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July 11, 2009


Great (though sobering) post. I'm curious what happened with your career at Merril Lynch after 2004. I would have felt inclined to say - pay up or I'm working for your competitor.

So interesting. I think of that old Virgina Slims slogan ("You've come a long way baby...") sometimes when I see opportunities that women have today if they choose them. And when I hear things like this, I get a bit frustrated. Especially that based on merit, you should have been earning more. I guess there is still a long way to go in some situations...

I think that the point is somewhat missed. Negotiation, shemogtiation! All bull! Women or men it matters not. There is one question that every single person in a "management" position must ask one's self to be successful if they want a successful working group with which they are tasked. Can I have that really hard conversation with an employee? Those of you who know what I mean, know what I mean, I mean the results, do or walk, can you sit in a room and terminate someones employment conversation.I would say that 15% really can do it somewhat effectively and that explains the 85% of the really bad managers in corporate America who simply can't, or will not.

"I want to, I need to, ask for what I want.
Being my self depends on it." This quote from your post bothers me, but I am not quite sure why.

Probably it is because I have found that focusing too much on what I want leaves me unhappy and selfish. Yes, my personal needs must be met, but focusing too much on myself simply does not work. I have found that I must lose myself to find myself.

This hits very close to home this week as, crossing fingers, will be interviewing for two equally dreamy jobs. Hopefully I can take some of the lessons learned in the reading when it comes time to discuss money.

Asking for what we want/need is very difficult, but it is so beneficial in preventing martyrdom, avoiding resentment, and opening the door for honest communication. I think NOT asking can actually be more selfish in the long run since it can lead to huge problems (see list above!). It is challenging to find a balance between the two extremes.

On the other side of the coin...

Recently, I interviewed someone for a position at my company who was not happy with the salary number. I was surprised because I pay my employees roughly 20% above the market rate for this position - so I consider the salary generous. I pay high because I want my employees to feel well compensated and because I believe it affects work quality. Plus, they deserve a good piece of the pie.

Normally, however, I would've caved at this candidate's dissatisfaction - immediately given him a higher number to quell his displeasure. Instead, I realized that I cannot give him a higher salary and meet my financial obligations. My salary structure is well thought out, generous and reasonable. I asked myself what I want - and I gave it to myself. I asked myself proverbially, "Am I allowed to keep a portion of the company income for myself?" I answered, "Yes!" Sometimes it's so hard to say yes to ourselves!

p.s. I wonder if this unwillingness to ask for what we want financially stems from the historical precedence of men defining our monetary worth. For centuries, women were viewed as property - the value of which was solely defined by men. I can't imagine that we have completely shaken this legacy out of our subconscious system.

shawnie you make an interesting point. i agree with you that service is an important component self concept. that said, you can't draw from an empty well. i always think about this when i am on an airplane and the flight attendant says "put your airbag on first and then help those around you."

i think we are more useful to those around us when we are getting the things we need. i think i am the first person i need to help. i believe that in choosing myself first i will be more interesting, more fulfilled, and feel like I have more to give those around me.

far from being selfish, choosing me, asking for what i want, and getting what i need are some of the best ways i can prepare myself to serve others.

I have often felt this phenomenon, and often "don't ask" because of the possible social consequences. It does really put women in a bind. I don't have a solution. Do you ask for more precisely so you DON'T reinforce the stereotypical woman's behavior, but then sacrifice the social consequences?

I'm interested in the social cost of asking portion, and wonder how that translates into our own homes, and community, where monetary pay isn't what we're seeking.

I find it disturbing that we're relegated to a choice of worth or societal conformity. Why can't I get paid what I'm worth just because I'm a woman? I've never understood why women have to prove so much more than men, and why the punitive consequences are so much harsher when we try. But do the articles explain it so we can change it, or are they being published so that those in charge of saying "no" aren't held accountable for denying us?

I've never had a career that involved pay negotiation. I've never had to justify my dollar value to someone else, but just the thought of having to explain why I'm worth the money to someone looking at my credentials gives me the (angry) shivers--it shouldn't be so subjective if you have the experience to back it up and the proof right there in print.

