The Day Feminism Chose Me–Part I

The Day Feminism Chose Me--Part I

I was a working woman with no children. I earned my way to managing the biggest part of the business solo from an original group of six taking on the same task–many of them men. I was managing $85 Million in revenue and had gained the respect of the office. I tell you the dollars, not to brag, but to give you a sense of the scope. There were two other brand managers sitting on the team. One was managing $5 Million, the other $15 Million. One was a gay man, one was a recent immigrant and also male.

I had never really given much thought to feminism. I know I enjoyed many rights and privileges because of women who bravely stood up to ‘the man,’ and I was grateful every time I voted, but thought little of it outside of that arena. Until one day…

The day in question, I found a file that should not have been public. It was the salary file for the department not labelled as such but labelled curiously enough for me to open it. When I realized what I was reading, I didn’t want to see the contents and it is not in my nature to be nosey. But, I was curious. Who wouldn’t be? I was sure that my salary would be close to the VPs and certainly more than my counterparts who had been with the company a mere fraction of my 5 years while I drove the business.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. This organization was progressive in its hiring practices and everyone was open with their sexuality, heritage, wore whatever they wanted to, and we adored our office environment for it. We celebrated everyone’s right to be who they are. There was no judgment in those walls. Meetings were filled with ideas from everyone from the front desk staff to the tech teams. We were all empowered. It seemed a place of fairness, understanding, and, frankly, feminism.

But now I was deflated. My two male neighbours, managing significantly smaller portions of the business and constantly coming to my desk for advice, were paid more than me. Not by a little. By a lot.

I’m ashamed to say I cried at my desk. But then again, maybe I’m not. Immediately I felt my worth in the company take a tumble just as my email was prodding that I needed to attend the next meeting because ‘they couldn’t do it without me.’

Why? I knew that I wasn’t really being paid market rate for my contribution. In fact, I had been courted several times and could have doubled my salary if I had wanted to leave, but I loved working there. I even established a Culture Club to add fun and inspiration to our every day and worked with the best in the industry on innovation. My colleagues were not given those opportunities because they were still getting their feet wet and they didn’t have the passion for the business I did. Everyone saw that. So then, why?

I wanted to run screaming but I collected myself, left the building and that meeting behind, and took a day to breathe. The next day, I made my case to my boss and showed him the file. He was rightfully mortified. I asked for a reasonable raise to match my counterparts but then an increase in bonus based on performance to bump me ahead of them.

I was assertive and it worked. I was given what I asked for several days later, and I was back to being myself. I believed in the business again and my role in it.

But then…

I found out that my neighbours were each given the same bonus structure I was because ‘that seemed fair.’ Can someone please explain this to me? I walked in, asserted myself and made a damn good case to be paid more than those men, and that wasn’t fair. You know what is not fair? It is not fair that I had to go in that room and make my case. It isn’t fair that they did a fraction of the work and received the same compensation. It isn’t fair that if they had a 10% decrease in sales, no one noticed. If my brand did, we all started to panic and I was the one who had to rally the troupes and solve the problem.

None of it was fair.

If I had been less qualified, less capable, or even in the office fewer hours than those men, I would not have asked for more. But I did, because I was.

So men, you likely don’t notice it. You may not even give it a second thought. But it is there. The underbelly of the working world is yours to hold. You can be whatever you want to be, except a woman, and you will be better off.

 

Tell me a day that you appreciated feminism? Or, a day you might have done differently if feminism had been more top-of-mind.


Comments

  1. How long were you with this company after finding this out? Did they say anything when you (if you) quit? Or were you just being an “emotional” woman (to them)? I have a friend who scorns women who think they don’t have equal rights. This is a rich, pampered woman who has never had to complete in the ‘real’ world, but I can’t explain anything to her because her husband also controls her mind.

    • I stayed just under two years. I really did love that job and I learned to forgive and let my work stand up on its own merit. They did not say anything to me when I left about the inequity. What they did say is that when I went on maternity leave and one of the ‘guys’ had to do my job, he quit. He just couldn’t keep up. That made me feel better, but not richer. They also invited the Executive Chairman of the Board to do my exit interview. He asked me to stay and offered me my boss’s job (who had just been escorted out), if I would stay. That would have meant a raise, but by then, my mind was already out the door.
      I never stayed for the money. I stayed because I believed in the product, liked the people I worked with, and was learning a ton! The money would have been nice, but I wasn’t interested in taking a stand and leaving. Maybe they sensed that and it was reflected in my pay. Moral of the story… don’t let anyone know how much you like your job.
      Now, I just have to convince the kids that being a mother was not my intended career and they are, in fact, replaceable. Maybe then I’ll get a raise (which looks a lot like watching more Netflix and doing less dishes).

  2. Less dishes hah! I’ve yet to meet a kid who wouldn’t search through a sink of dirty dishes to find one “less dirty”, rinse it off and use it again. In fact, early on in my marriage my husband thought nothing about dirty dishes (we’ve never owned a dish washer). If they were an issue to me, then I could clean them. I have since made him see the “error” in his thinking (or lack thereof), fortunately. Children keep you up-to-date with technology, whether you want to be or not, so you probably could go back to the work force without too much retraining. I never had children, and can’t afford anything remotely 21st Century, so it is almost impossible to find a part time job to just get me out of the house! Two retirees under the same roof? Shudder.

  3. Devona Crowe : April 12, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Well said, Kristine. I find it abhorrent that I am still fighting for women’s equity and equality. I assume that I will be going to the grave doing so for my granddaughter and my young friends.

  4. Some men may consider this strange but I’m grateful for feminism. I’m grateful that for most of my professional life my work superiors have been women. I hope they’ve been paid more than me–they certainly deserved it for shouldering more responsibility, but the reason I’m grateful is that they’ve been better to work for than some of the male bosses I’ve had.
    Do women make better bosses? I don’t know and don’t think there’s enough information. What I do know is that without feminism the women I’ve enjoyed working for wouldn’t have been able to rise to such positions.
    Christopher recently posted…Coke Heads.My Profile

    • I would not say all female bosses are great to work for, just as I would not say all male bosses are great to work for. You were fortunate to have people you could respect as superiors… that is not always the case. I think we all benefit from getting rid of inequality. Racial, sexual, sexual orientation, religion, or any perceived difference. I hope to see strides forward in my lifetime. Some days I am even hopeful.

  5. I know that feeling when the new guy is getting more salary than you, it’s not only about the feminism, it happens all the time with everyone and company just wants their work to be complete till they are in the profit.

    • I know the new person often gets paid more. It is a shame that longevity is not always rewarded. My biggest concern was that those men got a bonus bump they did not ask for, and, in my estimation, did not deserve. Hey, but I wasn’t the boss. Maybe my world was skewed because I was angry. I just know how I felt.

  6. It’s crazy that we still have to demand fairness. Good for you for doing it. I wrote recently about crying at work because a (female) colleague was telling me that she thought I was the strong one. Yes, I use my big girl voice. I am strong. But as I told her, I still cry too. It’s not weakness. But we often feel that when we’re in meetings, there’s a man that tries to intimidate us, and i refuse to take it quietly.I just can’t believe tehse conversations are still necessary.

    • I feel the same way. Why can’t we cry? Emotions aren’t weak, in fact, they are a sign of strength. Big girl panties or tighty whities should not define us.
      I am sad we still have to talk about it, but hopeful because we are talking about it. Conversation = knowledge = understanding = progress.
      Just keep swimming…

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