Lesson for girls: if you don't ask, you don't get.

moneymoneymoneyBavardess has posted another lesson for girlsIf you don’t ask, you don’t get.  As in, negotiate your salary, don’t just take the first offer like a chump.  She writes:

Money is not inherently dirty and it is not a character flaw in women to want more of it. . . Asking to be properly remunerated for what you do doesn’t make you arrogant or selfish or greedy. Dealing fairly but firmly in pay negotiations does not make you an aggressive b!tch. It makes you smart.

Right on!  Except–as I noted when Dr. Crazy posted about this a few months ago–pay inequities will still exist even if every woman in the world negotiates her salary just like her male peers.  (What–you thought that patriarchal equilibrium was due to women not driving a hard bargain with job offers?  Sorry, darlings!  Patriarchal equilibrium stops for no woman.)  While negotiating is absolutely the right way to go, the fact remains that women are still expected to work for less money or for free not because they didn’t negotiate, but because they’re women.  And, women who act like professionals and negotiate their salary may be treated poorly and have it held against them, as my own experience bears out.  (Remember Mister “This isn’t a game to me!” ?)  I still think it was worth it to negotiate–but the fact is that while individuals and institutions expect men to negotiate, negotiating in women is gender queer, and is likely to be read as more “aggressive” and “pushy” in women than in men, so it’s not likely to be rewarded in the same way that it’s rewarded in men.  Mission accomplished!  Salary gap preserved.

Interestingly, when  Bavardess’s post came across the transom, I was already planning to highlight this question at Inside Higher Ed’s “Survival Guide” advice column from a senior woman scholar about how to achieve salary parity with the men in her department:

I am a senior faculty member at a large, well-known research university. I am on excellent terms with my colleagues and with the head of my unit. My productivity in teaching, research and scholarship has been consistently deemed to be high. Here is the problem: In my unit, I am the only woman at senior faculty rank and my salary has consistently been significantly lower than that of my peers. After consultation with various campus officials to understand the university’s policies on faculty salary equity, I now know that the discrepancy between my salary and that of my peers is greater, and has been for over five years, than the university threshold for filing a request for a formal salary equity review. I have remained on excellent terms with the head of my academic unit throughout his tenure here that includes all or most of that period. In the past, I have corresponded with him about this issue with what I thought were convincing letters documenting both salary inequities with my peers as well as my professional accomplishments and contributions to our unit, to the college, and to the university. Last year’s response? “Money is tight right now and we just don’t have enough to go around.” I do not want to “play the game” of soliciting outside offers and I don’t really want to leave. Yet I cannot let this unfair situation — a clear case of persistent gender salary discrimination — persist any longer. What are my options?

Shorter response from C. K. Gunslaus:  Stop being niceYour chair is putting you off because it’s more important for you to be nice than for you to be fairly paid.  “You must stop saying that you’re neither going to file a grievance nor seek outside offers. Right now. Never say or write either of those statements again, because you don’t mean them and they’re not helpful. Don’t let your unit head off the hook before the process even starts.”  Then, let your chair know that you think he’s a nice, fair person so of course he’ll want to correct this blatant injustice.

Shorter advice from Historiann:  If he puts you off again, file the formal salary equity review, and if possible, apply for every job out there and be sure you let him and your Dean know if you get any campus interviews.  Your chair is counting on you being nice, and that may be important to your own self-image but get over it if you want to right this wrong.  It’s pretty much impossible for women to be “nice” and get paid what they’re worth.  Either accept the (lower) wages of niceness, or decide that the money (and the fairness) is more important than if someone thinks you’re being a b!tch.  You may get called that name, maybe even to your face, but won’t those extra thousands of dollars make it all worthwhile?

0 thoughts on “Lesson for girls: if you don't ask, you don't get.

  1. Indeed, Clio B. One of the benefits of age is that I’m getting over it. Part of that is learning that “nice” doesn’t get you anywhere in the paid workforce, and in fact it may impede your progress.


  2. I’m entirely nice. And have no problem mentioning regularly that am going to be keeping an eye on equity pay. I’m lucky in that my dean does keep an eye on equity issues, and seems to fight pretty hard for us.


  3. In my experience there’s a big gap between the pay equity that one can achieve in a private vs. a public institution. My own struggles have been in the dark thicket where I’m not supposed to know what anyone else is making. I’ve had to bluff–“I know you’re paying D00d X 20% more than you’re paying me–just to learn the most basic facts about my unfairly low pay.

    Even in the more enlightened precincts of a state school, I’m totally with Historiann re: those smug, ignorant exhortations to women about how they need to negotiate just as the boys do. What a load of victim-blaming crap. Men don’t negotiate their bloated salaries: they receive preferences on a silver platter.

