What to Do When You’re Chronically Underpaid | That’s A Good Question

42 Minutes
What to do when you're chronically underpaid

Welcome to the first episode of “That’s A Good Question,” a new segment in which our host Celeste Headlee teams up with an expert to answer YOUR real-life work-life questions.

In this episode, our listener realizes she is being paid less than her colleagues for the same work, with the same experience. Should she demand a raise? Throw in the towel? Take a road trip?

Listen in to find out what we uncover with Celeste’s sage interrogation and real-word advice from Bentley law lecturer Kiana Pierre-Louis.

Talking about salary in the workplace is taboo, yet it happens. So what do you do when you find out that you are chronically underpaid in comparison to colleagues doing the same job with the same level of experience? In this episode of Women Amplified’s “That’s a Good Question,” we talk through this exact scenario to help a real listener figure out her next steps. Through active problem-solving, practical advice, and shared experiences we will explore legal issues of discussing salary, how to talk with HR about pay equity, and strategies to manage peer relationships when you know they are getting paid more for the same job. You will leave empowered and ready to put solutions in place.


 

Our Host: Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee Celeste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee

Our Guest Expert: Kiana Pierre-Louis

Kiana Pierre-Louis Kiana Pierre-Louis is a senior law lecturer at Bentley University in the Law, Taxation, and Financial Planning Department. In addition to being a Professor at Bentley University, Kiana is also an alumnus of Bentley University having graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Communications and a minor in English in 1999. She received a Juris Doctorate, from Suffolk University Law School in 2002 cum laude and passed the bar that same year. She equally has a passion for Social Justice and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Her work at Bentley centers on social justice. Kiana serves on several committees across the Bentley Community; she is a Co-Chair of the Teaching and Scholarly Activities Committee and is an advisor to three student organizations. Kiana was the 2017 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, the 2017 and 2018 Innovation in Teaching Award and the 2019 Joseph M. Cronin Award for Excellence in Academic Advising at Bentley University. She has also won awards for Exemplary Educator, faculty of the year and outstanding alumni through Bentley University. Kiana also sits on the Board of Directors for KodeConnect, Inc. a non-profit organization helping marginalized youth to get access to STEM classes for little to no cost.


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Episode Transcript:

Women Amplified Listener:

My name is (beep).

Celeste Headlee:

What do you do?

Women Amplified Listener:

I am a regulatory affairs professional for a large biomedical company.

Celeste Headlee:

So you wrote to us about your pay. Explain what your question is.

Women Amplified Listener:

Sure. So I was in a step above an entry level role at my current company for about three and a half years, during which time I received really stellar reviews, but very moderate cost of living increases. So I was looking for opportunities to develop myself. So I ended up taking a lateral move within the same company. It didn’t pan out like I expected, it was actually significantly more responsibility and significantly more challenging, which was welcomed in many ways.

Women Amplified Listener:

But I asked several months after being in this new challenging role, I asked to have a discussion about the next level. How can I perform at that next level? What kind of experiences and training do I need to pursue? I was told that I was already performing at that next level. So I was promoted, which I was excited about. But when I received the promotion, it came with a percentage increase based on HR policy. I had a conversation in which I asked if there was a band, a salary band for the role. I presented data from Glassdoor that showed the average salary for that role for the area. I also provided there’s a salary report that’s published annually from a respected professional organization in my field, and I presented that as well.

Women Amplified Listener:

I highlighted all my qualifications and my master’s degree and everything like that. It really validated the salary that I was asking for, which was about nine to 10 grand more than what I was offered. I understood that people with similar qualifications and experience had been given what I was asking for, so I was really surprised that it was met with a lot of resistance to being compensated at the level that I asked for. Even having provided all of that data and met at the table with a respectful conversation to request it. So I ended up taking what I was offered because that seemed to be what my option was. It is lower, it was significantly lower than colleagues with similar experience and role, in the same role.

Women Amplified Listener:

So now I’m trying to figure out, “Do I wait for an annual review to see if I’m brought up to an equal level and equal pay?” Is my only choice to receive a competing offer to push the hand towards equal pay or is it really time to leave? There’s the writing on the wall that there’s a lot of lip service that’s being done about valuing employees, but when push comes to shove, that might not necessarily be the case?

 

Celeste Headlee:

Well, if your pay is not equivalent to other people in your similar position, it’s the question of whether they value some employees more than others, isn’t it?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, I think so too. I think that was something else that I struggled with personally, mentally, and emotionally because there’s a lot of talk about how much we value you. You’re one of our top employees, and we want to continue to develop you and all this. That’s really great. But like you said, if you’re not willing to pay me equally, then obviously, that can’t be true.

Celeste Headlee:

So how many performance reviews are we talking about? When you talk about getting great performance reviews, how many have there been?

Women Amplified Listener:

I had three in the previous role, and then I’m coming up on a year in the current role, but I do check in quarterly. I do solicit feedback, appropriately with my supervisor, to ensure that I’m performing at the level that is expected of me. It sounds like I’ve been exceeding it the entire time that I’ve been at the company.

Celeste Headlee:

A cost of living raise is what, like 2%? 2.5%?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. So 1% to 2% was about it. So it was very little movement in the four years that I’ve been. Well, the three and a half years that I was in the previous role, it was very small increase.

Celeste Headlee:

One also assumes everybody else is getting that as well, so it’s not lessening the gap between you and others in the same position.

Women Amplified Listener:

Well, it turns out, that’s not actually correct. I kind of discovered that when I was having conversations with colleagues about it. Because like I said, I had done my research, I determined what I expected to receive at this next level. I was told that I was valued and appreciated and all of that. So I didn’t think to ask if the annual increases that I was receiving was comparable to other people. It sounds like it may not have been, It sounds like perhaps there was a bucket of money to be allocated. That was maybe at the discretion of managers to allocate to different people. But no, it doesn’t. It sounds like what I experienced was not typical compared to colleagues.

Celeste Headlee:

So you spoke to your direct supervisor or did you go to HR?

 

Women Amplified Listener:

I went to my direct supervisor, and then my direct supervisor pulled in their director. So I had a conversation with both of them as well.

Celeste Headlee:

They expressed no negative or critical feedback about your performance?

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s correct. I did say that if we felt that I wasn’t performing at equal levels, I would like to know. I would like to have that conversation and figure out what I could work on at work or what I could do differently. So I know I have that rapport with them. I did ask to have that conversation if that was the case.

Celeste Headlee:

Other than the pay inequity, what do you like about your job?

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s a tough question. I really like the the colleagues within the function, within my own function. Then there’s some colleagues with whom I have really great working relationships in other functions. But other than that, it can be really tough to find things that I honestly like. It’s very challenging. I think I’m the fifth person in the same role in four years. There’s some personalities on cross functional teams that are really challenging to work with. So I think that’s a question I’ve been asking myself is, even if I were being compensated at the level that I asked for, what do I like about it?

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, that’s a great question. The other question, of course, is, how difficult would it be for you to find a different position?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. That’s something I’ve been considering as well. I think unfortunately, in the role that I had before, it was a step above entry level. I was a workhorse. So I was happy to work a lot of extra hours and do as much as I possibly could, but I didn’t get certain experiences that I really should in my field, experiences that would help me at this next level. So I think that’s been the challenge of getting my foot in the door at other companies at this next level because they look for that experience, understandably. I’m very capable of it, and I have academic experience, but they’re looking for the number of submissions that you’ve done as a benchmark of your success in that profession.

Celeste Headlee:

You know this because you have applied elsewhere, how do you know that other companies would not feel you are qualified?

Women Amplified Listener:

It’s tough because I’m not a jumper. I’m not great at kind of tooting my own horn. I’m really great at like supporting and uplifting other colleagues. But when it comes to myself, I’m just really focused on what I’m doing. So I have a hard time, to be honest talking myself up for these other roles. I have applied for a few other places at the current level that I’m at and I did receive feedback that they are looking for somebody with submission experience that I don’t have. I understood that. So that was really the only feedback that I’ve received so far from the jobs to which I’ve applied.

Celeste Headlee:

Are you in your current role doing that? Are you getting experience in that area that you need?

Women Amplified Listener:

No, not yet I won’t have that until next spring, which is why I’m trying to figure out what my plan and timeline should be.