I work in a traditionally female dominated field (education), but my bosses have nearly always been men who make a LOT more money than I do. The answer is easy, right? Become an admin. The problem is that to do so would be to reject nearly every reason I love the education process in the first place.

Teacher salaries will never reach any degree of competitiveness as long as a teacher's salary is seen as "secondary" and as long as attitudes like the ones cited here remain the norm. Male legislators, and administrators have nearly total control over teacher wages--this is a realm where women still need to make many inroads. In the mean time, we'll stay busy educating the next generation.

"Nice" is a loaded word. It is so overused that it has become both meaningless and burdened with meanings that seem synonymous with weakness and passivity.

I have a good friend, mother of 8 children, who is brilliant. She walked away from a Ph.D. program and a likely career as an academic superstar, because she really wanted to be a mother, an opportunity that came to her later than she originally anticipated. (Obviously she has made up for lost time.)

I once said to her, "I want my children to be nice." She retorted, "I don't want my children to be nice. I want them to be good and strong." If one adds experience to goodness and strength, the result frequently is wisdom. We should all aspire to be wise--able to see the larger picture and our appropriate place in it, then strong enough to defend both our own and others' place in it.

My husband is a successful CEO. As a VP at a former company, he had to engineer a huge lay-off. When a local paper interviewed him about the lay-offs, my husband said something to the effect of: "If you are going to be a successful businessman, you better be willing to do it. However, you should also feel like hell about it." In other words, make the hard choices, but always be aware of the human element of any situation.

This is a bit of a tangent. Not sure if Whitney intended for the discussion to become grounded in salary negotiation.:) But...

In January 2009, I raised my company's rates by 20%. What, you say? "Raised" your rates in the middle of a plummeting economy? Yup.

Guess what? My business doubled.

The reason I raised the rates was because I realized that my prior rates lacked one thing - integrity. My prior rates were not a true reflection of the fair market value for my company's work; consequently, the rates were dishonest. The rates did not represent the quality and value that we offered. Once I stood confidently in the truth of the market value of my company's services, the clients started pouring in.

I believe this phenomenon occurred because all of us are inexplicably attracted to authenticity, strength and confidence. When we see someone perform their "art," whatever that may be (dancing, teaching, trading stocks, cooking a meal, etc.), from a place of deeply knowing its worth to him or herself and the world, it's beautiful - and we want to behold it, and be part of it.

p.s. EHD - I loved your husband's comment!

Janna, I love what you said about integrity and authenticity. I had never thought of that before. Profound.

GREAT post. This does apply to so many other arenas, not just work and pay. Same questions. What is the cost of asking for what we want? And how does this affect what we get, or what we settle for? Interesting food for thought.

You are all giving me SO much to think about. I think that maybe we are going to need a follow-up post on this topic.

Janna! Thank you. I have always seen my teaching as an art. A passion. I know that its worth to myself is far beyond money. And yet . . . .

While none of us should ever feel a need to put a dollar amount on our "worth," it is very nice to get out of bed in the morning and go to a job where you feel compensated according to your creativity, diligence, talent and drive.

Thank you for sharing that! In my past, I was a financial analyst who worked alongside men. I was the only female in my group. I felt like it really upped my game being around men, but it DID bring out the bulldog in me. I had no choice. The second I walked into work, I would have my "game face" on. No being girly. However, I did run into many roadblocks that you mentioned (about money). After usually stellar yearly reviews, I would ask for a raise. Usually I received a measly % increase, barely able to keep up with inflation, right? Later, I found out my male counterparts received considerable raises. They were making far more than I and I was furious. I ended up quitting and starting my own business. It definitely fueled the fire for me.

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About this blog

  • When I took a sabbatical from Wall Street to pursue a different dream and help others live theirs, I learned that women in the U.S. may be placated, even pampered, but because we aren't dreaming, we are also desperate and depressed. Drawing on a variety of sources, ranging from academic studies to pop culture, dare to dream encourages us to dream. And then to act on our dreams.


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