A common complaint among working women, particularly in very male-dominated industries is: Would I make more as a man?
- Age: Late 20s
- Industry: Consulting – Male-dominated
- Role: Consultant (Freelance)
- Years of Experience: 5
- Country: Canada — No specific place; I’ve been all over the U.S. and mostly in Eastern Canada
- Salary: If I held a job at a company, I’d earn $90,000 – $110,000 as a salary but my income varies as a freelancer.
COULD I MAKE MORE AS A WOMAN?
I had a chance to experience this. Once.
When I was in college, my brother told me: “If you go into high finance like becoming an investment banker, you could make a killing because they need more women in their offices, and you could probably negotiate something quite substantial.”
He wasn’t so far off — all the women in my cohort who applied to become an investment banker received first rounds of interviews and job offers across the board. A lot of guys were grumbling (and rightly so!) that So-and-So got one of the most coveted job interviews just because she was female.
I’d like to think that she was the right person for the job (male OR female), but I do agree that being female definitely helped her get her foot into the door for the interviews, rather than keeping her out of them, and I must say, she negotiated quite a nice salary and bonus.
I have to say, I was intrigued at first because of the sparkly lure of seemingly easy cash (it’s just math!), but I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to be an industry “making a killing” just because I was a woman.
Besides, I’m sure I would have been miserable.
I’m not cut out for a high pressure, dog-eat-dog kind of industry, and I wasn’t so keen on being forced to wear expensive clothes and shoes all day like some of my friends were. I’m not saying I want to go to work dressed in jeans and a beer-logoed t-shirt but being constricted into a suit every single day would not be my ‘thing’.
Also, I wouldn’t have fared very well because I also wouldn’t have wanted to put in even more time than 80-100 hours a week the way some guys would have wanted to, and work “harder than anyone else alive” to get those positions.
If it wouldn’t have been a right fit, I probably would have left the whole business early on after clearing my debt.
Barring my lack of willingness to give up my life and work like a dog for 40 years before having a heart attack, I think being a woman in the industry is a nice trophy for partners to have on their company profile “Look! We’re EQUAL OPPORTUNITY employers!“, but my gut feeling is that I would’ve probably never made it to the upper echelons of that industry, just because I’d be wearing a skirt suit.
Old Boys Club and all that.
ON MAKING THE SAME WAGE AS A WOMAN
This image was originally from Mint.com’s Blog, not my own infographic (hence the “Source” link).
Mint has since fixed the image to read:
The funny thing is that I ended up in an industry just as male-dominated as investment banking.
Although the hours can become as long as in investment banking, the work is more interesting to me and much more suited to my skills and personality.
Full disclaimer: In consulting, if you work for a company, you generally don’t get compensated for overtime, even if it gets hairy at 100 hours a week.
If you work as a freelancer, you charge by the hour, so overtime has to be negotiated with the client, but you do get paid for the extra hours you work, because sometimes they give you tasks that are unrealistic to finish in the time allotted.
I do however, get the distinct feeling that I’d be better off as a guy who is freelancing in this industry, such as the time one company grilled me on being a young girl and already ‘on my own’.
The guy would not, and could not believe that I would have the audacity to charge as much as a man with less experience.
The AUDACITY! (His exact words)
It was pretty rough, and I told him somewhat hotly that it was a question of demand and supply and that was and is what I charge.
I know now that he was just using it as a tactic to SHAME me for being a young woman, by getting me to agree and lower my rate.
How did the story end?
I ended up getting a callback from him and he agreed to my original price but nothing came of it (the recession hit and they delayed the project).
It made me realize that people were going to get down low and dirty to get you to lower your rate even by $1 an hour.
($1/hour = $2000/year by the way.)
The funny thing is that even though I went into another vein of business, I’m making just about as much as someone my age would in investment banking, just without the long hours and the stress. (Not millions of dollars, by the way.)
I see it as a win-win situation.
Of course, this is mostly because I’m able to freelance in my industry (I’m very lucky in this regard).
If you think about it, if you earn a super high salary but you work 80 hours, you can just divide that salary in half to get a feel for what it’d be like to work a so-called ‘normal’ job with normal hours and a ‘normal’ salary.
My investment banking friends don’t get this calculation.