Celeste Headlee:

This is the field where you want to work?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes.

Celeste Headlee:

So when you’re weighing this and thinking about this to yourself, it sounds to me like there’s some competing things going on here. Because number one, you have a job that’s not actually developing you in a really timely manner. You’re not getting experience and training quickly or even in what I would think would be a rational pace – so there’s that issue. There’s the issue of the pay, obviously, but there’s also the issue that it doesn’t sound like you enjoy the job very much, other than some of your colleagues.

Women Amplified Listener:

It’s hard, it panned out a little differently than how it was initially promised. So it’s a high volume and there’s less support than I expected. I’m kind of an island, which is okay, but it was kind of positioned as, “Oh, this will be an opportunity for you to take one or two developmental projects that are going to be extremely challenging and involved.” It ended up being significantly more than two. So it ended up really being the point person for an entire product line. Everything is accelerated and there’s no priorities. It’s very challenging, so I think that compounded it where I’m getting different experience, but then not experience that’s going to enable me to grow, like you said.

Celeste Headlee:

So if they gave you your salary request, if they approved your salary request tomorrow, would you still be weighing whether or not you should stay?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think you’re right. I think on some level, I would be. I think had it been addressed during that conversation that I had previously, I think I would have taken it and been happy. But I think how that was handled and what that communicates about actual action to support and retain what they say are valued employees, it makes me question how invested I should be in this role. Maybe I shouldn’t be working late nights and maybe I shouldn’t be taking on these extra things or doing things outside my lane. Perhaps I really should continue to have the door open and look elsewhere.

Celeste Headlee:

So how confident are you that when you go into the next negotiation, whether it be for the raise and pay that you want from your current employer or let’s say, you do move on, and you need to negotiate your initial salary, how confident are you that you can brag about yourself enough and get the kind of salary number that you need?

Women Amplified Listener:

I’ve been working on it. I think my approach is to present data, so I think I can certainly come up with some data and statistics for the things that I’ve worked on and the challenges that I’ve overcome. I can point to a number of colleagues of equal or up and coming levels that I’ve encouraged, nurtured, and tried to mentor and support. So I think I could certainly provide a case for it. It is challenging having already done that and been told no. It’s something I continue to try and build myself up to do in my head, but I don’t know how successful I will be.

Celeste Headlee:

Have you spoken with any of the other colleagues at your workplace who are earning more than you for essentially the same work?

Women Amplified Listener:

I have. I have and they have encouraged – well not all, but a few select people. It was very much the consensus that what I was asking for was appropriate and actually modest in comparison to what I would be paid if I were to get a job somewhere else. It was actually under what other people had been brought in at the same level. So the consensus was that there was a lot of surprise that I was told no, that what I was asking for was reasonable and equal and should have been a slam dunk to retain and bring stability, continued stability to the role that I’m in.

Celeste Headlee:

What is your idea on why? If it’s the rational thing to do, if it’s the right thing to do, why do you think they turned down your salary increase?

Women Amplified Listener:

I can really only go by what I was told, which was that it was a there was an HR policy that 10% was the max increase – that was what I was offered and what I ended up taking. I don’t know that there was until I disclosed it. Like I said, I had a really candid conversation. So I don’t know that there was an awareness of what I had been making before I came out and said it, and said “This is what I was brought into the company at. In the three and a half years that I was in the previous role, this is what I was brought up to. I’m concerned that while I appreciate the 10% increase, and I understand that’s a policy change, my concern is that if you haven’t received increases over your time at the company, that you’re going to just perpetually be lower.” So I think the HR policy was the rationale that I was given and also that HR was only looking at the time that I was in my current role. I did indicate that, from an employee standpoint, that’s not what you’re considering. If you’ve been at the same company for over four years, that’s the timeframe that you’re looking at.

Celeste Headlee:

So these were separate meetings, the meeting with your director and your director’s supervisor was one meeting. There were other meetings with HR, right?

Women Amplified Listener:

I didn’t actually meet with HR. At the point that I was at, it seemed like I didn’t really have an option and that was the best. What I was offered was what I was going to get and I was welcomed to talk to HR. Considering the stance that had been communicated, my impression when I left that meeting was just to sign the agreement and take it. Because, like I said, I’d already been told that I had already been performing at that role since I took the job, so I just wanted to, at that point, be paid a little bit more even for the job that I was already doing. So I didn’t talk to HR directly, but I provided all the data and analysis and rationale to my own supervisor and and then the director to support the position and the request.

Celeste Headlee:

Now, this is my last question for you, I promise. But I want you to imagine somebody either at this job or another job that you think of as being really assertive, smart, and ambitious. Imagine what they would do in this position, what would that person do right now?

Women Amplified Listener:

I have seen that they generally leave. That’s why we’ve had a lot of turnover. Because if you’re somebody that is ambitious and you’re not receiving the experience that you’re looking for, you’re not receiving the development opportunities that you’re advocating for, and you’re not seeing salary increases that you expect based on the field that we work in, people seem to leave. I’ve communicated that, I don’t think that that’s the culture that we’re trying to create at the company, that we want to retain and continue to develop talent, especially when you have people that are willing to move across divisions, support different product lines, different functions. Those are people that develop tribal knowledge that’s really valuable, we should be looking to continue to develop these people, especially when they’re highly motivated and interested in doing so.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. So is there anything else you would want Kiana to advise you on? What other advice would you ask her for?

Women Amplified Listener:

What else should I have? What else should I provide to support the case? Is it necessary for me to obtain a competing offer in order to be compensated fairly in my current role or is it time to leave? Should I wait to see if things are adjusted during my next performance review and then make a decision? Like I said, I’m not a job jumper. I like to really finish projects and follow the campfire rule, right, of leaving things better than when you found them. So essentially, I’m just trying to figure out what my path forward should be and what the timeline should be for that.

Celeste Headlee:

I feel less like one of the ways that I sort of help people problem solve is by letting them answer the questions themselves. I feel like the questions are leading you in a direction that you for some reason are not ready to take. In other words, you’re asking for help in how to get your salary increase, but it doesn’t sound like that even with a salary increase, you’re invested at this point.

Women Amplified Listener:

I think that’s a fair question to ask. I am feeling myself having some challenges with starting to disengage, but that really is stuff that started after I had all those conversations and they didn’t go well. So that’s been very recent that I’ve started to think that maybe, just for my myself, that I should really disengage because I’m obviously not valued like they say that I am. But I think that’s a fair point to make.

Celeste Headlee:

You have described somebody and people that you admire and think of as strong and ambitious, you say they would leave. You obviously believe the problems go further than salary. But I wonder if you are falling into the gender trap of underselling yourself when you apply for other jobs? I mean, I’m sure you may be aware of the difference between the genders.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, I agree. My husband and I talk about it at home. He’ll apply for a job if he meets 60% of the qualifications. I’m looking at the same list and saying, “Oh, I need 85%. I’m not qualified for that.” Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think that’s a really tough thing to shake. I think especially as a millennial as well, we graduated college with the great recession, and you were just grateful to have a job. So I think that’s also a pervasive attitude that I’m trying to break. Don’t let your gratitude for a job that got your foot in the door in the industry keep you under paid from the role that you’re currently in.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. So what does that look like in your own life? Do you think it’s possible that you are letting those subconscious doubts about your own life? I mean, A. Your need to be very, very honest and B. Your doubts about yourself, are you allowing those to get in the way?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think, to some degree, yes. I think also my gratitude. I’m just a person that’s really grateful to have the opportunity to. I was grateful to get my foot in the door in this company. I think that that helped me keep myself where I was, being grateful for what you’re given and being hesitant to ask for more. I think it was a big deal for me to come to the table and say, “This is actually my salary expectation. This is why and this is everything that supports it.” Those were hard conversations for me to have, but I felt like they were very valid and that I was clear and deserving of equal pay.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. Have you ever had a friend who’s dating somebody, and you had to have the conversation of, “He’s not as into you as you are into him?”

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, of course, of course. I think my friends that, because I am friends with a lot of people in my function at work at the same company. I think no one would blame me if I left. I think that it would not be good for the role and stability of the product line, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised or blame me if I left.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, so you’re taking on all this emotional weight on behalf of this employer who is not returning the favor. You’re worried about the stability of the product line, when that really should be your managers worrying about that.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

You’re worrying about high turnover. You’re worrying about how loyal you will appear when it doesn’t sound like your employers are spending any time worrying about those things at all.

