I recently read an article in Business Insider entitled, “Asking for a Raise Doesn't Have to Be Scary—Here's How to Approach the Conversation with Confidence” in the publication’s HerMoney section. I was disappointed that women are still giving and getting the same advice we have seen fail us for years.
The article implies that women fail to ask for more money because we fear being greedy, fear the unknown, fear our lack of preparation, and fear either being rejected or having to deliver results based on the raise. The author advises women to research the market, consider asking for more vacation instead of more money, write a script, and practice the ask.
While I agree with being prepared and practicing your ask, advising women that it’s not about the money is outdated and wrong. Work that is not about the money is called volunteering. No matter how mission-focused an employee may be, people work for compensation. The idea that women don’t need to be as money-focused is one factor among many that perpetuates the gender wage gap.
One major obstacle for women attempting to negotiate a pay raise is access. Women need better access to key information that could help them determine where their pay should be. One step women can take is asking what men in our respective fields of work are being paid.
If the article is right about why women are afraid to ask for a raise, it would likely help to build confidence if we started asking our male colleagues: (i) how much are they paid, (ii) what the amount of their last bonus was, and (iii) when the last time was that they asked for a raise.
Stereotypes suggest that men might exaggerate rather than diminish their value. Even though the answers might provoke some new emotions, with knowledge comes power.
Asking male colleagues, both within your company and within the industry more broadly, could be one of the most significant changemakers in shrinking the wage gap. We’ve been socialized to believe it’s rude to ask how much money someone makes or that it’s tacky or presumptuous. In reality, it is precisely the opaqueness of compensation that allows biased systems to perpetuate.
And if it is the case that our pay is less than what our male colleagues say they are being paid, we women will have to ask ourselves—and our companies—“Is a job more valuable when a man does it?”