Daughters and Mothers: Stick up for Yourselves NOW

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Boston Gal’s Open Wallet  has a post about a recent article in the Harvard Crimson called “Harvard ’07 Men Make More.” The article mentions that women’s starting salaries lag by 10K. From the article

One of the economists who reviewed The Crimson’s data, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, has found that men are more likely to negotiate their starting salaries, while women are more likely to accept their employer’s first offer. In a study of Carnegie Mellon business school graduates, Babcock found that 57 percent of men “asked for more”—while just 7 percent of women tried to negotiate.

Why do women have such a hard time negotiating and asking for raises? What is the psychology behind that? How can we create a society in which our girls and their mothers demand fair payment for their work? After seeing how my smart, educated mother did such a poor job of making sure she got paid for her work I am adamant about sticking up for myself. I admit that when I have asked for a raise it hasn’t always been easy. But what do we have to lose? It’s important to stick up for ourselves.

I remember when one of my college roomates was given an opportunity to take over her old boss’s job she called me for advice. This friend is a mother of two and was working a four day work week. Her boss’s job would mean more responsibility and more pay. She was nervous about taking the job mostly because of her family at home. I encouraged her to take it and to make sure she got the same salary as her old boss and the ability to continue working just 4 days a week. I told my friend “Look, if you don’t take it you will still take on that work because they will likely hire someone new who doesn’t have your experience at the company. Then you’ll be in a position where you’re supporting a new boss, working just as hard as you would have and not making any more money.” I talked her through it and she took the job and was very happy she did.

Balancing a work career and a family is very tough but I think a lot of working mothers sell themselves short by taking less challenging or high-paying jobs because they worry about not being able to do both. But the reality my feeling is that as long as you’re at work you aren’t at home so you might as well try to get as much money as you can.

There is a part of me who is jealous of women who don’t HAVE to work. And there is a part of me who fantasizes about not having to work. But when I’m really honest with myself I don’t know that I could ever NOT earn money. Also from my own observation of life I don’t think it’s healthy for roles in a family to be so polarized. I think everyone in a family should contribute. Dads and Moms should help with childcare, bedtime, errands, making meals, packing lunches, taking the kids to the pediatrician. Dads and Moms should both contribute financially too. When I see couples where the roles are divided I often see a lack of balance. This whole family division of labor is a very hot topic and can make women hostile to one another. I do not belittle the work that stay-at-home mothers do to support their families or run a household. I wish I had more time to devote to this myself. Still, instead of getting defensive why aren’t mothers and fathers banding together to try to make changes that allow our society to have better balance?

I remember a few years ago there was an article published in the NYTimes magazine about more and more highly educated women (Ivy League educated) deciding to leave their careers so that they could have better balance in their lives. The most interesting thing about the article was the letters to the editor. First of all most women don’t have an option to quite their jobs….the article featured such a small slice of society. I remember one letter asking where is the balance of leaving your job and being at home doing 100% percent of the childcare?

During my blog travels today I also happened upon a popular post called “Raising a Family on One Income (Part Two)”. The writer, a woman. actually says

Every week my husband gives me an allotted amount of money to spend.”

Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Your husband gives you an allowance? Are you his child? I’m sorry but this doesn’t seem healthy to me. I think money should be managed jointly. And to me this means no one in the couple doles out allowances. Shouldn’t couples decide on how they will spend their money together?

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