Women Amplified Listener:

I think that’s fair. It does feel that way.

Celeste Headlee:

Which brings me to the unfortunate role of being your friend who’s saying he’s just not that into you.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, that’s why I am looking for other opportunities. Then you feel like you have to divest yourself right, from working extra hours and trying to be very successful in your current role? You really have to shift gears and say, “Okay, no. This extra time per week, I’m going to devote to myself and to doing what I need to do to be prepared to interview at other places and in getting my resume out there.” So that’s a hard transition to make when you’ve when you’ve been so invested in succeeding in your current role.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, although you have been really, really invested in helping the company succeed. Maybe it’s time to help to invest in yourself. If you’re going to take time, maybe this is time to get some online training in other things to get some credentials and certificates. But maybe you need to improve your CV. Maybe it’s time to learn how to go into those interviews and prepare to say, “I can do this role. I meet at least 60% of the qualifications, and I’m going to rock your world in this position.”

Women Amplified Listener:

I agree. It’s a little tough because I’m kind of maxed out. I do have a master’s degree in the field and I do have a professional certification.

Celeste Headlee:

I want you to listen to yourself.

Women Amplified Listener:

I really maxed it out.

Celeste Headlee:

I want you to listen to yourself.

Women Amplified Listener:

I know, I know.

Celeste Headlee:

Because you’re sitting here telling me I’m extraordinarily well qualified. But earlier, you were saying, “I’m not qualified for these other jobs.” I mean, you hear yourself saying that?

Women Amplified Listener:

I know, it’s true. It’s that one piece of experience. It’s that one piece of practical experience.

Celeste Headlee:

Oh, come on.

Women Amplified Listener:

No, it’s true.

Celeste Headlee:

No, come on.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re reminding me of my husband, and I appreciate it so much. But yeah, he’s like, “No, it doesn’t matter. Who cares? You can you can do it.” I’m like, “I can do it. But I haven’t done it.” But that’s the thing is, I just need to get my foot in the door somewhere else. I can absolutely perform and perform well. It’s just like you said, yeah, I need to figure out how to talk myself up like I’m able to do and routinely do for other people.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. It worries me that you’re already downplaying your own credentials and saying, “You just need to get your foot in the door.” Nope. You do not need another entry level job. You are years and years past entry level. You don’t need a foot in the door. When you make a commitment to a job, they’re not doing you a favor.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re right. Yeah, you’re right.

Celeste Headlee:

I mean, they’re not being benevolent.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re right. I think like, I said, I think shaking that mindset of being grateful just to have a job. I was also brought up in a household where we’re someone who said, “Be worth what they pay you.” I think those are some things to work on and to shake for sure.

 

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I mean, I think you have enough experience, training, and education. If your current job can’t see that, maybe it’s not about changing you any more than you would tell your female friend to change for the sake of some dude.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. I think that’s fair. I’m nodding.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. Like you said, maybe that’s the solution is that it’s time to leave. Maybe in leaving, it’ll be the reset that I need to feel like I’m being compensated at the level that I’m performing and also really have that concrete understanding and belief in myself. Don’t just quietly do it in the background, but actually do it and be able to say that yeah, that’s the level that I perform it.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I mean, you’ve been kicking butt.

Women Amplified Listener:

I have.

Celeste Headlee:

For years.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes.

Celeste Headlee:

For years. It’s time that you be somewhere where it’s appreciated. I would never tell anybody, advise someone to, to leave their job. But that’s what you’re telling me.

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s the hard thing is there’s a lot of verbal communication that I’m so appreciated and valued and things like that. There always has been, which was nice. But when it comes down to it, you want to be paid equally.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, you deserve to be paid equally. You don’t know that you’re not being paid equally because of their transparency and accountability. You know because you had to do detective work on top of all the other stuff you’re doing.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. I did communicate to my boss that I just want to be really clear that that was the ask. The ask was for equal pay, and that was what was declined, so there’s a very clear understanding that that’s what I was asking for.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. I want you to repeat back what you just said to me. You asked for equal pay.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. Directly. Was clear that that was the ask, equal pay. But I was told no.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

Well, they didn’t say no directly.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

It was HR that said no.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

HR said that what I asked for was too high, which can’t be true if you’ve already paid other people that.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, I’ve been on the other end of those tables, they can find money. They find ways around things when they want to.

Women Amplified Listener:

Especially when it’s a modest amount in comparison to them trying to replace somebody. Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

It was a no brainer, it would have been a slam dunk, I think. I think the people that I talked to all expected it to be a no brainer decision.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

Why would they expect that?

Women Amplified Listener:

Because of who I am and how I perform and the role and the challenges associated.

Celeste Headlee:

Because we are asking for should not even be up for debate.

Women Amplified Listener:

No, it was a completely valid ask that was backed by multiple references.

Celeste Headlee:

See, when say, “Because of who I am,” that’s still part of this, this mentality that you earn it. It’s not about what you earn. You can earn other things, but this is just equal pay.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, it’s hard. It’s really shaking my confidence. I’m trying not to feel like I don’t deserve it and that’s why I didn’t get it.

Celeste Headlee:

So here, this is the crux of it. This feeling that your success is something you have to earn. That is not true. That is not true. Your accomplishments, you can earn. Awards, you can earn. But equal pay, you get that. That’s your right.

Women Amplified Listener:

I agree. You should. It should be that way.

Celeste Headlee:

I agree. Yeah, yeah. We’ll have to see how it is going forward. Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

I appreciate that. That sounds great. I think it’s tough to figure out what to do next. It’s been an analysis paralysis for me on this.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I can imagine that. [NAME BLEEPED], let’s say that you get advice that is uncomfortable for you, are you ready to follow either my advice or, more specifically, Kiana’s advice? Are you ready to take that step?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think I’m definitely receptive to hearing it. I’m not afraid of hard conversations and tough advice. I do think it’s helpful to even hear it from different people, like outside parties, like yourself with expertise. So yeah, I think I’m at a place where I really need to figure out what I’m going to do. If I do wait, what an appropriate timeframe should be, but I don’t. I don’t want to wait forever. I have communicated that to my supervisor, that I didn’t want to wait forever.

Celeste Headlee:

Well, not only do we have great advice for you also from Kiana, but we would love to follow up and see what happens in the days ahead.

Women Amplified Listener:

Sure, yeah. We can do that. I would be receptive to that. I don’t know if there are other people in similar positions. If there is anything that I could share that could be useful to somebody else, I’d be happy to do so.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, I’m sure other people are in this position.

Celeste Headlee:

Awesome. Well, in the interest of time, I’m going to tell you basically the situation that [our listener] is in. Then [our listener] will correct me if I get something wrong, but then I will ask you a few questions. So [our listener] has been at a firm for something a little over four years. She was in a position that was a step above entry level for three years and was promoted into a position that ended up being much bigger than her supervisors had told her it would be, as in they told her she’d be managing a couple projects. She’s ended up juggling a bunch, she’s working on nights. She’s working on weekends. She found out by talking with her colleagues that she was not being paid the same that others in her same or similar positions were making.

Celeste Headlee:

When she went to her, she gathered all of her data, she made the case, she went to her supervisor and also her supervisor’s supervisor, and explained the whole situation to them, said this is about equal pay. They said, “No, HR doesn’t allow us to give someone that kind of increase,” and she was turned down. So she’s in this position where she’s trying to figure out whether it’s time to learn how to ask for the pay raise in another way or if it’s time to leave.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Mmm, okay.

Celeste Headlee:

What goes into these kind of decisions? What do you recommend that people consider when they’re facing this kind of question?

