So many articles have been released around the reasoning of women when we negotiate our salaries. It’s been blamed on being weak, not confident as men, and not being assertive. Or being afraid of being called a bitch or bossy.
Mainly, being a punkass. So how is that anyone’s fault right? Man up. [Insert anecdotes from hundreds of men talking about they always ask for more and how it’s sooooo easy to do].
When I first negotiated my salary I was misinformed by different sources about how I should ask for my salary. It was my first full time job out of college and I was scared I couldn’t do the job. So I asked for how I thought I’d perform, instead of what I really wanted. What led to this poor decision?
No technical mentors to give me proper feedback.
No intervention by the ones interviewing me [Insert “well that’s how businesses work!!” people. Thanks Wall St. Bulls, I’m well aware].
The lack of interest in general when I talk about tech to other mostly male developers.
Consistently being treated with apprehension in tech spaces.
Basically, being constantly bombarded with negativity and treated like a unicorn. Not even like a good unicorn, but like a mutated one who just showed up in someone’s bathroom.
I am expected to “be grateful” to even be in these spaces and work hard silently with no complaints. I am also told that all of these instances are in my head mainly and that I’m just emotional. What follows is “think more like a man”. By man they mean be extra assertive, ego driven, status driven, and have bravado.
So the solution is to sacrifice my easy-going nature and be an ass to everyone around me, shake hands way too hard, be as offensive as possible, put my feet up on my desk and hands behind my head (power pose!!), and work the “not-like-those-other-black-women” persona. That should work out fine.
Everyday these micro-aggressions whittle away at my ability to disconnect the overwhelming negative comments from my self worth. The advice to “man up” at negotiations is not where my battle begins or ends so I’d wish the conversations around equal pay didn’t solely focus on that part. It derails the conversation away from the responsibility of people who so mindlessly and effortlessly push out marginalized groups in their work place without second thought. They’re companies that claim they are trying sooooo hard to pay women more but they don’t ask for it. THE SADNESS. Last time I checked there was no rule saying you can’t just simply offer what you think they should have despite the lapse of judgement on the potential employee’s part.
Asking me to don the dominate culture’s traits is not my idea of success. If I were to act like an ass-hat tomorrow and get $100K that doesn’t necessarily mean I won. It would mean that in order to get that salary I had to completely shed who I am in order to even be considered. Realistically, unless someone randomly rolls out the red carpet at my audacity, that wouldn’t happen. I’d get fired or demoted.
There are ways to my desired career and I am taking steps toward that. I am no longer fresh out of college and I know my worth after seeing so many men oversell themselves. I start asking for what I know I do deserve and work hard to gain even more. I had to surround myself with more positive people who were in my shoes and didn’t need to become their environment in order to make it. I go to events, I have side projects, I learn the holes I can get through, and I do a lot of self professional development. It takes a lot of energy to do these things so I try to take it one day at a time. There is no one solution, but we can start with valuing ourselves despite the messages we receive every damn day. Of course easier said than done because it’s strange to verbally hear this negativity and think “well maybe they are all wrong”. Logically it doesn’t make sense to think that. It’s a huge mental hurdle.
I hope one day that discrimination won’t have so much power over my daily energy to perform and provide for myself. However I will continue to call out the tech bro culture I reside in. On an anecdotal note, I have had men in tech tell me they never see anything like that at their job ALL THE TIME. However 40% of us are leaving the field. So obviously there is a huge gap not only in pay but perceptions and bias. That is where the problem lies.
“There really is no such thing as ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” – Arundhati Roy