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Reverb 10 Challenge: Wisdom

December 10, 2010

Today’s Reverb10 Prompt comes from  Susannah Conway of Unravelling .

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

I mentioned in a previous post that I was got a new job this year and let go of my senseless modesty.  My wisest decision also has to do with getting this job.  Allow me to set the stage.

Women have lagged behind men in pay for decades.  This past summer ABC News reported on the continuing pay gap between men and women.  I highly recommend this video if you haven’t already watched it.  I insist really.

This video includes clips of a study that found men negotiate pay more than women and suggest that failing to negotiate accounts for the gender pay gap.  To me, this is an example of victim blaming.  Women don’t make as much as men, it must be because women didn’t ask for more.

I have an alternative explanation for this phenomenon.  Let’s take another step back and look at one example of what happened for me before I began negotiating for my current position.

I went to people with more experience to ask for their advice.  How do you negotiate a job?  What do you ask for?  What type of information and research do I present to the department chair I was negotiating with?  How do I know what I am worth?  Where do I find information on what people are currently being paid across the country and within this department?

I got great advice from several different people.  One person that I looked up to and expected to get good advice from gave me advice that was contrary to everything I had ever heard.  I held him in high esteem and really respected his advice.  However, I made the choice to ignore EVERYTHING he told me.

When I asked him for advice on negotiating my pay and research start up package, he asked me why I was negotiating.  He told me the salary they offered was far better than the national average.  He told me that the start-up package they offered was more than enough to get me started.  I told him that my new colleagues would think that I wasn’t a team player if I asked for more.  I immediately questioned his advice and reported back to him horror stories of colleagues who had not received furnished offices, filing cabinets, book shelves, etc.  He told me that they want everyone to suceed and would “of course, give you these things.”  He discouraged me from negotiating with my future employers.

The wisest decision I made this year was to disregard all the advice he gave me.

My wise decision was made even more clear when my new employers met many of my requests.  They gave me a small $1,000 bump in salary and completely accommodated my start-up funding request (and then some I should add).  Over a lifetime and annual raises based on my base salary, that $1,000 bump in salary is A LOT of money.  I would have missed out on that if I had followed my respected male leader.

Now back to that video and research that blames women for not negotiating.  To all of you who believe that, I ask…

– who told women they should feel bad for asking for more?

– who taught women to sacrifice their needs to be team players?

It’s not just women y’all.  It’s everyone.  It’s society.  Society socialized women this way.  I would have lost out on a lot of money in the long run and my research would have suffered because of having less start-up funds.  Loss of this research would have led to a lower chance of getting tenure and promotion.  At that point in my career, people would blame me for not working as hard as others, but perhaps it could be traced back to the time when I didn’t negotiate my salary and start up fund.  That’s what could have happened.

That’s the story that I avoided.  Wisest.Decision.Ever!

Do you have any similar experiences?  I truly hope not, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.


From → Life

  1. You, my dear, are truly an inspiration. Think about it, by writing about your experience and putting it on the internet, you may have just helped any number of women pull themselves up and work toward a better, more equal life. And even if you’ve only helped ONE woman realize their worth, I think you’ve made a huge impact 🙂

  2. Great post! It can be really hard to negotiate/ ask for more money. But you’re right- if you start out lower, you’ll continue to be lower. Good job on ignoring bad advice!

  3. Awesome post! Seriously, what crazy thing to think about…that the gap in pay would be because women don’t ask for more money. It makes me seethe in anger when I see inequality in pay for the same position. I just don’t get it! Physical body parts be darned!

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  1. Reverb10 Challenge: Defining Moment « Wired, Witty, & Well-dressed

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