 

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Well, good question. So it sounds like [our listener] did the right things. First of all, researching. When you feel, you get into a position, you realize that they didn’t tell you everything, you’re doing a lot more. You have a feeling that the pay may not be equal. Doing your homework is the best, first of all. Also going around and talking to people which [our listener] did because I think … Well, I don’t know if we know this, but pay secrecy policies are illegal or they’re not okay under the National Labor Relations Act.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Whereas if your organization said, “You know what, you can’t go around and talk to people. If you do, you’re going to get fired or demoted or anything like that.” That’s pretty much not okay. You can bring that to the National Labor Relations Board because that goes against freedom of speech, that goes against concerted effort. It doesn’t sound like they did that which is excellent. You were able to gather the data from people you work with, but also I’m hoping outside sources, which is not always helpful because with Equal Pay Act, it has to be so similar. So similar in what you do and all that. But you can gather enough data.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

The other thing that I’m not sure was done but is also important, is really figuring out what you think you want. So if they come back with the resounding no that you receive, what am I going to do? Am I okay with working this hard and this much without getting some sort of increase? Do I think that they’re actually paying my value? So this goes into that values driven thing, what are your goals? What do you want to do? Are you okay with doing that? Are you just going to … Do you want to stick it out a year? So it really takes some planning on if it’s a no, what are you going to do? Six months, a year? Are you just going to say forget it, I tried. So all that goes into it. She did, I think, about half of it. But I don’t know, not expecting to know or not, now stuck at the second half. Now, what am I going to do?

Celeste Headlee:

[Listener], did you want to answer some of her I don’t knows?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. Thank you for validating that I did the correct thing and doing my research and talking to people and then having candid conversations, I really appreciate that. I have been asking myself, “Am I okay with this?” It is a no. I think the challenges and the frustrations are too significant to not be paid equally for experiencing them. So you’re correct. I’m stuck at that second half of what am I going to do and what’s the timeline in which I’m going to do it?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Perfect. Did you want me to answer that?

Celeste Headlee:

Yes, please.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So first of all, let me just tell you this, this is not even legal. I’ve been in the situation, been in this exact situation. My resounding was what some women, anyone does, maybe I’ll just work harder and see if they see that, and maybe pay more. That was a no, that was also a no. In my situation, they gave me half of my pay equity. I was getting paid well under what I should have been and doing more than anybody in my department getting paid on. So they gave me half. Then I had to figure out, am I okay with this? It was a resounding no. So I set out a plan, I gave myself a year.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

I always tell anybody this: I would never just suggest, because I don’t know people’s where you’re at finances, your family situation, your personal situation, so I would never say you go right in and say I’m out. Right? So that takes some planning. That may take some saving, that takes you looking around maybe at a comparable job, or maybe not even a comparable job if you don’t like this job, but it takes some planning.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I think your next step is how long are you willing to do this? Start planning, start saving if you can. Start looking, building your portfolio, talking to other people, really building that network. Network around this area is important. Then if it’s a no, and you can go back to them and say, “All right. Again, I’ve done the data. I’m looking at this and you’re really paying me less and it’s not equal. I don’t think it’s right. I’m going to ask again, are you going to pay me, adjust my pay?” If it’s no, then you can give your resignation then. That is hard. I’m not saying this, that it’s easy. But that is what I would recommend if it’s a no.

Celeste Headlee:

So the other thing Kiana, before I let [our listener] respond to you, is that she was talking about applying for other jobs. Yeah, absolutely forgot about that. So she’s applying for other jobs. But there’s one specific piece of practical experience that she feels is holding her back from getting a job in the field. I wonder what your response is to that. I pointed out to her that women are way more likely to not apply for jobs saying I’m not qualified unless they meet every single qualification that’s listed, whereas men are like, “I can do that.” What do you think?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Well, Celeste, you hit the nail on the head. Yes. Women constantly are like, “If I don’t tick off every last one of them, if I don’t work 10 times harder, I’m not going to apply.” Whereas men do not do that. They will show other strengths in other areas. Maybe sometimes cite that they have a weakness, sometimes don’t even do that. But may cite that they have a weakness and say, “But I can do this and I can learn.” If it is one practical area, nobody and I’ve been on both ends of applying for jobs and reading applications, I’ve never received an application where everybody’s ticked it off. Can I tell you the cover letters you will read, and they believe, especially the males, that I can do this. I am an asset for you. That’s how you have to come across.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

It is up to you, it depends. If it’s recommended on job application, they say it’s recommended or preferred. You can sometimes cite that flaw and do it in a way that it’s not actually. But you can cite the flaw and then just say, “But I have this, this, this.” You have the experience, and you have to put that in your mind and take away everything that you may not think you can have. You can do the jobs, especially if you’re doing it now for not the pay that you deserve. You can do it or you can learn it. You will probably put in that work to learn it. Because women, we also feel like we have to work harder to show our worth, to show that we deserve this pay.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I would just go for it. A friend of mine said to me once, what’s the worst that can happen when you apply for a job? You get to a no. Well, you know that, right? That’s the worst. So I would just apply.

Celeste Headlee:

Are there tips you can give, not just to our guests, but also to anyone in this position for getting equal pay, period? Whether it’s in the job that she’s currently in or as she goes to take a new job, how is she best set up to get the same pay as everyone else in that position?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Excellent question. Negotiations. Okay. Again, women don’t tend to negotiate. Which is why again, women get paid 82 cents for every dollar men make in the United States, that’s a gap of 18%. Just not always negotiating, feeling excited and happy that they received the job, no. You go in with your number, your base number. Always three numbers, your base, your mid, and your top. Okay, you’re taught might be what I’m grasping for, what I want. Your middle is probably more along the line of what you want. That bottom is you will take nothing less. But with that said, this is the hard part, you have to be willing to say, “No, thank you.” Okay?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

That can be hard, specifically if you’re not working or in a situation where you want out. You know what I mean? If you want out, you’re like, “I just want to find a job and get out.” But you can’t let yourself to get into that. Know your worth and regardless that you feel like you’re missing a piece, you know your worth, and you know what you’re going to bring to any institution. You have to keep that in mind and be okay with saying “No, because I know, I’ve done my research. I know that either you, as an organization have paid this amount for this or I know that other organizations that are comparable have paid this amount for this.”

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I this is my bottom line. Because they’re always going to give you a number and hope you say no, but they have wiggle room within that number. So first of all negotiation. But again, do your homework. You know what I mean? Know what they’re likely paying, which right now, organizations tend to give you a range. They probably mean that range so look the range up, go do your homework, abd then do your three numbers and then come in. Don’t go anything lower than that base number that you have. But you have to be willing to negotiate and be willing to say, “I know what I deserve.”

Celeste Headlee:

Are there legal repercussions for asking for equal pay? In other words, are there boxes that one needs to check if one plans to make it a legal argument?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Yeah, excellent. A couple not on the employee or potential employee side, so the one thing you should know, asking negotiating salary does not give them a right to reject or pull away the offer that they’re making. Usually they make you an offer, right? Then they say, “This is the salary range or this is the salary we’re giving you.” At that point, you know that they’re giving you the job? If you say, “No, can we negotiate?” They cannot pull it based on that. If they do, that is employment discrimination or something. Something is going on, you can go back at that. So the only thing that I would say is on that, it may be you saying no, but they can’t reject you at that point. If you are like, “No, I don’t like the salary,” and you’re willing to negotiate. They can’t just say, “I’m not willing to negotiate and we’re rejecting.” No. They have to say this is our bottom line. If you reject it, then that’s fine. So that’s first of all.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Second of all, equal pay is the law, right? There are some issues with equal pay. Then this is anything with the law is one, just figuring out, does it fall in that box, right? Do you even fall in? It is so particular on similar job in similar industry, in similar organizations, but even when it’s similar organizations, they’re looking at similar organizations within probably the same state or area.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

We know the cost of living varies, so you can say, “I know somebody in New York makes this,” and that they’re going to say, “That doesn’t go with the equal pay.” So it’s really more narrow than most people think. So again, it’s the similar job, in a similar situation, probably similar area. You can look at comparable jobs at other institutions. I would only say that would work as far as well, this is what your competitor’s doing. But again, it’s really based on that organization and what they’re paying and what they’re paying people in your similar job, if there is such a thing.

Celeste Headlee:

[Listener], did you have questions for Kiana?

Women Amplified Listener:

I’ve been taking notes. Yeah, I’m trying to think. I really appreciate your advice to give yourself a timeline and create a plan and especially to go into negotiations with base, mid, and top salary numbers and be willing to walk away and say no. I think I definitely learned, I think what I didn’t realize at the time that I was trying to negotiate the raise that came with the promotion, I waited to sign off on it until I had a discussion with my manager, and then our director, but I didn’t really realize that I could continue to hold off on that indefinitely. I did feel like I needed to move on it in a reasonable timeline or else I was just going to continue to be paid at the same rate. So that was a good thing to learn. I don’t think I have any questions at this time. I just really appreciate your advice and your suggestions. Some really good feedback today.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Can I add one thing too?

