WWCode Podcast 47: Claire Wasserman, Author and Founder of Ladies Get Paid
At Women Who Code, our mission is to empower women to excel in technology careers. For Ladies Get Paid, I know that you are championing the professional and financial advancement of women as well.
I am about power. Power to me means choice, freedom of choice, and independence. It means the ability to stand up, speak up, and get what you want. I help women level up professionally and financially, but really in the pursuit of empowerment.
What inspired you to focus on this aspect of financial advancement?
I had a pretty sexist experience that kind of woke me up. I didn't realize how sad the statistics are when it comes to women and the wage gap, the investment gap, and the funding gap. The experience had me reflecting on all of the small ways that I had to navigate uncomfortable power dynamics related to gender. My aha moment was that if we negotiate our salaries, if we charge more, that would be one way that we could take command, that we wouldn't have to wait 200 plus years for the wage gap to close.
I'm an action-oriented person. I started Ladies Get Paid in 2016, where I was bringing women together to talk about money. I was hosting events in a town hall format. We facilitated conversation that demonstrated the power of peer-to-peer sharing. It wasn't just about learning, but it was about recognizing that you were not alone. I have found that it's not just asking for the raise, but it's, am I worthy of the raise? And if I do get that raise, can I perform in the way that I've presented myself?
I created a Slack group. I started to hire coaches, career coaches, and money coaches. It's not just about teaching you how to negotiate your salary, it's how you position yourself to get the yes. It’s the work that needs to happen before the conversation around your salary. It's about what you are going to do with the money. How will you make your wealth grow? Because ultimately we're working for our money, but we gotta make sure the money is working for us. I've never been motivated by money, per se. I'm really motivated by freedom and power. Money is the conduit of that.
In the Slack group, we've got 55,000 women, in all 50 states, and more than 120 countries. They've exchanged over 2 million messages since 2016. Everything that we create, from our webinars to our conference, to my book, has come out of those conversations that I'm seeing happening. It's free to join. We want to include everybody who has a desire to level up and bring others with them.
What piece of advice or effective communication have you shared with people who are in that stage of either negotiating an offer or asking for a raise?
Cast a wide net of real people that you're going to talk to, not just the Glassdoors. Look at people who work at companies that are similar to yours, in similar situations, because compensation is contextual. The way that HR pays you is based on a range, called a pay band. Within that pay band, people get paid different amounts, depending on different things. Talk to people who are in similar scenarios to you, location, size the company, and make sure they are white men. If there is a wage gap going on here, you need to be talking to the people who are making the most money.
If we all share our salaries, we can all get paid more. Make this bigger than you. I think men are looking to be allies and just simply don't know-how. This is a tangible way that they can do it, by talking about how much they make, and if they have any suggestions for how they negotiate it. After you do all that research, I want you to pick three numbers, expecting that you're not going to get a yes on your top salary. What's the next one? And then, of course, your bottom line. Be prepared for the back and forth to maybe take two or three times. Each time there's a no, you have another number in mind. Part of that also has to be things that don't include money, that bring you value, this is called full compensation. This is about working from home and flexibility, career development, signing bonuses, title changes, and stock options. It really is limitless, but don't rely on them to offer it, you need to ask for it.
What do I need to do in order to get the raise? First is the math, it's not emotional, it's just data. You have to know your place in the company and how you make the company money. How can you get creative in the way that you described your impact on the business bottom line? Do you mentor people? It doesn't need to be official, but if you've done anything that helps the company culture, that is actually making the company money, because it is expensive to lose people.
Your raise should not be a surprise. A good time to talk about this is when budgets are decided. Another good time to talk about it is when you had a win. Your success is your boss's success. Let the fear go. Come with an open mind and research. Be professional. Be thoughtful. Be determined. They don't want to lose you.
What can you share with people who feel like they are getting stuck in this process of looking for what's next, or maybe those in our community who are looking to pivot to different roles?
Ladies Get Paid came out a year ago. It was a hard process. I wasn't expecting to write another one, but I just saw in the last two years this urgency, this agitation from our community, and we're not the only ones. I know this, because of the Great Resignation, to just make a change. Some people know what they want, and others just know what they don't want, and that's okay, that's the beginning part. The unknown is scary, but it is also an opportunity. The question is, how do you make the leap? The process of self-invention. I've always been fascinated by people who are "self-made." I started to do some interviews in my community of people who are self-invented. It’s real stories of real people, their process, breaking it down step by step.
It's going to be about savings, about your financial plan. It's going to be about managing the emotional roller coaster that comes with making changes and shifting your identity. There's some grief and loss in that. I don't think we talk enough about what that's like when you are in the in-between. You're no longer doing what you used to do, or you don't want to do it anymore, but maybe you're not yet where you want to be. It always starts with yourself. I'm inspired by our community as I watch them go through this process, as they make really bold and quite brave changes in their lives.
How can people show up for themselves and find the roles or find the work that's meaningful for them where they can also come and be their 100% authentic self.
My answer has changed over time. It used to be, do work that brings you joy, you have a purpose. However, a paycheck is a paycheck too. Sometimes the best thing for your mental health is to have work just be work. It's not your entire identity. Its ideal is to be part of a company that at least shares your values. Does this need to be a place where you want to spend all your time? Not necessarily. Be very careful about how much you wrap your identity up with the work that you do. Even if it is your own company. You need to have financial savings because if you are in a position where you don't feel safe to be yourself, it is the only way that you're going to feel okay about leaving. As we've seen in the pandemic, so much is out of our control.
Where can we learn more about you and the work that you're doing?
Come join ladiesgetpaid.com. It's free to be part of the community. There's also a pro-membership. Becoming a pro member means you get access to everything and you can come to all of our events. There is a whole master's course on salary negotiation and one on getting the job. You can also follow us on all of the social platforms at Ladies Get Paid and then me personally, at Claire Gets Paid. My website is clairewasserman.com. I want to hear from people, share your journey with me, and ask me questions.
Is there one last takeaway you want to leave us with?
You only live one life. You are the main character and you're the hero. Your life will only be as big as the decision that you make. Many things are scary and risky, but it's all an adventure. It's all a learning experience.