Are you asking for it?

I was inspired to write about female financial power this morning after reading a post from Lora Sasiela of Financially Smitten on negotiation and how our ability to ask for what we’re worth gives us a much better return on investment than minding our portfolios or becoming a stock wizard (though these things are important too.)  The article mentions certified financial planner and author of Women’s Worth: Finding Your Financial Confidence, Eleanor Blayney, who notes that women still earn only 77 cents on every dollar that men earn. She asserts that the difference may largely be due to the fact that men are much more comfortable asking for what they’re worth than women.

As I was reading the article a memory popped into my head of the first time I ever asked for more:

I was fourteen years old. It was a beautiful Maine summer. I had spent the entire day babysitting for three kids under the age of seven. I was exhausted after about ten hours of running around, feeding them every thirty seconds, cleaning up, and all the other fun stuff involved in taking care of kids. The father of the family drove me home at the end of the night and handed me twenty dollars. My heart sank. I smiled as I held back infuriated tears and got out of the car.

As soon as I walked in the front door I lost it. I was pissed. He had paid me two dollars an hour. How dare he take advantage of me because of my age and gender? What nerve he had to pay me a pittance for working my ass off running after his bratty kids all day!  After ranting about for a while, my mom suggested that I call him and tell him what I’m worth. What??!! I thought she was insane. In that moment it felt like it would be easier, and far more pleasurable, to stick a hot poker in my eye than to call a grown businessman at least thirty years my senior and tell him that he had majorly low-balled it and that he owed me money.

But below my fear there was another voice that told me this was a moment of critical importance. This was an opportunity to own my power and speak up for myself. This was a moment to ask for what I’m worth. (In actuality I don’t think those particular thoughts consciously crossed my mind. Really I was mostly just pissed off and wanted extra money for clothes or movies or whatever I was investing my precious pennies in at the time. But looking back thirteen years later, I know that voice was whispering to me on some level, urging me to value myself.)

I still wasn’t ready to make the call in that moment, though. I was scared shitless, to be honest. Plus, I was too angry to be adult and professional. So, I called a woman in the community who I also babysat for and who I trusted. I asked her what she thought I should do and she agreed with my mom (darn those mature, empowered women for being right). She told me that she felt he had grossly underestimated my worth and that I should tell him so directly (and sweetly, of course.)

So the next morning I mustered up the courage to make the call. I was nauseous. I was sweating. I was shaking. The phone weighed eight bazillion pounds. But my anger and desire to take a stand for myself made me dial the number. I told him, quite kindly and matter-of-factly, that my going rate for babysitting was actually quite a bit higher than two dollars an hour and that I would appreciate it if he would make up the difference. I apologized for not having told him my rate ahead of time, then told him that we would need to straighten out the situation. I thanked him for his time and hung up the phone.

He was stunned. I was stunned. I never babysat for that family again, which was more than okay. He ended up dropping off more money. I ended up feeling intoxicatingly empowered. My mom and my neighbor who I had called for support were really proud of me. I was really proud of me.

Since that time I’ve negotiated my worth on countless occasions. I’ve asked for higher pay and gotten it time after time. I’ve realized that generally speaking, unless you ask for it, you’re not going to get it. No one will value you unless you value yourself and are willing to take a stand verbally, in writing, or in some other tangible way. I’ve also learned that asking for what I’m worth is scary every single time. And yet, the fear that I feel when I ask for more money or anything else, is not enough to stop me from doing it because the feeling of genuine, profound power on the other side of that fear is worth it every time. Yeah, the extra money in my bank account is nice too, but it pales in comparison to the deep sense of personal worth that grows each and every time I negotiate on my own behalf.

***Tomorrow is my final Women & Wealth Seminar of the summer and possibly of 2010. Join the conversation about feminine financial power live in NYC Thursday, July 29th, 7:00 – 8:30pm at the Giving Nature Center, 155 W 19th St. Discover where your money blocks are, learn strategies for clearing any unconscious beliefs that are holding you back from creating wealth, and identify new ways to create wealth in your life. REGISTER HERE TO SAVE $5.***

When was a time you asked for what you were worth and how did it make you feel?