Celeste Headlee:

Of course.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

We always think about pay as our check at the end of the day, but also there are times too. This is if you don’t think you want to leave the organization you like it, but you know what you deserve, benefits. Ask for certain benefits. That could be stock options that can be, “Hey, then you pay my medical.” Medical is a lot of money, you can pay my medical. There are other things that you can also look for that may equal it out, but you have to go figure that out and maybe crunch some numbers. But sometimes we get locked into salary or hourly or whatever it may be for whatever you’re in, but also think about negotiating benefits too. So okay, if you won’t raise my salary by 10,000 or whatever it may be, then maybe you will throw in this or throw an extra vacation or do it all, sick pay or whatever it may be. Think outside the box too.

Celeste Headlee:

Great. That’s awesome. I really appreciate it.

View Transcript

Women Amplified Listener:

My name is (beep).

Celeste Headlee:

What do you do?

Women Amplified Listener:

I am a regulatory affairs professional for a large biomedical company.

Celeste Headlee:

So you wrote to us about your pay. Explain what your question is.

Women Amplified Listener:

Sure. So I was in a step above an entry level role at my current company for about three and a half years, during which time I received really stellar reviews, but very moderate cost of living increases. So I was looking for opportunities to develop myself. So I ended up taking a lateral move within the same company. It didn’t pan out like I expected, it was actually significantly more responsibility and significantly more challenging, which was welcomed in many ways.

Women Amplified Listener:

But I asked several months after being in this new challenging role, I asked to have a discussion about the next level. How can I perform at that next level? What kind of experiences and training do I need to pursue? I was told that I was already performing at that next level. So I was promoted, which I was excited about. But when I received the promotion, it came with a percentage increase based on HR policy. I had a conversation in which I asked if there was a band, a salary band for the role. I presented data from Glassdoor that showed the average salary for that role for the area. I also provided there’s a salary report that’s published annually from a respected professional organization in my field, and I presented that as well.

Women Amplified Listener:

I highlighted all my qualifications and my master’s degree and everything like that. It really validated the salary that I was asking for, which was about nine to 10 grand more than what I was offered. I understood that people with similar qualifications and experience had been given what I was asking for, so I was really surprised that it was met with a lot of resistance to being compensated at the level that I asked for. Even having provided all of that data and met at the table with a respectful conversation to request it. So I ended up taking what I was offered because that seemed to be what my option was. It is lower, it was significantly lower than colleagues with similar experience and role, in the same role.

Women Amplified Listener:

So now I’m trying to figure out, “Do I wait for an annual review to see if I’m brought up to an equal level and equal pay?” Is my only choice to receive a competing offer to push the hand towards equal pay or is it really time to leave? There’s the writing on the wall that there’s a lot of lip service that’s being done about valuing employees, but when push comes to shove, that might not necessarily be the case?

 

Celeste Headlee:

Well, if your pay is not equivalent to other people in your similar position, it’s the question of whether they value some employees more than others, isn’t it?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, I think so too. I think that was something else that I struggled with personally, mentally, and emotionally because there’s a lot of talk about how much we value you. You’re one of our top employees, and we want to continue to develop you and all this. That’s really great. But like you said, if you’re not willing to pay me equally, then obviously, that can’t be true.

Celeste Headlee:

So how many performance reviews are we talking about? When you talk about getting great performance reviews, how many have there been?

Women Amplified Listener:

I had three in the previous role, and then I’m coming up on a year in the current role, but I do check in quarterly. I do solicit feedback, appropriately with my supervisor, to ensure that I’m performing at the level that is expected of me. It sounds like I’ve been exceeding it the entire time that I’ve been at the company.

Celeste Headlee:

A cost of living raise is what, like 2%? 2.5%?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. So 1% to 2% was about it. So it was very little movement in the four years that I’ve been. Well, the three and a half years that I was in the previous role, it was very small increase.

Celeste Headlee:

One also assumes everybody else is getting that as well, so it’s not lessening the gap between you and others in the same position.

Women Amplified Listener:

Well, it turns out, that’s not actually correct. I kind of discovered that when I was having conversations with colleagues about it. Because like I said, I had done my research, I determined what I expected to receive at this next level. I was told that I was valued and appreciated and all of that. So I didn’t think to ask if the annual increases that I was receiving was comparable to other people. It sounds like it may not have been, It sounds like perhaps there was a bucket of money to be allocated. That was maybe at the discretion of managers to allocate to different people. But no, it doesn’t. It sounds like what I experienced was not typical compared to colleagues.

Celeste Headlee:

So you spoke to your direct supervisor or did you go to HR?

 

Women Amplified Listener:

I went to my direct supervisor, and then my direct supervisor pulled in their director. So I had a conversation with both of them as well.

Celeste Headlee:

They expressed no negative or critical feedback about your performance?

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s correct. I did say that if we felt that I wasn’t performing at equal levels, I would like to know. I would like to have that conversation and figure out what I could work on at work or what I could do differently. So I know I have that rapport with them. I did ask to have that conversation if that was the case.

Celeste Headlee:

Other than the pay inequity, what do you like about your job?

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s a tough question. I really like the the colleagues within the function, within my own function. Then there’s some colleagues with whom I have really great working relationships in other functions. But other than that, it can be really tough to find things that I honestly like. It’s very challenging. I think I’m the fifth person in the same role in four years. There’s some personalities on cross functional teams that are really challenging to work with. So I think that’s a question I’ve been asking myself is, even if I were being compensated at the level that I asked for, what do I like about it?

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, that’s a great question. The other question, of course, is, how difficult would it be for you to find a different position?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. That’s something I’ve been considering as well. I think unfortunately, in the role that I had before, it was a step above entry level. I was a workhorse. So I was happy to work a lot of extra hours and do as much as I possibly could, but I didn’t get certain experiences that I really should in my field, experiences that would help me at this next level. So I think that’s been the challenge of getting my foot in the door at other companies at this next level because they look for that experience, understandably. I’m very capable of it, and I have academic experience, but they’re looking for the number of submissions that you’ve done as a benchmark of your success in that profession.

Celeste Headlee:

You know this because you have applied elsewhere, how do you know that other companies would not feel you are qualified?

Women Amplified Listener:

It’s tough because I’m not a jumper. I’m not great at kind of tooting my own horn. I’m really great at like supporting and uplifting other colleagues. But when it comes to myself, I’m just really focused on what I’m doing. So I have a hard time, to be honest talking myself up for these other roles. I have applied for a few other places at the current level that I’m at and I did receive feedback that they are looking for somebody with submission experience that I don’t have. I understood that. So that was really the only feedback that I’ve received so far from the jobs to which I’ve applied.

Celeste Headlee:

Are you in your current role doing that? Are you getting experience in that area that you need?

Women Amplified Listener:

No, not yet I won’t have that until next spring, which is why I’m trying to figure out what my plan and timeline should be.

Celeste Headlee:

This is the field where you want to work?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes.

Celeste Headlee:

So when you’re weighing this and thinking about this to yourself, it sounds to me like there’s some competing things going on here. Because number one, you have a job that’s not actually developing you in a really timely manner. You’re not getting experience and training quickly or even in what I would think would be a rational pace – so there’s that issue. There’s the issue of the pay, obviously, but there’s also the issue that it doesn’t sound like you enjoy the job very much, other than some of your colleagues.

Women Amplified Listener:

It’s hard, it panned out a little differently than how it was initially promised. So it’s a high volume and there’s less support than I expected. I’m kind of an island, which is okay, but it was kind of positioned as, “Oh, this will be an opportunity for you to take one or two developmental projects that are going to be extremely challenging and involved.” It ended up being significantly more than two. So it ended up really being the point person for an entire product line. Everything is accelerated and there’s no priorities. It’s very challenging, so I think that compounded it where I’m getting different experience, but then not experience that’s going to enable me to grow, like you said.

