By: Amanda Vining, IATG Contributor March 23, 2016
Money is an incredibly sensitive topic, and I feel like it’s one of the most difficult subjects for young women to negotiate. In her book, Lean In, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, speaks heavily about the way women are perceived when they attempt to negotiate salaries. Women are often encouraged to refrain from speaking about monetary matters and to accept whatever compensation they are offered, even if it means they will be underpaid.
There are so many labels placed on women when it comes to conversations about money, from prompting them to be meek and submissive when it comes to being paid to calling them “pushy” and “feisty” when they stand up for themselves.
Like a lot of people, I get nervous when it comes to discussing matters dealing with money. I try as best as I can to avoid or skirt around issues involving financial relationships. But recently, I found myself in a situation that forced me to stand up for myself and the compensation I deserve. I work as a nanny for several families in my community. At the beginning of the year, I began working for a new family. When I originally met with the parents to discuss the terms of my employment, we agreed that I would be paid every two weeks. At the end of the first pay period, the mom told me that she had forgotten to get money for me and that she would pay me the following day. But she didn’t pay me until six days later, and then she only gave me half of the money I had earned. The same thing happened at the end of the second pay period and then again at the end of the third. I was consistently paid at least five days late, and I was never paid in full like we had agreed upon when our employer/employee relationship commenced.
I realized that I wasn’t receiving the compensation I deserved, nor was I being respected as an employee. After much deliberation and hesitation, I made the decision to speak with the parents about the situation, but it wasn’t easy to bring up. I have always had a difficult time talking about money, especially when it comes to asking someone for money. Even if it’s money I’ve earned, I become extremely nervous and self-conscious. It’s not an enjoyable topic to address, and the ensuing conversation can be uncomfortable. In the days preceding my conversation with the parents, I found myself wondering if I should give it more time before I said anything, if I was being too pushy by demanding the proper compensation, or if it was really a priority to request the full payment I had earned.
As these thoughts circulated through my mind, I thought back to Sheryl Sandberg’s book and the advice she gives to young women about negotiating with employers and taking ownership of the compensation they deserve. She tells a story about how she accepted underpayment at her first job because she didn’t feel like she deserved any better, but that she eventually grew to understand and own her worth and now expects to be paid a salary comparable with her abilities. This was just the pep talk I needed to take ownership of my own worth and address the situation I was in with confidence.
Even though it was difficult, I approached the parents and ultimately declared that I was unwilling to continue working for their family if I was not going to be properly compensated. Through this experience, I learned that I am worthy of being respected as an employee and that I deserve to stand up for myself when I am not being treated fairly.
Are you being fairly compensated for you work? If not, challenge yourself to ask for better, to ask for what you deserve! Practice these conversations with a friend then stand up for what you deserve.
Amanda lives in Austin, Texas, where she strives every day to be as BRAVE and BeautyFULL as she can be. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a self-designed degree in Children’s Rights, and Duke University with a certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, Amanda can be found scouring Pinterest for her latest craft project, drinking coconut mochas in her favorite coffee shop, and advocating for sexual violence prevention on her blog, Talk About Rape (www.talkaboutrape.com.)
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