Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, recently penned an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter e-newsletter about the gender-wage pay gap. In her essay, Jennifer revealed how she discovered through the Sony hack that her male co-stars in American Hustle were making significantly more money than her. She discusses her anger at herself for failing as a negotiator and “giving up early.”
Fellow celebrities have praised Jennifer’s essay like her Silver Linings Playbook co-star Bradley Cooper and fellow actress Emma Watson—who has in the past spoken out about gender equality—showed her support through an encouraging tweet. But others are claiming that wealthy actors shouldn’t be the spokespeople for wage issues since theirs is one a struggling family cannot relate to.
Jennifer’s position isn’t about how much money she’s making. It’s about how women are perceived in the workplace. It’s a fight that needs addressing in all industries until the battle is won. In solidarity with Jennifer’s essay, here’s a reposting of one of Dot Complicated’s favorite financial advisor and motivational speakers, Suze Orman, discussing how women should stand up for their worth in the workplace and not worry that asking for a raise is “bad karma.”
I am a big believer in karma. But to suggest that good karma should be the lynchpin of managing your career is not just wrong, but dangerous.
Yet that’s what Satya Nadella, the chief executive officer of Microsoft offered up as advice to working women at a  recent women’s conference: “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” said Nadella. “That’s good karma. It will come back. That’s the kind of person that I want to trust, that I want to give more responsibility to.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Yet in a perverse way I am glad Mr. Nadella brought this issue into the spotlight. That the chief executive of the 34th largest company in the Fortune 500- with profits of nearly $22 billion on revenue of more than $78 billion-said this should be a wake up call to every woman. This was not some outlier start-up entrepreneur looking to provoke.
Yes, Mr. Nadella backtracked as quickly as the backlash began, but it would be wise for every woman to take Mr. Nadella at his original word. The fact is, whether an explicit strategy or implicit assumption, management preys on women’s propensity to not negotiate, to be consummate team players, to be passive.
One telling academic study reported that women equate a salary negotiation on par with the uncomfortable-and sometimes painful-experience of a trip to the dentist. In the same study men viewed salary negotiation as a game to be won. Okay, so it’s not typically in our DNA. That just means having to make a conscious effort to override what does not come naturally.
To suggest that good karma is all women need only fuels this this dangerous mindset. It plays into what I see so women hope to be true: that their good nature, get-along, consensus-building nature will be rewarded without asking. That’s naïve. We’re still dealing with a gender pay gap across diverse professions that often has women working at a discount of 20%-30% less than what their male colleagues earn.
So much for karma as a negotiating tool.
Mr. Nadella has since communicated to Microsoft employees that he got it wrong. His advice: “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.” In a vacuum that advice is fine. Rather than wait for karma to get your manager to acknowledge your contributions and value, be proactive. The problem in all too many offices is that being your own best advocate often gets women labeled as agitators or pushy. Or, yes, bossy.
And then there’s the art of asking; something women also tend to struggle with. “Can I have a raise?” or “I deserve a raise” or “I am overdue for a raise,” is not the way to go. Where’s the power in that? Ask for a meeting to discuss your compensation; get it on the schedule. This is not some “oh by the way” item you mention at the end of a meeting. In advance of the meeting prepare a one-page list of what you have accomplished. Be as specific as possible. Run through the deliverables you nailed and goals you met (and exceeded.) Then in the meeting you do no ask for a raise. You state your case: “I deserve a raise of at least X.” The phrase “at least” is crucial. You have just set expectations and your floor. You are negotiating from a position of confidence and power. That is going to pay off.
By Suze Orman From October 15, 2014
Suze Orman is an author, financial advisor, motivational speaker, and award-winning television host. Her program The Suze Orman Show won her a Gracie Award. Suze has written several books about personal finance including Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. Read more at suzeorman.com.