Celeste Headlee:

So if they gave you your salary request, if they approved your salary request tomorrow, would you still be weighing whether or not you should stay?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think you’re right. I think on some level, I would be. I think had it been addressed during that conversation that I had previously, I think I would have taken it and been happy. But I think how that was handled and what that communicates about actual action to support and retain what they say are valued employees, it makes me question how invested I should be in this role. Maybe I shouldn’t be working late nights and maybe I shouldn’t be taking on these extra things or doing things outside my lane. Perhaps I really should continue to have the door open and look elsewhere.

Celeste Headlee:

So how confident are you that when you go into the next negotiation, whether it be for the raise and pay that you want from your current employer or let’s say, you do move on, and you need to negotiate your initial salary, how confident are you that you can brag about yourself enough and get the kind of salary number that you need?

Women Amplified Listener:

I’ve been working on it. I think my approach is to present data, so I think I can certainly come up with some data and statistics for the things that I’ve worked on and the challenges that I’ve overcome. I can point to a number of colleagues of equal or up and coming levels that I’ve encouraged, nurtured, and tried to mentor and support. So I think I could certainly provide a case for it. It is challenging having already done that and been told no. It’s something I continue to try and build myself up to do in my head, but I don’t know how successful I will be.

Celeste Headlee:

Have you spoken with any of the other colleagues at your workplace who are earning more than you for essentially the same work?

Women Amplified Listener:

I have. I have and they have encouraged – well not all, but a few select people. It was very much the consensus that what I was asking for was appropriate and actually modest in comparison to what I would be paid if I were to get a job somewhere else. It was actually under what other people had been brought in at the same level. So the consensus was that there was a lot of surprise that I was told no, that what I was asking for was reasonable and equal and should have been a slam dunk to retain and bring stability, continued stability to the role that I’m in.

Celeste Headlee:

What is your idea on why? If it’s the rational thing to do, if it’s the right thing to do, why do you think they turned down your salary increase?

Women Amplified Listener:

I can really only go by what I was told, which was that it was a there was an HR policy that 10% was the max increase – that was what I was offered and what I ended up taking. I don’t know that there was until I disclosed it. Like I said, I had a really candid conversation. So I don’t know that there was an awareness of what I had been making before I came out and said it, and said “This is what I was brought into the company at. In the three and a half years that I was in the previous role, this is what I was brought up to. I’m concerned that while I appreciate the 10% increase, and I understand that’s a policy change, my concern is that if you haven’t received increases over your time at the company, that you’re going to just perpetually be lower.” So I think the HR policy was the rationale that I was given and also that HR was only looking at the time that I was in my current role. I did indicate that, from an employee standpoint, that’s not what you’re considering. If you’ve been at the same company for over four years, that’s the timeframe that you’re looking at.

Celeste Headlee:

So these were separate meetings, the meeting with your director and your director’s supervisor was one meeting. There were other meetings with HR, right?

Women Amplified Listener:

I didn’t actually meet with HR. At the point that I was at, it seemed like I didn’t really have an option and that was the best. What I was offered was what I was going to get and I was welcomed to talk to HR. Considering the stance that had been communicated, my impression when I left that meeting was just to sign the agreement and take it. Because, like I said, I’d already been told that I had already been performing at that role since I took the job, so I just wanted to, at that point, be paid a little bit more even for the job that I was already doing. So I didn’t talk to HR directly, but I provided all the data and analysis and rationale to my own supervisor and and then the director to support the position and the request.

Celeste Headlee:

Now, this is my last question for you, I promise. But I want you to imagine somebody either at this job or another job that you think of as being really assertive, smart, and ambitious. Imagine what they would do in this position, what would that person do right now?

Women Amplified Listener:

I have seen that they generally leave. That’s why we’ve had a lot of turnover. Because if you’re somebody that is ambitious and you’re not receiving the experience that you’re looking for, you’re not receiving the development opportunities that you’re advocating for, and you’re not seeing salary increases that you expect based on the field that we work in, people seem to leave. I’ve communicated that, I don’t think that that’s the culture that we’re trying to create at the company, that we want to retain and continue to develop talent, especially when you have people that are willing to move across divisions, support different product lines, different functions. Those are people that develop tribal knowledge that’s really valuable, we should be looking to continue to develop these people, especially when they’re highly motivated and interested in doing so.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. So is there anything else you would want Kiana to advise you on? What other advice would you ask her for?

Women Amplified Listener:

What else should I have? What else should I provide to support the case? Is it necessary for me to obtain a competing offer in order to be compensated fairly in my current role or is it time to leave? Should I wait to see if things are adjusted during my next performance review and then make a decision? Like I said, I’m not a job jumper. I like to really finish projects and follow the campfire rule, right, of leaving things better than when you found them. So essentially, I’m just trying to figure out what my path forward should be and what the timeline should be for that.

Celeste Headlee:

I feel less like one of the ways that I sort of help people problem solve is by letting them answer the questions themselves. I feel like the questions are leading you in a direction that you for some reason are not ready to take. In other words, you’re asking for help in how to get your salary increase, but it doesn’t sound like that even with a salary increase, you’re invested at this point.

Women Amplified Listener:

I think that’s a fair question to ask. I am feeling myself having some challenges with starting to disengage, but that really is stuff that started after I had all those conversations and they didn’t go well. So that’s been very recent that I’ve started to think that maybe, just for my myself, that I should really disengage because I’m obviously not valued like they say that I am. But I think that’s a fair point to make.

Celeste Headlee:

You have described somebody and people that you admire and think of as strong and ambitious, you say they would leave. You obviously believe the problems go further than salary. But I wonder if you are falling into the gender trap of underselling yourself when you apply for other jobs? I mean, I’m sure you may be aware of the difference between the genders.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, I agree. My husband and I talk about it at home. He’ll apply for a job if he meets 60% of the qualifications. I’m looking at the same list and saying, “Oh, I need 85%. I’m not qualified for that.” Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think that’s a really tough thing to shake. I think especially as a millennial as well, we graduated college with the great recession, and you were just grateful to have a job. So I think that’s also a pervasive attitude that I’m trying to break. Don’t let your gratitude for a job that got your foot in the door in the industry keep you under paid from the role that you’re currently in.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. So what does that look like in your own life? Do you think it’s possible that you are letting those subconscious doubts about your own life? I mean, A. Your need to be very, very honest and B. Your doubts about yourself, are you allowing those to get in the way?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think, to some degree, yes. I think also my gratitude. I’m just a person that’s really grateful to have the opportunity to. I was grateful to get my foot in the door in this company. I think that that helped me keep myself where I was, being grateful for what you’re given and being hesitant to ask for more. I think it was a big deal for me to come to the table and say, “This is actually my salary expectation. This is why and this is everything that supports it.” Those were hard conversations for me to have, but I felt like they were very valid and that I was clear and deserving of equal pay.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. Have you ever had a friend who’s dating somebody, and you had to have the conversation of, “He’s not as into you as you are into him?”

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, of course, of course. I think my friends that, because I am friends with a lot of people in my function at work at the same company. I think no one would blame me if I left. I think that it would not be good for the role and stability of the product line, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised or blame me if I left.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, so you’re taking on all this emotional weight on behalf of this employer who is not returning the favor. You’re worried about the stability of the product line, when that really should be your managers worrying about that.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

You’re worrying about high turnover. You’re worrying about how loyal you will appear when it doesn’t sound like your employers are spending any time worrying about those things at all.

Women Amplified Listener:

I think that’s fair. It does feel that way.

Celeste Headlee:

Which brings me to the unfortunate role of being your friend who’s saying he’s just not that into you.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, that’s why I am looking for other opportunities. Then you feel like you have to divest yourself right, from working extra hours and trying to be very successful in your current role? You really have to shift gears and say, “Okay, no. This extra time per week, I’m going to devote to myself and to doing what I need to do to be prepared to interview at other places and in getting my resume out there.” So that’s a hard transition to make when you’ve when you’ve been so invested in succeeding in your current role.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, although you have been really, really invested in helping the company succeed. Maybe it’s time to help to invest in yourself. If you’re going to take time, maybe this is time to get some online training in other things to get some credentials and certificates. But maybe you need to improve your CV. Maybe it’s time to learn how to go into those interviews and prepare to say, “I can do this role. I meet at least 60% of the qualifications, and I’m going to rock your world in this position.”

Women Amplified Listener:

I agree. It’s a little tough because I’m kind of maxed out. I do have a master’s degree in the field and I do have a professional certification.