    When the salary-setter SINCERELY believes that men should be paid more than women–as most salary-setters, even women do–any demand for equity that a woman makes sounds like insane raving to them. It does. not. compute.


  4. LadyProf–you might want to see the last comment (unanswered!) on that Inside Higher Ed link, where the commenter makes the same point as you about private versus public unis. It’s much, much easier to see where you are in relation to your peers at a public uni, where you can just go to the library or to a website to see the salaries of every uni employee. I have taken advantage of this and used it to my own benefit. But I’ve also worked at a private uni, so I feel your pain.

    I think bluffing and resisting the nice is the best one can do at a private college or uni. Even if you don’t know for sure what others make, you can get a sense of how your pay ranks through the salary information made available by AAUP, and you can make arguments as to why you should be paid better. (These arguments may be more effective if you have applications out there or even a job offer in hand.)

    As ADM says, it’s a big help when you have a dean or other higher administrator making salary equity a priority. In fact, I would say that it’s essential. At the Berkshire Conference last year, the chair of the History Department at Vanderbilt University Liz Lunbeck spoke on a plenary session on the status of women in the profession, and she noted that women in her department are paid 101% of what the men are paid–because she and the Dean make sure that it happens. Without that kind of aggressive oversight, presto! Welcome to the wage gap equilibrium, friends.


  5. Oh, and I liked this from LadyProf:

    “Men don’t negotiate their bloated salaries: they receive preferences on a silver platter.”

    I think this is true. I have a lot of male friends who wish they had negotiated, or negotiated better/smarter/harder. I’m sure they’re probably right–and yet, the pay gap favors them in the end!


  6. Another useful response, uttered in a low growl to the PepsiCo Board of Directors by Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest:

    “Don’t f***k with me, fellas!”


  7. I think the tricky part of it is that as important as negotiating when you come in is, and as important as advocating for raises each and every year at performance review, where the gap happens isn’t (in many departments) in the probationary period of the tenure track. You can come in equal, and then, voila! All of a sudden men who’ve been around just about the same amount of time as you have been, and who came in at around the same salary, are making 10-30K more than you are! How does that happen? Well, in my department it’s because men do research (which means better raises and quicker time to promotion to full) whereas women do service (thankless, does not get you full professor). (Don’t get me wrong, everybody does service, but men in the meantime are getting articles and books and textbooks published, too.) All of a sudden you have this glut of female faculty who are tracked into administrative positions for programs without adequate funding (ahem, Women’s Studies), into administering graduate programs, into being responsible for scheduling faculty, etc., while their contemporaries are busy making their way to full professor. You can talk to these women, and they say, “Oh, it’s just not worth it to go up for full,” or “I don’t care if I ever make full, it’s just a title.” Um, no. It’s not just a title. It’s deeply linked to pay equity for your hard work, and the bottom line is, if you stay at associate forever, that gives people power over your salary – people who aren’t you. And even if you’re working just as hard as your peers at full, you can’t really argue that you’re being treated unfairly if you don’t make the same money because they outrank you. Funny how that works, huh?

    Whew! I got very huffy as I wrote that. Sorry for going on like I did!


  8. Dr. Crazy–I can’t tell whether you’re frustrated with your women colleagues or with the system that chronically underpays them. You started off on what looked like a critique of the system, but then it seems like you are critical of your colleagues whose progress was sidetracked perhaps by some of their own choices, but also by social and cultural expectations that women do unpaid/underpaid/otherwise uncompensated labor.

    Resisting being “nice” might work, but it might be used against you anyway, even if you publish at the same pace or better than male colleagues. It may pay better to be selfish–but like I said above, women are penalized either way. Either they conform to expectations that they’ll sidetrack their research ambitions and do a lot of service, or they are “selfish” and are penalized for being gender queer. (People like that may be excluded from valuable social and professional networking and information-sharing, for example.)

    I guess maybe we’re both frustrated by this disgusting reality.


  9. Yeah, I’m just frustrated by all of it. And I guess I’m frustrated by the fact that I feel like people have been trying to push me into the Dark Hole of Service/Administration pretty much from the moment that my tenure was announced. It’s really hard to say no when it feels like you’re the first woman in the history of your institution to say no. (And interestingly, it’s primarily women who’ve had tenure for about 10 years who are trying to push me into the Dark Hole, maybe because they think it’s “Crazy’s turn” or something? – I’m only getting real support for saying no from male colleagues.)


  10. Money isn’t the only thing that people negotiate for in the professional world. The expectation that women shouldn’t be pushy is pretty much always there, and sometimes the failure to negotiate adequately can completely derail an academic career.

