I often find myself sitting and thinking about what life would have been like for me as a woman fifty years ago and I cringe. As a working woman, a mother, a wife, I often struggle with being thankful for all the opportunities I have, versus being angry that I am conditioned to feel thankful for common things like working outside of the home, voting, the right to own a home.
With several degrees under my belt and a career in higher education, moving up the ladder has always been a goal. I work hard, volunteer for extra things to prove myself and put in extra hours to show my dedication. But this got me thinking, why have I been passed over for that promotion? The raise? The new cushy office with a view?
Sometimes I feel like I am screaming, “Look at me! I’m worthy!” To only get a nod, pat on the back, and a stack of more work to do. All while watching someone else get the job I coveted and tried so hard to prove I deserved.
I realized I needed to learn how to advocate for myself. To speak on what I need. What I want. What my goals are.
Speaking with other women, I realized I’m not alone in this struggle. Crystal Grant, a successful nurse anesthesiologist in Winston-Salem, best-selling author and business owner, has struggled with similar realizations within her career. Working long hours, getting passed over for pay raises because it just wasn’t in the budget when her male counterparts received them, quickly learned that in order to be successful as a woman, we must ask for what we need.
It seems simple but it isn’t always. We often feel that by just doing, the opportunities will fall into our laps. This couldn’t be more incorrect. Does it happen? Sure! But odds are we need to use our voices and communicate.
First, you must know exactly what you want. More money? Better hours? More vacation? Don’t go in blindly and let the company decide for you. Do your research, present what you bring to the table and how you have benefited the company. I recommend keeping a log of all your accomplishments because when it comes time, there is nothing wrong with highlighting all you have done and being proud of your work.
You must also be prepared for the company to say no to your request. It happens. It stinks but if they say no, what is your backup plan? Resigning? Stepping down or staying with the company? If you decide to stay with them after they tell you no, planning an exit strategy to leave within the next 3-6 months would be ideal. Otherwise, if you stay, they will forever take advantage of you, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Crystal experienced this working for an anesthesia group. When trying to advocate for herself her requests were declined. She saw this as an opportunity to really go after what she wanted and decided to go to work for herself and from the beginning always state what she needed. Now, she is happier with a strong work life balance, higher pay and overall, less stress.
It isn’t always easy asking for what we need, especially as women. We shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for having children and needing to leave to get them from school instead of putting in extra hours to prove our worth. Or take less pay to be given an opportunity that we deserve for a much higher rate. We are worth the money. The time. The consideration.
Our success should not be contingent on how others view our worth as women, and what they feel we should accept and be thankful for.
Today, let’s be thankful for our strength and perseverance as women to advocate for ourselves. The right to finally have equal pay and job opportunities that we choose and not just settle for. Let’s be thankful for all that we are and all that we will be for our future selves, for all other women. Let’s pave the way for amazing things.