Work, Gender, Money, Career Advice, Now + Beyond

Don’t think you deserve a raise? Well we think you do

After a decade of work experience, I still struggle to ask for more money. That changes today.

No matter what job I’ve had and no matter the amount of experience under my belt, it’s always been difficult for me to ask for a raise.

The thought of sitting down and having this conversation with my boss makes my stomach hurt and I go straight down the ‘self doubt’ and ‘not enough’ spiral. I’m constantly thinking of ways I could be doing better.

But I know I’m a hard worker and a great team player. I’m reliable, I bring enthusiasm, contribute ideas to better the staff, and generally being good at my job. I feel like I’m doing a lot, but whatever I’m doing definitely doesn’t deserve a pay raise right?

This is what always goes through my head. It’s frustrating, to say the least, but turns out I’m not alone.

In her book That’s What She Said, chapter six “She deserves a raise but won’t ask for it” Joanne Lipman shares her experience coming into a new managing position. She says “The biggest surprise for me when I became a manager was how many men asked for a raise, a promotion or a bigger office. It came as a shock because I didn’t ask for those things myself. Neither did the women I supervised.”

Recently coming into a supervisor position, I brought this topic up in conversation with my female-identifying coworkers. Chloe Rosenlicht said “I’ve actually never asked for a raise. I just don’t think it would be worth it.” Then my other colleague Anna Hennigh talks about how she first asked for a raise only last year at the age of 31, working at her previous job. Anna said “They responded with ‘Well do this, this and this and then we will consider a raise.’ Yet, I watched the people around me get raises. People who did much less than me.”

According to Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda Babcock and co-author of Women Don’t Ask “Men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise—and when women do ask, we typically request 30% less than men do.”

For all my female-identifying and non-binary colleagues, friends and family members, I’m all for it. I’m always advocating for them to ask for a raise, or ask for what they want and need financially, to be firm and negotiate. Yet I’m not practicing what I’m preaching!

Joanne Lipman later states in her book, “The solution should be so simple. If the root causes for the gap is that women don’t negotiate, then we should get over ourselves, and just ask for what we are worth already. So why don’t we? Part of the reason is we don’t actually know what we are worth.” As I practice learning and validating my self-worth in my social and personal life (which is still a job in and of itself) I still don’t know my worth when I clock in and start my workday.

Then there’s that popular saying “ask, and you shall receive.”

Hmmm, when I think about all the people who have told me that in my life, they have all been cis-men. Because the majority of the time when they do ask, they receive. Lipman states “Even if we do realize our value and then ask for it, we often suffer consequences of another sort.” Men don’t need to worry about sounding too demanding, needy or difficult to work with. Their initiative and persistence is expected, not questioned or challenged.

I know the times are changing and thank gender-gap activists it is, but in general, we still hold a lot of pressure. First, we have to try and unlearn the social and professional expectations that are put on us. Then we have to work on our self-worth and ignore this concept ingrained in us since birth that we are lesser than. Then at the end of the day, we should just stand up and demand what we want?

I full heartedly agree nothing’s going to change unless we get together and do something about it. But that’s my point exactly. Because in fact, some genders have been treated unworthily by our world, therefore we don’t all feel worthy to ask for a raise, promotion, or more support from our boss.

All identifying women and non-binary folks shouldn’t have to find this inner confidence and initiative all on their own. Our systems are programmed in a specific way, telling us we have to do more and work harder than our more privileged counterparts. So I’m also speaking to myself when I say that this pushback, fight, whatever you want to call it, has to be a group effort.