"A woman has to be twice as good as a man to go half as far." Fannie Hurst's line glared at me from the opener of a new inspirational title at my local bookstore. It made me wonder: Would she issue a different remark in the 21st century?
It's been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, with women averaging 59 cents for every man's dollar at the time. Working women now earn about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, and for Latinas and African-American women, the wage gap is even greater. Despite critics of these statistics, the latest study by a Cornell University labor economist still reveals a 9 percent difference in pay, even after factoring for the kinds of jobs women perform, their level of education, and years spent in the workforce.
The gender pay gap remains a political and cultural talking point, but millennial women don't believe it's a problem for them, according to Caroline Ghosn, the founder of the women's mentoring network Levo League. We grew up in an age of working moms and "you go girl!" We often don't see the need to fight for our place.
Women hold roughly half of today's jobs, and our earnings account for an increasing portion of household income, so why do we hesitate to ask for raises and benefits? Why do we settle for less? Are we shrinking into the background for the sake of keeping the peace, because "no one likes a woman who ruffles feathers"?
Traditional values may be at play here, especially within the Christian community. Women have been taught to be a man's helper—a term all too often mistranslated as "not his equal, of lesser worth." This mentality can easily bleed into our work lives as well.
We cannot blame men for our failure to ask for what we deserve. And we dare not ask for more simply because we are female. A woman must recognize what she brings to the table and then be bold enough to issue her request.
I often hear women say they feel guilty about asking, but that guilt may just mask feelings of insecurity about the negotiation process. Levo League offers training, advice, and resources for young women as a part of their #Ask4More campaign page. Founder Caroline Ghosn points out, the "gap only widens over time as the likelihood of asking for a raise decreases as she progresses over the course of her career. A woman who doesn't negotiate her salary in her first job will lose an average of $431,000 by the time she's 65."
In short, the best advice is to weigh your request against your accomplishments in your current position. Take the emotions away from the process, and you will be left with a stockpile of your "value added" to the company.
Asking for more will get easier each time you do it. After my own #Ask4More experience with my superior, I felt empowered to use what I'd learned in another venture: househunting. I was struggling to find a place I could afford in the part of town where I wanted to live. I toured home after home with no washer/dryer or dishwasher, stained carpet, and tiny closets. Days later, I happened upon a "for rent" sign in a coveted area. The place was spotless. Hardwood floors, new appliances, there was no way I could afford it. I inquired anyway, and as I suspected, this townhome would blow out my budget.
Deciding this was another time for me to negotiate, I presented the facts regarding what a responsible, clean, mature tenant I would be, and then I offered the landlord a rental amount within my budget. And you know what she said? Yes. (Even if she had turned down my offer, I would have flexed my asking muscles and I would still be better for it.)
So next time you hesitate to ask for more, ask yourself: What is the worst thing that could happen if I make this request? I believe we are scared of the "no," both personally and professionally. Consequently, we stay in our uncomfortable "comfort zone" rather than moving past our fears in faith. Think about it: How many times have you stayed somewhere when you knew God was calling you in a different direction, simply because you were scared of the unknown, of your critics, or of disappointing someone?
If your mentality is that you do not deserve more, you will never get more. You don't get what you deserve; you get what you ask for. So don't be afraid to ask. Not only did Jesus laud the persistent widow who kept petitioning the unjust judge in the parable in Luke 18, but Scripture repeatedly confirms that the worker is worthy of his (or her) wages (Luke 10:7; Gen. 29:15; Deut. 24:15; 1 Kgs. 5:6; Mal. 3:5; Rom. 4:4). If your boss says no to your ask, then it is time for you to either make a career move, or to embrace your present circumstances. Either way, you have an answer.
Much of our anxiety in life comes from the unknown. Find your answers. Get to the known. Then rest in the truth that God has a plan. You deserve his very best. That may mean he is calling you to step out and #Ask4More.
Morgan Canclini is a Levo League Chapter Leader in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter at @MorganCanclini.
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