The other day I was jamming out to that catchy song by Fifth Harmony, “Worth It.” You know the one: “give it to me I’m worth it, baby I’m worth it. Uh huh I’m worth it, gimme gimme I’m worth it.”
“What do they want to be given?” my husband asked, “money?”
“Yeah, probably.” I was about to say something about how the song was crass, but then I changed my mind. With all the recent talk about the gender pay gap, shouldn’t women be singing about their worth?
I recently started doing manuscript consulting. When I told my friends what I was thinking of charging, they were horrified. “Eva, you are worth more than that. You have an advanced degree and years of experience. You need to value yourself more.” They suggested a different, higher number, for me to charge.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I feel bad asking for that much.”
Recently, my friend Daniel Wallace, who writes the excellent blog The Incompetent Writer, started a Patreon page so his readers can support him monetarily. Right now he’s up to six patrons for a total of twenty dollars a month, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s pretty exciting since, for years, he’s been doing this for free.
“Eva, you should consider doing a Patreon page for your blog,” his wife, Jeni, told me.
“Nah. I would feel weird asking people for money.”
After all, I write this blog because I want to, not because I expect to be paid for it. This is the same reason why I write novels: because I love it, because it’s the only thing I want to do with my life. Of course, I am hoping to one day make money from my writing…
The other day, my friend Cari Mollen posted something on her facebook page that I thought was really powerful:
Early in my career I was being paid 60% of what my male coworkers were making, and I had no clue. I’m grateful to this day that over drinks one evening they shared what they were being paid. Without their openness, I would not have realized I was underpaid and likely would not have had the very difficult conversation with my boss that ultimately resulted in a substantial raise.
This is a complicated issue. I don’t believe that my employer was intentionally paying me less because I was a woman. In fact, I was satisfied with my salary until I found out how much less it was than others. Why should my employer have paid me more if I was willing to work for less? Of course, once I had the right information, I wasn’t willing anymore.
[My friend] recommended the excellent book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock to me when I was dealing with this, and it was immensely helpful to me. Yet I still struggle with negotiating and asking for what I want. It feels uncomfortable. I worry about how I will be perceived (and I don’t think it’s a baseless worry – women are judged differently from men for the same actions in the workplace). And sometimes I wonder, why does it seem like the narrative is women needing to learn to be more like men instead of the other way around?
I have full confidence that we will continue to move toward a time when there will be no gender gaps (pay or other). More transparency is a key step in getting us there.
This struck a chord with me. Not so much about the gender pay gap (although I’m sure that exists in the publishing world, just like everywhere else.) Instead it was the idea of being willing to work for less. Of not knowing your own worth. Or not believing in it. And of course, the title of that book: Women Don’t Ask (which I now want to read). It’s true — I have trouble asking for what I want, especially when that something is money.
Money is a complicated topic, especially when you’re doing something that you want to be doing anyway. I am writing for free already, so why should someone pay me to do it? Well, because I’m worth it, that’s why.
To be honest, I’m still not ready to ask for money to write this blog, but this is something for me to ponder, especially now that I’m getting paid to teach writing classes and read manuscripts. I need to believe that I’m valuable and deserve compensation for my time — even if it’s something I already enjoy doing. Then, once I believe in my own worth, I need to work up the courage to ask for what I want.
“Give it to me, I’m worth it. Uh huh I’m worth it. Gimme gimme I’m worth it.” But maybe not in those exact words.