Have you ever gotten stiffed and not said anything about it?

How do you feel about negotiating in general?

What does feminine financial power mean to you?


  • What a scary, yet empowering moment for a young girl not even a teenager yet! These are the incidents that mark us all our lives whether or not we are aware of them. The trick, I think, is to be aware and be clear about them, and use these valuable lessons for us and our children.

  • Love love this. I had an experience this past weekend where I had to stand up for myself with 2 men concerning a tire for my car. It felt fantastic to ask for what I wanted and deserved—–I got it and the feeling was delicious. Wow–how great for you to have learned this at such a young age. You are a powerful role model for us all.

  • That’s a great post Kate! I love that story of standing up for what you’re worth. It’s true that it can be so terrifying, but it’s exhilarating too. And so worth it… because we’re worth it!

  • Regina

    I am loving your blog. It’s kinda like talking about sex. It’s something we are all dealing with, but don’t always want to face.

    Things are tough in this economy. I recently took a huge pay cut and am happy to still be working. The important thing is that I keep working on that next opportunity AND look for ways to add value. Notice how our self worth may seem to swing with the economy? I am working on creating abundance and self-worth spite the outer financial world.

    I’m sure your workshop will be a great success!!

    • Kate

      Thanks Regina! I’m so glad you like talking about all the good stuff…money, sex, power…it’s all the second chakra stuff that I LOVE to talk about too and that I don’t think we talk about enough. Thanks for being in the conversation!

  • Love the conversation…love the way you write…love your commitment to empowering women. You’re awesome!!!!

    Have a great workshop!!! Wish I could be there!

    Barbara Stanny

    • Kate

      STANNY! I’m dying that you’re commenting on my blog! You are one of my major mentors and way showers in the world of women and owning our financial power and without the work I’ve done with you, I could never be writing about this stuff. Thank you for reading this and thank you for commenting. I’m so excited!!!!

  • Hi there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoyed reading this.

  • Kate, I love this. I know I struggle with asking for what I’m worth and regularly have conversations with a fellow creative about how much work I *really* am putting into my creations versus what people think. Greatly enjoyed the read!

  • Carol

    I just listened to you on the HayHouse Summit and then I had to check out your website. I loved this post about empowering yourself. After being in the same company (banking)for 29 years this month- I recently just empowered myself by finally asking for a raise 2 weeks ago. In all the years we would always have little increases but not once in all this time have I ever asked outside of that for an increase. Part of it came about because I have realized that sometimes being in the same company (name changes) has some benefits however the downside is that new hires in the same position are making a lot more than I am and I guess I didn’t think or feel this was right. So at my mid year review I asked about a raise- as of right now it’s being discussed and my pay is being looked at. I realized after reading your post that- wow it does change things when we can stand up and state I am worth more :) Thank you Kate and I look forward to reading more of what you have to share.

  • Hi Kate,

    I loved your inspiring story!

    I’ve encountered similar experiences at different times throughout my career with clients regarding money where I continuously short change myself or give away my services because I wasn’t uncomfortable asking for the money then later that day having it eating me up inside because I was unable to speak up. And it’s always those same clients, who love to take advantage of my kindness. I can sometimes just give, give, give. It really does effect your self esteem and your self worth. I may also need the course in Assertiveness for the Earth Angels but I’ll buy your book first.

    Thank you & I love your light.

    In love & light
    Donna Muccino

  • Gwen

    I am so glad that I came across this particular post…Just recently I was hired to do a job and when it was over with she said she was going to pay me the amount she had in mind.
    Which was lower than I normally get from another business owner. I told her that I worked really hard (not to mention my experience) and that I was asking for a higher amount, which is the normal rate for what I did. Since neither one talked about the hourly rate she said in the future she would pay that amount…And to top it off she compared my work with what she pays her daughter, who helps her on occasion…that was insulting! She has no training or experience…..I understood later that it was important that I speak up and ask for what my work is worth and do it firsthand. But it was all about the fear of not being worthy of what I do! But this has helped me tremendously to know how important it is to step and not apologize for being paid what I believe I’m worth!!
    So grateful Kate for sharing this information! !!

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