    In my field, high-energy physics, the experiments are conducted by large collaborations. (The largest one now, ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider, has over 1000 Ph.D. scientists.) That means there are a lot of projects that need to be done. Some of these are pretty dull—making sure that the apparatus is working as expected and refining the understanding of its operation. Much more interesting are analyses looking for the appearance of new particles (or other new phenomena). A young scientist needs to get noticed, by working on teams that are doing interesting analyses and by presenting the results of the analyses at conferences. One really has to push to get onto interesting projects and then to be assigned important presentations. If a post-doc doesn’t do this, they stand little chance of landing a faculty job.

    How junior women scientists on these experiments fared is analyzed in great detail at http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.2026 (although it is written for an audience of physicists). The author’s conclusions are not heartening; she found that women had to be two-and-a-half times more productive than men to get assigned the same number of conference presentations. Knowing the field, I suspect the biggest contributor to this disparity is that women don’t push as hard for these professional opportunities, which may ultimately cut their academic careers short.


  11. A couple of years ago I went to a colleague’s memorial service where the boss, eulogizing, said that this person was so wonderful because he never asked for salary money. Instead, he would kindly inquire about ways to redistribute wealth to others. I’m now officially cynical enough to think that the eulogizer was issuing a Stanley Fish negotiation-is-bad threat. “You wanna be remembered fondly when you die or retire? Then don’t be one of those awful, pushy people who demand money for themselves, you selfish broads, you.”


  12. LadyProf–what an odd story. (Then again, he probably was genuinely appreciative of a colleague who didn’t bug him for a raise.) People who believe in an afterlife are more focused on their reception in Heaven than their memory on Earth, and those of us who believe that when you’re dead, you’re dead believe that you won’t know what they say about you.

    And Buzz–you’re right. This conversation has been too focused on humanities types who don’t need labs or big setups to do their research. You’ve brought up another way in which women are at a disadvantage, especially in a field like physics which is so male dominated. I think your comment may also point to reasons why women are still dramatically underrepresented on natural sciences faculties. Networking in the sciences–sharing information about grants, postdocs, etc.–may serve to exclude women even more–which may be why “women don’t push as hard for these professional opportunities.” If women are “nice” they don’t get squat, but then if they advocate for themselves, they may be pushed further to the margins. Self-censorship is usually a learned behavior.


  13. Well, maybe my reaction to the eulogy was eccentric–but I who believe in no afterlife would prefer to be remembered fondly. I won’t do anything & everything to be loved after I am dead, but at the margin I might sacrifice some money if I thought it would enhance the memory of myself I leave behind. Maybe we need to promote (and believe) the idea that fighting for pay equity is righteous, even when one would get money from a victory.

    I’m having trouble with your link above, btw. When I click (using both IE and Firefox) Wiley InterScience says my computer’s not set up to accept cookies. But this machine has more cookies than a wholesale bakery, and IT people here say the link is defective.

    Thanks for this thread!


  14. Thanks for the link Historiann (I kind of feel like I’m late to my own party here, but time difference means I just woke up).

    I absolutely agree that women negotiating for better pay is only one element in addressing the still very ingrained pay equity gap. To close the gap, there also need to be institutional, legal and societal changes – as LadyProf rightly points out, there is a lot of embedded privilege at work here that women working as individuals are not going to be able to overcome.

    The new (conservative) NZ government recently closed down our Department of Labour’s Pay Equity Unit, on the grounds the country ‘can’t afford’ to address the pay gap in these tough economic times. I suspect this same message is being delivered to women in cash-squeezed academic institutions (and business, government etc.) across the Western world. In this environment, feminist activism to raise awareness of research that shows the gender pay gap persists despite overall rising wages, and to advocate that politicians and officials put in place policy and laws to address it is another critical strategy. But damn, it is sometimes disheartening to STILL be fighting this battle


  15. “To close the gap, there also need to be institutional, legal and societal changes – as LadyProf rightly points out, there is a lot of embedded privilege at work here that women working as individuals are not going to be able to overcome.”

    This is the key part. Not least because what one can negotiate and how, really varies by region and institutional culture. In graduate school there was the women’s caucus, and the faculty had one too, and they worked on these things.

    In my current institution I don’t think we could necessarily have one such. Many of the powerful women wouldn’t be on it because their power derives from their powerful marriages and alliances with powerful men. Many other women, seeing this, would be afraid to be identified as women’s caucus members.

    So… ???


  16. Bavardess, it bends me all sorts of out of shape that “teh economy” is being used as an excuse to take pay equity off the table. I know how they can address the pay gap… lower men’s salaries to what women are making for the same damn job. Voila! Cost Savings, even!


  17. “stop being nice”

    I think that “nice” is what often helps engender these negotiations. Women are expected to be “nice”,”passive”, and apologetic when they ask for pay equity. If you can pull all of that off while negotiating for better pay, you might actually get it b/c it doesn’t seem like you are threatening gender norms. Then again you might be subject to all kinds of condescending sexism first or worse subjected to it and then denied w/ a “run a long now.” But if you ask with respect and an eye to your accomplishments or published salary tables it is all the more threatening, and likely to lead to punishment now or later, b/c you are openly defying gender norms. So there is the issue of patriarchal inequality built into the salary system but also the social aspects of it that help demean those of us who ask either through a forced mask of femininity or punishment for failing to play “daddy’s little girl” to who ever holds the key to the coffer.


