Are You Underpaid?

A few months ago, I had lunch with a wealth and investment manager who refers business to me. She asked me why I had never mentioned my results in helping my clients increase their compensation as a core part of my work.

That conversation came back to me when I worked with a marketing and communications specialist as I revamped my website. She wanted to know why I didn’t promote my clients’ income boosts more often.

It’s an easy target: You want to make more money? Then work with me.

Today a woman named Kim visited my office. She had come to me three months ago about her salary. She had been severely underpaid by her company for the past 10 years, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She told me about her responsibilities and how much time she put into her work. I told her that she had to ask for more money. It took her two and a half months but she finally went in and asked for more money.

And you know what she shared with me today? She had received a 136% salary increase on the spot. Yep, her salary was more than doubled. Kim isn’t even a client of mine; she is a hard-working woman who needed someone to tell her to ask for more money. The details of Kim’s story aren’t important, but they’re all too familiar. I’ve had clients who have tripled their salaries after working with me. They’ve received five-figure sign-on bonuses and have started businesses that make well into the six-figure mark in their first year.

Why does it happen so often? Because women are underpaid. I wish it was because I have some magic that I sprinkle on my clients. I don’t.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a raise if you work with me but I can guarantee that you are underpaid. I was underpaid myself. The first time I asked for a raise, I received a $20,000 increase. It wasn’t because I was bringing so much more to the table; it was because that’s how far I was below market!

I don’t go around boasting about making people more money because most of the women I work with are woefully underpaid when compared to men with the same titles, education, and years of experience. Once women realize what they have to offer, they start asking for the compensation they should have been receiving all along.

Why are you underpaid? I blame bias, a legacy of being undervalued, and a reluctance to negotiate for more money.

Why does it matter? You have the right to make as much as any man for the same work. When you don’t, you appear less talented and under qualified. It slowly kills your career and the joy you’ve had creating it.

What are you going to do about it? To start, you can hire me. Though, I won’t work with you unless you plan to ask for more money. Or, you can forge ahead on your own and ask for more money. If your company doesn’t give it to you, they don’t value you. And that’s when you can decide to choose a company that does.

When Kim and I worked out how much more money she would receive each week, she realized it was going to change her life. She kept thanking me, but I told her she did all of the hard work. She admitted to me that she did it because I told her she had to be the one to ask for more money.

Then she told me something that made both of us proud. She said as she drove into her driveway after receiving her raise, her daughter had pulled up next to her. When she came over to greet her, Kim saw a spark in her daughter’s eyes. Kim said she wanted to give her daughter something that would keep that spark alive. She told her daughter she had asked for raise and got it.

In that moment, Kim gave her daughter a gift: She showed her what it looks like to have control over your own destiny.

I don’t feel comfortable profiting off other people’s exploitation, which is why I’ve been reluctant to promote it. But if reading this article makes you take stock of what it is you bring to work everyday, and you decide that you, too, need to earn market value, or more for what you do, then I’ll talk about it all day and all night.

Originally posted on Jennifer’s website, Food On Our Table.

Jennifer McClanahan-Flint

Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is an Executive Career Strategist. Through her Leverage to Lead Programs she works with ambitious women and people of color to help them navigate compensation, bias, and their career progression so they can continue to rise. Jennifer works across industries to help women and people of color obtain the autonomy and financial security they need to thrive in their careers. To learn more about Jennifer visit her at www.leverage2lead.com and feel free connect with her on Twitter at @jennifermcflint.

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