Underpaid and my own fault

3 minute read Published: 2015-05-02

Twitter is in song about the #talkpay movement initiated by Lauren Voswinkel where people reveal how much they're being paid; the intention, to expose pay inequalities.

I added my thoughts on the subject:

I've never negotiated a salary because it feels rude to ask for more money. I feel underpaid and undervalued. My own fault?

A couple of replies told me it is, and that made me wonder: why is asking for a raise a requirement to getting one? What happened to just earning it?

Negotiating for a salary makes me feel uncomfortable and tense. Sort of like this:

I was raised with the mentality that you don't ask for money, it's given to you when you earn it. I got pocket money as a child, a non-negotiable amount, and it increased each birthday. What I got when I was ten was exactly what my sisters and brother got when they were ten. It was fair.

Aside from the uncomfortable feeling, I also have no idea what the average software developer with my experience, in my region, earns. I have noticed that employers always want to know what I'm currently earning, something Lauren has also noticed:

Companies have also been known to base their offers directly off of what your most recent salary was at the last company you worked for. When you are already receiving a suppressed wage, this perpetuates that initial underselling, leading to continued inequality.

Lauren also points out that companies want reductions in their bottom line, so they'll try to hire someone for as little as possible. This was experience by Tracy Osborn:

...the only conclusion I could come to is that they knew they were underpaying me, and the jig was now up. If I hadn't come forward and asked for what I was worth, they would not have raised my salary to industry standards on their own.

This is why I think the #talkpay is great idea. It levels the playing field. Those who are less likely to ask for a raise will be encouraged to do so when they find out what they're really worth.

But it's scary isn't it, opening up? In a salary negotiation, you're effectively putting value on yourself. Telling others what you earn, you're letting everyone know what you settled on.

Banner image Pot of Gold by Jeremy Schultz. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Changes were made to the original.