  18. I’ve never negotiated a salary, but how does one find out what others in your department are making, and what would be considered a “fair” wage? I only ask because asking what someone is being paid, even though I am boorish and likely to say ask almost any damned fool question to anyone, is one thing that people (inexplicably to me) get really unnerved by. It’s sacred, like the secret ballot.

    I do hope that you file for the review, however.



  19. Bing–your professional organization probably keeps track of salary averages, and I think the AAUP has collected raw data (although not as precise as MLA or AHA-generated data, for example) about faculty salaries. But, if you’re negotiating with a public university, faculty salaries (like the salaries of all state employees) are public information. On a campus visit, you should ask for time to visit the library, and go to the reference desk to ask for the salary book. (It gets a lot of traffic–they’ll know what you’re looking for. At Baa Ram U. they call it the “black book,” to enhance your feelings that you’re getting access to illicit or slightly scandalous information.) That’s the best evidence you can get for what other people at your rank and in your possibly future department are paid. But even then, I would say aim high, and be sure to list all of the reasons why you deserve better than their opening gambit. They can always say no, but they might say yes, or make a counter-offer. (That’s been my usual experience–I’ve never had someone let me “Name My Price,” which for most of us is just a dream!)

    IIRC, you’ll have had a postdoc under your belt next year, and you’ve got your degree in hand, so you should be offered more money than an ABD or someone who hasn’t had a postdoc. Think too about the publications you have, other fellowships/honors/awards/prizes, and teaching experience–all of those count for something, so don’t be afraid to remind them why you came out on top ahead of 100-300 other applications.

    I like your comparison to the secret ballot. But then, I think the inability of humanities types to deal with money issues in a straightforward way has to do with the inherent class bias of our calling, and the presumption that we’ve all got inheritances or rich spouses to make sure that baby has new shoes. (I’ve written about this here before.)


  20. You know, I talked with a friend about this today. Said friend has often allowed work to go uncompensated, even though she is herself a strong feminist. Part of it is that she understands, as do we all, that SLAC operates in some ways on a shoestring (many administrators gave up raises at all this year, to make sure that faculty and staff got something). So in some ways, when she says that she is willing to take something on without compensation because she wants to grow a program, or for some other reason, it makes sense. Except.

    I’ve got to the point where I look at her and say, “It may be your choice. You may be able to afford that choice. But I can’t, and you are setting a precedent that I can’t and don’t want to live up to. Could you please stop saying yes, and instead, before you open your mouth, ask yourself what [nice, very good, great colleague, but also very self-promoting and well-paid, always compensated for all work at a higher-rate male] colleague would say? Because while I would prefer not to be known as being that pushy? I want SLAC to see his example as the one they follow when it comes to pay, not yours.

    Because honestly — even though the dean fights for equity, he’s not going to turn down people who don’t ask for what they’re worth.


  21. ADM–great, great story.

    I have to say that I know exactly what you mean. Once upon a time, I was in a situation in which I could either solve the problem myself, or take it to my department and my Dean and ask them for help. Foolishly–in retrospect–I decided to solve it myself because I was (like your colleague) in a privileged situation to solve the problem, and I didn’t want to be any trouble. (How “nice” can you get, eh?) But it was the wrong decision–not everyone else in my situation will be able to follow my lead, and I regret not deciding to let myself be a burr under someone else’s saddle for the very reason that you state. This too is related to that post I linked to above, “Money, class, and the values of academe.”


  22. Bing – along w/historiann’s suggestions you can also check the chronicle. They have average salaries for most schools in most ranks both public and private. I advised all of my academe bound grads to check there.


  23. My old public University provides pay equity calculators that allow you to figure statistically what your salary would be if you were a white male and provides lists pay positive or negative residuals for every faculty (how much lower or higher every faculty is compared to a white male with their qualifications). Not perfect by any means, but knowledge is the first step. And while I don’t want to blame the vicitm, there is research that shows that women, on average, ask for 10% lower salary than men. We should continue to agitate for change, but can also aim for individual change (like stopping being nice, as you say). In my experience, women sometimes have an easier time thinking of asking for a higher salary as a public/feminist good: every time a woman gets a higher salary, it makes it easier for the next woman. So you’re really doing a community service!


  24. Pingback: Lessons for Girls #14: Don’t just ask, insist on help : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  25. And, women who act like professionals and negotiate their salary may be treated poorly and have it held against them, as my own experience bears out.

    Agreed. Asking for a raise can destroy your career at a company.


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