They kind of look at me pitifully when we meet up for reunion dinners, because they think I’m making “nothing” compared to what they’re pulling in per year. And in some months, they’re right. I make $0, I don’t drive a fancy car, own a home, and I don’t go on designer shopping sprees.
So yeah, in their eyes, I’m a complete loser in the salary game.
Still, you have to look at the big picture. I love having free time, being able to earn a year’s worth of living expenses in a month or two, and being my own boss.
So I just smile and say I like having the extra time off and I don’t need much to live on to be comfortable and happy, and I really mean it even if they think I’m trying to put on a brave front.
SADLY, THIS GUY WAS NOT THE ONLY HARD “NEGOTIATOR”
He was without a doubt an ass (who then later on tried to hit on me and ask me out to dinner), but I had plenty of companies in those following months that used the same tactics to try and negotiate me down in my rate.
In fact, EVERY company has tried to do that to me — screw me out of even $2.50/hour (Which translates into $5000/year), although no other brokers tried to hit on me, but they were surprised when they met me in person, although for what reason, I am not sure of, but I’m fairly sure it’s because they never expected someone like me.
It may not seem like a big deal to go down $1 or $2.50 an hour, but if you can drop even $2.50/hour without just cause, you can drop $20/hour (Which is $40,000/year).
Then they just think you’re easy bait to wrestle down to a lower price.
My answers ranged anywhere from “Take it out of YOUR cut of my rate! I’m the one doing the job here“, to “My rate is final. I am not negotiating any longer, call me if you still want to hire me.”
In all of those instances, they were fighting harder and putting on more pressure than usual because they thought that since I was young, I was immediately inexperienced in negotiations and stupid enough to lower the rate if they pushed hard enough.
More importantly they also thought that since I was a woman, I would also be softer and easier to push to give in.
I now make it a point to keep in mind that they think I’m an easy target.
After all, the best time to negotiate (or in this scenario, NOT negotiate) is when you have the upper hand.
The funny thing is that some companies acknowledge their rueful defeat.
One guy had passed me off to his manager to try and get that guy to move me down $20 in my rate, and when I refused and they gave in, he got back on the phone with me and said: “You’ve got a real good poker face.”
I told him I sucked at playing cards, but I knew what I was worth to the client.
Without a doubt, the industry I am in would prefer if I was a guy. They’d love it.
They don’t think that women can do this job, and this is proven to me day-in and day-out when I hear other male colleagues’ experiences with negotiation.
It’s kind of pathetic.
They never get grilled, and their rates are NEVER questioned above more than a: “It seems a bit high, are you willing to negotiate.” It’s not even a question of whether or not I have more or less experience either, some have more than me, but I am not far off from them in my own experience — perhaps just a year or two apart, although I’ve consistently worked more and (luckily) scored better projects.
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO THIS
If I was a guy, I wouldn’t have to fight as hard to earn the same wage per hour in the same industry, doing the same job with the same experience.
I’d still have to fight, yes, but I wouldn’t have to take being personally attacked for being young and being a woman.
Now when I negotiate, I have to turn into this hardass caricature of myself and pull out all the stops when it comes to fending off their indirect jabs at my age and sex.
And trust me, they’re very good at making sure they don’t say something that could be construed as being illegal.
The bad news is having to gear up for a fight each time, I still get that adrenaline rush.
The good news is that more often than not, I always get the job at the rate I want and every discussion is a new lesson in negotiations.
And the even better news? I don’t need to do anything to ‘climb’ the ranks than to just keep working hard, doing a stellar job and earn my years of experience.
Women, do you think you’d make more as a man?
Men, do you think you’ve experienced something drastically different in your careers, perhaps dealing with reverse discrimination?
“If I were a Boy” Carnival
This post is part of a series of bloggers sharing their candid experiences or observations about women in the workplace which is not at all meant to be a male-bashing expedition whatsoever.
Please head over to these other wonderful bloggers and read about their experiences.
- Jacq of Single Mom Rich Mom — Accounting, 40s
- Fabulously Broke in the City — Consulting, 20s
- Stacking Pennies — Engineering, 20s
- Musings of an Abstract Aucklander — Publishing, 20s
- Little Miss Moneybags — Publishing — 20s
- Dog Ate my Finances
- Young and Thrifty — Public Sector, 20s
- Paranoid Asteroid
- Insomniac Lab Rat — Science, 20s