It’s April and our focus this month is on financial health. The “gender wage gap” is a majorly buzzy phrase right now and rightfully so. U.S. women, on average, earn 80 cents for every dollar a white man makes, and the wage gap’s even wider for women of color! Ladies Get Paid is an organization providing tools and resources to help women negotiate for equal pay and power in the workplace. We sat down with Ladies Get Paid co-founder Ashley Louise to talk about closing the wage gap, advocating for yourself at work, and building community around financial health.
Shrill Society: Money, learning how to get it, spend it, and manage it long term is treated as a personal issue and one that we don’t have the opportunity to talk about enough as women. What was your personal journey to Ladies Get Paid?
Ashley Louise: I was working at a job and I found out the man that I replaced was making a lot more money than I was. A few weeks prior, a friend sent me a link to this organization―Ladies Get Paid―so when I found out I wasn’t getting paid as much as my male counterpart, I decided to show up for an event. This was around September or October of 2016. Being with so many women in the room and hearing them talk about their professional challenges, realizing it wasn’t just me―that this is something that was systemically affecting so many other women―was a really powerful experience. It empowered me to go back to my workplace and have conversations about pay equity, diversity, and inclusion. I liked it so much that about a year later I quit my job to run Ladies Get Paid with Claire.
One major tenet of Ladies Get Paid is that closing the gender wage gap starts with each of us at work. Can you talk about the importance of negotiating your salary and being your own advocate as a personal change in one’s life but also as part of a systemic change?
I think it’s interesting to think about someone’s journey with Ladies Get Paid. When someone joins it is often because, like me, they had an incident that happened to them on an individual level. Negotiating your salary is an important first step―you are your own best advocate. Capitalism exists. Nobody is going to give you more money simply because you deserve it. It’s also a really good opportunity to have a conversation with your manager and with your organization about the value that you bring. I know most people think it’s terrifying and it’s really hard, and it absolutely is, but thinking about it as an opportunity I find helps a lot. But the burden shouldn’t always be just on women to help close the wage gap. There’s a lot of research now that says that women do negotiate as much as men, it’s just that people don’t take it so well. Some people have poor reactions to women speaking up and asking for money because they are essentially asking for more power. So it is something that we try to instill in our members that it is important to be having these broader conversations about the wage gap and about diversity at your company. It’s not just, “How much money are you making?” It’s, “Where are the women in the company?” The wage gap gets worse as we get older because women aren’t getting called up into these important leadership positions. It could be 50/50 when you’re talking about entry-level positions, but, as you get up, who are the executives? Who are the directors? Who is interacting with these folks on a day-to-day basis to make sure that we are creating workplaces where women aren’t just surviving but they’re thriving and are active parts of their organizations and are being fairly compensated?