Celeste Headlee:

I want you to listen to yourself.

Women Amplified Listener:

I really maxed it out.

Celeste Headlee:

I want you to listen to yourself.

Women Amplified Listener:

I know, I know.

Celeste Headlee:

Because you’re sitting here telling me I’m extraordinarily well qualified. But earlier, you were saying, “I’m not qualified for these other jobs.” I mean, you hear yourself saying that?

Women Amplified Listener:

I know, it’s true. It’s that one piece of experience. It’s that one piece of practical experience.

Celeste Headlee:

Oh, come on.

Women Amplified Listener:

No, it’s true.

Celeste Headlee:

No, come on.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re reminding me of my husband, and I appreciate it so much. But yeah, he’s like, “No, it doesn’t matter. Who cares? You can you can do it.” I’m like, “I can do it. But I haven’t done it.” But that’s the thing is, I just need to get my foot in the door somewhere else. I can absolutely perform and perform well. It’s just like you said, yeah, I need to figure out how to talk myself up like I’m able to do and routinely do for other people.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. It worries me that you’re already downplaying your own credentials and saying, “You just need to get your foot in the door.” Nope. You do not need another entry level job. You are years and years past entry level. You don’t need a foot in the door. When you make a commitment to a job, they’re not doing you a favor.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re right. Yeah, you’re right.

Celeste Headlee:

I mean, they’re not being benevolent.

Women Amplified Listener:

You’re right. I think like, I said, I think shaking that mindset of being grateful just to have a job. I was also brought up in a household where we’re someone who said, “Be worth what they pay you.” I think those are some things to work on and to shake for sure.

 

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I mean, I think you have enough experience, training, and education. If your current job can’t see that, maybe it’s not about changing you any more than you would tell your female friend to change for the sake of some dude.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. I think that’s fair. I’m nodding.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. Like you said, maybe that’s the solution is that it’s time to leave. Maybe in leaving, it’ll be the reset that I need to feel like I’m being compensated at the level that I’m performing and also really have that concrete understanding and belief in myself. Don’t just quietly do it in the background, but actually do it and be able to say that yeah, that’s the level that I perform it.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I mean, you’ve been kicking butt.

Women Amplified Listener:

I have.

Celeste Headlee:

For years.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes.

Celeste Headlee:

For years. It’s time that you be somewhere where it’s appreciated. I would never tell anybody, advise someone to, to leave their job. But that’s what you’re telling me.

Women Amplified Listener:

That’s the hard thing is there’s a lot of verbal communication that I’m so appreciated and valued and things like that. There always has been, which was nice. But when it comes down to it, you want to be paid equally.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, you deserve to be paid equally. You don’t know that you’re not being paid equally because of their transparency and accountability. You know because you had to do detective work on top of all the other stuff you’re doing.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. I did communicate to my boss that I just want to be really clear that that was the ask. The ask was for equal pay, and that was what was declined, so there’s a very clear understanding that that’s what I was asking for.

Celeste Headlee:

Okay. I want you to repeat back what you just said to me. You asked for equal pay.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes. Directly. Was clear that that was the ask, equal pay. But I was told no.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

Well, they didn’t say no directly.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

It was HR that said no.

Celeste Headlee:

They said no.

Women Amplified Listener:

HR said that what I asked for was too high, which can’t be true if you’ve already paid other people that.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, I’ve been on the other end of those tables, they can find money. They find ways around things when they want to.

Women Amplified Listener:

Especially when it’s a modest amount in comparison to them trying to replace somebody. Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

It was a no brainer, it would have been a slam dunk, I think. I think the people that I talked to all expected it to be a no brainer decision.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:

Why would they expect that?

Women Amplified Listener:

Because of who I am and how I perform and the role and the challenges associated.

Celeste Headlee:

Because we are asking for should not even be up for debate.

Women Amplified Listener:

No, it was a completely valid ask that was backed by multiple references.

Celeste Headlee:

See, when say, “Because of who I am,” that’s still part of this, this mentality that you earn it. It’s not about what you earn. You can earn other things, but this is just equal pay.

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah, it’s hard. It’s really shaking my confidence. I’m trying not to feel like I don’t deserve it and that’s why I didn’t get it.

Celeste Headlee:

So here, this is the crux of it. This feeling that your success is something you have to earn. That is not true. That is not true. Your accomplishments, you can earn. Awards, you can earn. But equal pay, you get that. That’s your right.

Women Amplified Listener:

I agree. You should. It should be that way.

Celeste Headlee:

I agree. Yeah, yeah. We’ll have to see how it is going forward. Yeah.

Women Amplified Listener:

I appreciate that. That sounds great. I think it’s tough to figure out what to do next. It’s been an analysis paralysis for me on this.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I can imagine that. [NAME BLEEPED], let’s say that you get advice that is uncomfortable for you, are you ready to follow either my advice or, more specifically, Kiana’s advice? Are you ready to take that step?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think I’m definitely receptive to hearing it. I’m not afraid of hard conversations and tough advice. I do think it’s helpful to even hear it from different people, like outside parties, like yourself with expertise. So yeah, I think I’m at a place where I really need to figure out what I’m going to do. If I do wait, what an appropriate timeframe should be, but I don’t. I don’t want to wait forever. I have communicated that to my supervisor, that I didn’t want to wait forever.

Celeste Headlee:

Well, not only do we have great advice for you also from Kiana, but we would love to follow up and see what happens in the days ahead.

Women Amplified Listener:

Sure, yeah. We can do that. I would be receptive to that. I don’t know if there are other people in similar positions. If there is anything that I could share that could be useful to somebody else, I’d be happy to do so.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah, I’m sure other people are in this position.

Celeste Headlee:

Awesome. Well, in the interest of time, I’m going to tell you basically the situation that [our listener] is in. Then she will correct me if I get something wrong, but then I will ask you a few questions. So [our listener] has been at a firm for something a little over four years. She was in a position that was a step above entry level for three years and was promoted into a position that ended up being much bigger than her supervisors had told her it would be, as in they told her she’d be managing a couple projects. She’s ended up juggling a bunch, she’s working on nights. She’s working on weekends. She found out by talking with her colleagues that she was not being paid the same that others in her same or similar positions were making.

Celeste Headlee:

When she went to her, she gathered all of her data, she made the case, she went to her supervisor and also her supervisor’s supervisor, and explained the whole situation to them, said this is about equal pay. They said, “No, HR doesn’t allow us to give someone that kind of increase,” and she was turned down. So she’s in this position where she’s trying to figure out whether it’s time to learn how to ask for the pay raise in another way or if it’s time to leave.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Mmm, okay.

Celeste Headlee:

What goes into these kind of decisions? What do you recommend that people consider when they’re facing this kind of question?

 

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Well, good question. So it sounds like she did the right things. First of all, researching. When you feel, you get into a position, you realize that they didn’t tell you everything, you’re doing a lot more. You have a feeling that the pay may not be equal. Doing your homework is the best, first of all. Also going around and talking to people which [the listener] did because I think … Well, I don’t know if we know this, but pay secrecy policies are illegal or they’re not okay under the National Labor Relations Act.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Whereas if your organization said, “You know what, you can’t go around and talk to people. If you do, you’re going to get fired or demoted or anything like that.” That’s pretty much not okay. You can bring that to the National Labor Relations Board because that goes against freedom of speech, that goes against concerted effort. It doesn’t sound like they did that which is excellent. You were able to gather the data from people you work with, but also I’m hoping outside sources, which is not always helpful because with Equal Pay Act, it has to be so similar. So similar in what you do and all that. But you can gather enough data.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

The other thing that I’m not sure was done but is also important, is really figuring out what you think you want. So if they come back with the resounding no that you receive, what am I going to do? Am I okay with working this hard and this much without getting some sort of increase? Do I think that they’re actually paying my value? So this goes into that values driven thing, what are your goals? What do you want to do? Are you okay with doing that? Are you just going to … Do you want to stick it out a year? So it really takes some planning on if it’s a no, what are you going to do? Six months, a year? Are you just going to say forget it, I tried. So all that goes into it. She did, I think, about half of it. But I don’t know, not expecting to know or not, now stuck at the second half. Now, what am I going to do?

