A few weeks ago before heading out I was settling in the new babysitter — a beautiful, sweet and academically brilliant 17-year-old. “Your mom said you usually charge $10 per hour — does that work for you?” I said.
“Yes, or $8 is fine, too,” she said.
“Never suggest less!” I admonished. “When someone says ‘$10,’ you say ‘$12.'”
I find myself yelling at women about money all the time. I learned a lot about money from own mom, (One nugget: “Always negotiate. Otherwise they won’t respect you.”) a 1970s feminist who also often said, “Women are women’s worst enemy.” Interpret that as you will, but I take it to say that if women aren’t earning as much as men, it’s because (at least in large part) collectively women don’t do enough to further the cause of equal pay. Poke holes in that all you want, but when a promising young woman instinctively suggests fees lower than offered, we have work to do.
Tons of progress has been made in promoting women in education, business, government and pay. Plenty of legislation, research and programs. Yay! But advocacy also happens in little, everyday conversations — conversations we have been conditioned to avoid. Convention tells us it is impolite to a) talk money, and b) tell others their business. Guess what else is convention: Women earning less than men.
Which is why I say you should start yelling. Yell because you care about the women in your life and you want them to succeed and be financially successful. Yell also because you want all women to be financially successful. Because what is good for me is good for you is good for her is good for them. And by “them,” I mean women and people everywhere.
A few more recent examples from my life:
-My housecleaner Sandra and I were renegotiating our arrangement. I asked her: “How much will it cost now?” Her answer: “Oh, I don’t know — tell me how much you want to pay? I hate giving quotes!” I told her: “Sandra, you do awesome work and you know it. Tell me your fee.” She went high and I agreed.
-After speaking at a conference recently, a woman from the audience approached me and complained that she has been in her role as a hospital administrator for six years and been promoted several times without any merit pay increase. She estimates she earns $60,000 less than market value. $60,000!!!! “That’s crazy,” I said. “It’s your responsibility to get more.” This articulate, professional woman went on to rationalize that her family doesn’t need more money, and she likes her boss …. and all the usual crap women say. “You need to turn this around,” I told her. “They’re taking advantage of you because they don’t respect you.” I volunteered to coach her into a higher salary or new job, but she never followed up.
-A friend is miserable in her job and complains at how poorly she is paid and treated. Finally, yesterday, after sustaining another gripe session, I told her: “You know you have to leave and you deserve more money. If you don’t have those things it is your responsibility. I’ll help you find a new job but I won’t listen to you complain any more.” She finally accepted my recurring offer to connect her with a colleague who can help her.
Tell me: What do women you know do to sabotage their finances? What do you tell them? Share in comments, ladies!
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.