What do you when you discover your colleagues are making $20,000 more than you? Quit your job, bag a 41% pay rise, and pay off your entire student loan debt. Then, you party.
Asking for a pay rise is one of those adult milestones that perfectly encapsulates the phrase “easier said than done”. Even if we’re know we’re being woefully underpaid, or feel as though we aren’t being fairly compensated for our work, asking for more can be excruciatingly painful - and a venture that bears no guarantee of success.
It’s vital that we do muster the confidence to ask for a bigger salary though, because when we avoid it, pay inequality persists. And while there are some factors that are frustratingly out of our control - pervasive gender norms, for instance, or the fact that women take career breaks to have families - taking our own initiative and speaking up is definitely one way to exert control. The only question, is, how do you ask the question?
If you’re looking for pointers, one inspiring woman by the name of Caitlin Boston has got your back.
Boston, a 35-year-old tech worker from Brooklyn, recently posted a video conveying her pure unadulterated joy at paying off student loan debt. Which might sound a little extra, until you learn the entire sum was an eye-watering $200,000 that she had amassed since 2009 for both her undergraduate and graduate school loans. Definitely cause for celebration, we think you’d agree, which explains the purple spandex, dollar sign costumes and sassy dance routine.
“I did it all by my single freaking self, as in, no family passing me $$$ at any point,” she wrote in the subtitles. “It was hard but I did it and I did it alone because I am a f****** boss.”
But Boston’s video wasn’t simply an impromptu celebration. When you pay closer attention, you realise that she was able to pay off her tuition debt because she asked for a pay rise, after learning that she was being burnt by a sizeable wage gap as a woman of colour. How did she do it, you ask? With one simple question.
In her video, Boston bestows one valuable piece of wisdom that enabled her to pay off her debt for good.
“I want to share the #1 thing that helped me pay off my student loans,” she writes. “Ask your peers what they make. Especially if you’re a woman you just need to expect that you’re being underpaid.
“Your job is to figure out by how much. Because even in 2019, women only make 80.5 cents for every dollar that a man makes, and women of colour make even less. So ask your peers what they make - especially your male ones.
“It might make you uncomfortable, but it’s the sole reason I started making an additional 41% a year.”
If you’re cringing at the thought of openly asking your colleagues what they earn while you’re making your morning coffee, Boston has got you covered. Her top tip is to ask the “over or under” question, which provides you with pay transparency while eliminating the pressure of asking someone to divulge their exact salary on the spot.
“Just ask your industry peers, are you making over or under X dollars?” she continues. “I really hope you start earning what you deserve!”
In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Boston explained that through asking the “under/over” question, she realised that she was making a staggering $20,000 less than others in her field, prompting her to start “interviewing like crazy.” The hard work paid off, and Boston landed a new job, and a corresponding pay jump of around 41%.
Even though she’s finally free of her six-figure student debt, Boston is still practising what she preaches in her mission to eliminate rigid gender norms and make the workplace more transparent.
“I still ask the over/under question,” she remarked. “There’s a burden that we carry by not sharing what we’re making with each other…all that the secrecy has done is put the burden – and the shame – on the individual.”