I like money. I mean, who doesn’t? So why is it so hard for me to accept it from people to whom I’m giving a skill or benefit?
Mika Brzezinsky wrote about this in Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth. Women are good at giving, but not so good at taking. That’s beautiful, and the world needs more of it, but sometimes we stand in our own way. Mika careened from not asking her bosses for adequate pay, to asking inappropriately (acting like a man would, since that’s who modeled the intervention for her), to asking in a way that was true to her comfort level. The last time, when she asked authentically, it happened.
Part of my problem is that I am starting a new business, so my students were my guinea pigs. I didn’t feel it was right to charge them for something that wasn’t particularly polished, but now it’s a valuable product, so I had to break the news.
I felt like a jerk, but I did it, and they were beautiful!
“Of course; your classes are worth it!” was the general sentiment. I am so relieved, but I still feel kind of clunky. To be honest, I dread when my book is published and I have to take money for that. Not the money part. The take part.
I never had any problem negotiating in a corporate setting, because for some reason that seems impersonal. My problem is asking individuals to open their very own wallet and share their personal cash with me.
Some of it is my upbringing: very Catholic. We were taught to give and give and give until it hurts. And then give some more. From my North Dakota German heritage I got the idea that we only give, never take. And then there’s this timeworn maxim: it’s better to give than receive. Right?
My parents taught me to give. My mother worshiped sacrifice and we kids were indoctrinated. No surprise I supported two jobless husbands. When I met Prospective Husband Number Three, I took him to be interviewed by my therapist. Seriously – I didn’t trust my own judgment. After thirty minutes, Dr. N looked at me and said, “He’s got a job. What the hell do you see in him?”
But I digress. Women still earn less than men, and one reason is because they don’t ask, let alone negotiate.
Here’s a surprise: the younger generations are no better.
When interviewed about their book, Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever say this:
A lot of the younger women we talked to…believe that they’re just as assertive about what they want as their male peers. Unfortunately, this is not true. Younger women may assume that things have changed far more than they have, but our studies show that even among men and women in their 20s and early 30s, men are much more likely to initiate negotiations than women.
I’m going to take a stab here and say it’s probably about two things: one, our indoctrination as caregivers and nurturers, and two, the lack of role models. I guess that was redundant.
The situation perpetuates itself.
In the future I’m going to read up on and study more about this topic for my own benefit, yours, and that of my daughters and granddaughters. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making a sacrifice for those you love, but it can’t be all you, all the time. The act of taking cash from your peers may feel creepy, but giving away your work feels worse.
Have you experienced this inability to ask for what you’re worth? Did you figure out a way to overcome it? What’s your story?