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?