by Angela Hedges
I had just started my new job when I heard financial advice guru Suze Orman give this advice: “Don’t put yourself on sale.” Men usually don’t, she said, but women almost always do. This really hit home for me because I had just done it. I knew the salary range for the position and had asked for the middle of the range. I knew I did great work and deserved the top salary, but I was afraid to lose out on the opportunity if I aimed too high. Plus I didn’t want to promise more than I could deliver, so I played it safe and kept it low. I put myself on sale.
At the time I kicked myself. I could be earning more! If I had asked for the top of the range – or even higher – what’s the worst that could happen? I worried they would laugh and move on to the next candidate, but they probably would have agreed. They did offer me the job, after all. If they did feel I was asking too much the likely response would be a counteroffer, not a goodbye. I would be no worse off than I was with the low-ball salary I had volunteered for.
As I settled into the job I discovered that it was about more than just money. It was also about confidence. As long as I valued myself as middle of the road, others would too. I was awesome at my job and my team recognized that, but as time went on I had very little influence on projects. From the start I had positioned myself as a contributor, not a leader. My low expectations were setting the tone for my career path.
I put myself on sale in other situations too. I was too afraid to ask for a raise, or even to ask for time off that I’d earned, for fear of looking greedy or upsetting my boss. What is so scary about a no? As women we’re more accustomed to feeling out situations and keeping things running smoothly. I always feared some sort of repercussion, but the truth is businesses expect their employees to ask for things like raises and promotions and time off. They might not say yes every time, but asking is not viewed as a problem. It can actually be a positive, showing both confidence and initiative.
This happens at home too. A woman raising children and running a household is “just a housewife.” Never mind that nannies and housekeepers get paid. If you are doing it for free it is simply not of value. Women who run their own businesses do this, discounting and charging too little for their hard work. We lack the confidence to ask for what we deserve and accept less than we’re worth.
But the truth is there is no harm in asking. In most cases, a “no” leaves us no worse off. Perhaps better, because we’ve shown we’re confident enough to take a risk and stand behind our work. Women notoriously make less than men for the same job. It’s troubling that it happens, and even more troubling than we allow it. The fastest way that to close that gap is to value the work we do. We might not get what we deserve every time, but the only thing stopping us from asking is ourselves.
Angela Hedges put aside a career in social media to pursue her passions: family and writing. As a mother she is inspired to explore the struggles and joys found in the ever-changing landscape of modern parenting. Her blog With Fail chronicles her journey as a writer. Angela also dead-blogs about the remarkable life of her grandmother on the aptly-named My Dead Grandmother.