem making a little noise when it comes to money or job stability? Men.

They don’t give a fuck. They believe that their years of study, work experience, and expertise mean something, and that they are worth every last dime they earn. And they have no problem asking for more, more, and even more after that.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for them — self-advocacy is a great quality, but the problem lies with a society that has trained men to ask for/demand what they are worth and trained employers to offer competitive, fair compensation in these cases. That is not true for women, and it is bullshit. Bull. Shit.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that none of this is easy, and none of it feels particularly comfortable. I have a graduate degree in writing, I taught writing at a university for five years, and I have published both in esteemed literary magazines and in top-notch magazines, newspapers, and online publications. But I still have trouble asking for what I’m worth sometimes.

But here’s what I do: I ask myself this same question each time. I say, “Given my credentials and experience, would a man in my position be compensated at the same rate? Or would the offer be more competitive and enticing?” Often, I push myself out of my comfort zone because I realize that I am being sold short.

If a man thought that a potential employer might be able to offer a bit of a higher rate, all he would do was ask. Chances are the employer would be able to negotiate something with him. Most likely, he’d get the extra cash. And if not, no hard feelings. Either he’d move on, or settle. It would all be in his power because no one would have taught him otherwise. People — employers, clients, etc. — expect this from men.

Now, I know that I am generalizing here. There are some men for whom this is not the case. They don’t feel comfortable asking for their worth. It makes them anxious, embarrassed, or whatever. And there are plenty of amazing women who do this sort of thing every day — kicking ass, taking names, making money, and asking for what they are worth. People break the mold on both sides of this issue, and I recognize that.

But the fact is that most women I know, and research backs this up, have a really, really hard time with this. I’m not blaming them. I am one of them. I blame our culture, our political/economic system, and its antiquated view of women. But none of that means we can’t shake our fists, raise our voices, and take the power right back.

So next time you find yourself in a position of needing to negotiate a higher salary for a new job, a raise for an existing one, or anything having to do with your stature at work or in your profession: Harness your strength, hold your head high, and own it. Don’t overthink: Just do it.

We have to (and this goes for me too) speak the fuck up, ladies. Ask for what we are worth. Smash the patriarchy. Change our lives. And do our part to change the world for our daughters and granddaughters.

Let’s do this.