Celeste Headlee:

Did you want to answer some of her I don’t knows?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yeah. Thank you for validating that I did the correct thing and doing my research and talking to people and then having candid conversations, I really appreciate that. I have been asking myself, “Am I okay with this?” It is a no. I think the challenges and the frustrations are too significant to not be paid equally for experiencing them. So you’re correct. I’m stuck at that second half of what am I going to do and what’s the timeline in which I’m going to do it?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Perfect. Did you want me to answer that?

Celeste Headlee:

Yes, please.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So first of all, let me just tell you this, this is not even legal. I’ve been in the situation, been in this exact situation. My resounding was what some women, anyone does, maybe I’ll just work harder and see if they see that, and maybe pay more. That was a no, that was also a no. In my situation, they gave me half of my pay equity. I was getting paid well under what I should have been and doing more than anybody in my department getting paid on. So they gave me half. Then I had to figure out, am I okay with this? It was a resounding no. So I set out a plan, I gave myself a year.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

I always tell anybody this: I would never just suggest, because I don’t know people’s where you’re at finances, your family situation, your personal situation, so I would never say you go right in and say I’m out. Right? So that takes some planning. That may take some saving, that takes you looking around maybe at a comparable job, or maybe not even a comparable job if you don’t like this job, but it takes some planning.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I think your next step is how long are you willing to do this? Start planning, start saving if you can. Start looking, building your portfolio, talking to other people, really building that network. Network around this area is important. Then if it’s a no, and you can go back to them and say, “All right. Again, I’ve done the data. I’m looking at this and you’re really paying me less and it’s not equal. I don’t think it’s right. I’m going to ask again, are you going to pay me, adjust my pay?” If it’s no, then you can give your resignation then. That is hard. I’m not saying this, that it’s easy. But that is what I would recommend if it’s a no.

Celeste Headlee:

So the other thing Kiana, before I let [our listener] respond to you, is that she was talking about applying for other jobs. Yeah, absolutely forgot about that. So she’s applying for other jobs. But there’s one specific piece of practical experience that she feels is holding her back from getting a job in the field. I wonder what your response is to that. I pointed out to her that women are way more likely to not apply for jobs saying I’m not qualified unless they meet every single qualification that’s listed, whereas men are like, “I can do that.” What do you think?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Well, Celeste, you hit the nail on the head. Yes. Women constantly are like, “If I don’t tick off every last one of them, if I don’t work 10 times harder, I’m not going to apply.” Whereas men do not do that. They will show other strengths in other areas. Maybe sometimes cite that they have a weakness, sometimes don’t even do that. But may cite that they have a weakness and say, “But I can do this and I can learn.” If it is one practical area, nobody and I’ve been on both ends of applying for jobs and reading applications, I’ve never received an application where everybody’s ticked it off. Can I tell you the cover letters you will read, and they believe, especially the males, that I can do this. I am an asset for you. That’s how you have to come across.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

It is up to you, it depends. If it’s recommended on job application, they say it’s recommended or preferred. You can sometimes cite that flaw and do it in a way that it’s not actually. But you can cite the flaw and then just say, “But I have this, this, this.” You have the experience, and you have to put that in your mind and take away everything that you may not think you can have. You can do the jobs, especially if you’re doing it now for not the pay that you deserve. You can do it or you can learn it. You will probably put in that work to learn it. Because women, we also feel like we have to work harder to show our worth, to show that we deserve this pay.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I would just go for it. A friend of mine said to me once, what’s the worst that can happen when you apply for a job? You get to a no. Well, you know that, right? That’s the worst. So I would just apply.

Celeste Headlee:

Are there tips you can give, not just to our guests, but also to anyone in this position for getting equal pay, period? Whether it’s in the job that she’s currently in or as she goes to take a new job, how is she best set up to get the same pay as everyone else in that position?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Excellent question. Negotiations. Okay. Again, women don’t tend to negotiate. Which is why again, women get paid 82 cents for every dollar men make in the United States, that’s a gap of 18%. Just not always negotiating, feeling excited and happy that they received the job, no. You go in with your number, your base number. Always three numbers, your base, your mid, and your top. Okay, you’re taught might be what I’m grasping for, what I want. Your middle is probably more along the line of what you want. That bottom is you will take nothing less. But with that said, this is the hard part, you have to be willing to say, “No, thank you.” Okay?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

That can be hard, specifically if you’re not working or in a situation where you want out. You know what I mean? If you want out, you’re like, “I just want to find a job and get out.” But you can’t let yourself to get into that. Know your worth and regardless that you feel like you’re missing a piece, you know your worth, and you know what you’re going to bring to any institution. You have to keep that in mind and be okay with saying “No, because I know, I’ve done my research. I know that either you, as an organization have paid this amount for this or I know that other organizations that are comparable have paid this amount for this.”

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

So I this is my bottom line. Because they’re always going to give you a number and hope you say no, but they have wiggle room within that number. So first of all negotiation. But again, do your homework. You know what I mean? Know what they’re likely paying, which right now, organizations tend to give you a range. They probably mean that range so look the range up, go do your homework, abd then do your three numbers and then come in. Don’t go anything lower than that base number that you have. But you have to be willing to negotiate and be willing to say, “I know what I deserve.”

Celeste Headlee:

Are there legal repercussions for asking for equal pay? In other words, are there boxes that one needs to check if one plans to make it a legal argument?

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Yeah, excellent. A couple not on the employee or potential employee side, so the one thing you should know, asking negotiating salary does not give them a right to reject or pull away the offer that they’re making. Usually they make you an offer, right? Then they say, “This is the salary range or this is the salary we’re giving you.” At that point, you know that they’re giving you the job? If you say, “No, can we negotiate?” They cannot pull it based on that. If they do, that is employment discrimination or something. Something is going on, you can go back at that. So the only thing that I would say is on that, it may be you saying no, but they can’t reject you at that point. If you are like, “No, I don’t like the salary,” and you’re willing to negotiate. They can’t just say, “I’m not willing to negotiate and we’re rejecting.” No. They have to say this is our bottom line. If you reject it, then that’s fine. So that’s first of all.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Second of all, equal pay is the law, right? There are some issues with equal pay. Then this is anything with the law is one, just figuring out, does it fall in that box, right? Do you even fall in? It is so particular on similar job in similar industry, in similar organizations, but even when it’s similar organizations, they’re looking at similar organizations within probably the same state or area.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

We know the cost of living varies, so you can say, “I know somebody in New York makes this,” and that they’re going to say, “That doesn’t go with the equal pay.” So it’s really more narrow than most people think. So again, it’s the similar job, in a similar situation, probably similar area. You can look at comparable jobs at other institutions. I would only say that would work as far as well, this is what your competitor’s doing. But again, it’s really based on that organization and what they’re paying and what they’re paying people in your similar job, if there is such a thing.

Celeste Headlee:

Did you have questions for Kiana?

Women Amplified Listener:

I’ve been taking notes. Yeah, I’m trying to think. I really appreciate your advice to give yourself a timeline and create a plan and especially to go into negotiations with base, mid, and top salary numbers and be willing to walk away and say no. I think I definitely learned, I think what I didn’t realize at the time that I was trying to negotiate the raise that came with the promotion, I waited to sign off on it until I had a discussion with my manager, and then our director, but I didn’t really realize that I could continue to hold off on that indefinitely. I did feel like I needed to move on it in a reasonable timeline or else I was just going to continue to be paid at the same rate. So that was a good thing to learn. I don’t think I have any questions at this time. I just really appreciate your advice and your suggestions. Some really good feedback today.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

Can I add one thing too?

Celeste Headlee:

Of course.

Kiana Pierre-Louis:

We always think about pay as our check at the end of the day, but also there are times too. This is if you don’t think you want to leave the organization you like it, but you know what you deserve, benefits. Ask for certain benefits. That could be stock options that can be, “Hey, then you pay my medical.” Medical is a lot of money, you can pay my medical. There are other things that you can also look for that may equal it out, but you have to go figure that out and maybe crunch some numbers. But sometimes we get locked into salary or hourly or whatever it may be for whatever you’re in, but also think about negotiating benefits too. So okay, if you won’t raise my salary by 10,000 or whatever it may be, then maybe you will throw in this or throw an extra vacation or do it all, sick pay or whatever it may be. Think outside the box too.

Celeste Headlee:

Great. That’s awesome. I really appreciate it.