The Emotional Labor Union
Our voices are power.

Commentary

The ELU is a safe space and a platform to talk about your experiences. Devoting time to critical thinking and interaction empowers us to sharpen our speaking skills and define the source of our feelings as well as reminds us we have voices that deserve to be heard.

Voices as Power

Gender Wage Gap Lessons When You’re The Boss

Gender wage gap lessons - The ELU

While the current political climate is less than desirable, conditions for women at work seem to be improving (if we ignore #MeToo for a moment), for instance, did you know that women with graduate and undergraduate degrees represent about 50% of the workforce?

  • $.87 = Asian-American Women
  • $.79 = Caucasian Women
  • $.63 = African-American/Black Women
  • $.57 = Native American Women
  • $.54 = Latina Women

This. Is. Not. Ok.

Unfortunately for women, the gender wage gap has stagnated in the past decade which, in earnings, translates to about $10,086 each year (for Caucasian women) which leaves women and their families shortchanged and super stressed out! But what happens to women who work for themselves? Is this an issue that persists, even if we’re the ones setting the prices on our products or services?

After I was fired from a large coworking company with no notice or reason, I got angry. I got angry at the corporate world and how it had worked me for years, only to find myself unemployed with no notice.

At that point, I was 25 and it finally became clear to me that in order to take control of my economic destiny, I’d need to build my own business to create the freedom and wealth I wanted, but what I didn’t realize was that the gender wage gap could still exist in the world of self-employment when it came down to negotiating contracts.

I remember one time during month 3 or 4 of Starlight Social, I was emailing with a woman who pushed back at my $25/hour rate (side note: my hourly rate is now $80/hour). She asked me to lower it to $20 and I hit reply and was literally typing “sure no problem!” when I paused. Why should I lower my rate by $5 simply because she pushed back?

It was a moment of clarity and, cringing and nervous, I wrote back that this was already a reduced hourly rate and than I’d need to stay firm at $25. I waffled around for a little bit, letting the email sit in my drafts for about 10 minutes, and then I held my breath and hit send.

Her response was completely shocking: “Ok sounds good”.

What?

All I had to do was push back to save me hundreds of dollars over the length of the project? Seriously? That’s when I realized the power of my voice when it came down to negotiation. By simply getting over my fear of “hurting her feelings” I significantly increased my earnings. By the way, in general, negotiations are best done IRL or at least on the phone, but I was a rookie business owner at the time!

The next time I used my voice was with a male client, which was much more interesting. After we realized that my services weren’t a good fit for his needs, I sent a final invoice that was due by the 5th of the month.

July 16th and after several reminder emails, I still wasn’t paid so when he texted asking to stop sending reminders via Quickbooks, I told him that I needed to receive the overdue payment. What he said next FLOORED me…

“Oh yeah, the money is no problem, I’ll pay you when I get back from vacation next month.”

Excuse me? I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head as I read his message. I immediately wrote back and said that wasn’t an option and that he needed to let me know if he’d be paying the overdue notice that day electronically (like he had done every other month) or if he’d put a check in the mail by end of day.

He said, “ok I’ll put a check in the mail,” and that was that!

In this situation I wasn’t nervous about pushing back, I was angry that he had the nerve to flippantly tell me when he’d be paying which was over a month later than the payment was due. I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have said the same thing to a man...

At our most recent gathering, I think one of the biggest takeaways from the discussion is that we, as women, need to use our voice to not only advocate for ourselves, but also for others. We’ve been conditioned by society, and maybe our families, to not talk about money because it's “rude” when in reality, this is only perpetuating the wage gap since we don’t know what our colleagues, men or women, earn.

I think it’s crucial to share salaries and compare compensation packages because it’s the only way we can find out this information. And by the way, it’s illegal for an employer to prevent you from discussing your salary, so clear your throat, do a power pose, and use that voice to empower yourself and the women around you.

Tipping my hat to Jessica Knoll, I also want to be rich, and I’m not sorry.

Read our Gender Pay Gap event recap and recommended reading here.

ELU Contributor

Rachel Wynn is a tenacious, poised, and creative professional in the communications field and is the Founder and CEO of both Starlight Social and Feminist Founder. Rachel currently lives next to Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC with her husband, David, and dog-child, Rufus.