When it Comes to Equal Pay…

Listen up, ladies, because I’m only going to say this once. If you don’t ASK for what you want, don’t blame others when you don’t get it. And don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back if you get it without asking, because that’s just called luck.

For me, this idea can apply to a lot of different things, but the topic at the forefront of my mind is equal pay. I get it – on the whole, women are making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Of course, the issue is much deeper than a single statistic, and certainly much deeper than a single platitude about asking for what you want. But for my money, it’s a damn good place to start.

Shortly after Jennifer Lawrence’s essay concerning wage inequity was published, I listened to a radio program where two women were discussing the topic. They mentioned a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Meredith was offered a chief position (by her female boss) but thought the salary was too low. One of the radio show hosts commented that female bosses should be looking out for female employees.

What a lovely idea; but it’s this kind of dependence on fairness and correctness being inherent in the hierarchy that has us sitting sweetly, waiting for our worth and value to be recognized. It’s like an aspiring model hoofing it around the mall hoping to be discovered – possible, but not likely.

We have legislation to protect us from these inequities – the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, to name a few. There’s no amount of legislation, however, that’s going to fundamentally change behavior. Behavior changes when attitudes change. Those are often long, slow rides; but work within your sphere of influence if nothing else. Educate yourself about the type of pay that’s typical for those in your industry, with your educational background, experience, and geography. For the most part this information is readily available on the internet, but start a conversation with your friends and colleagues in same or similar positions too. We need to demystify salaries and remove the taboos of talking about them. I’m not advocating for radical advertisement, by the way – no need to add your salary to your Facebook profile or get t-shirts printed, but we need to take it out of that growing bucket of things we’re too shy to talk about.

Know this – not all women are for you and not all men are against you. The most important thing is that you’re for you – and that starts by educating yourself about your own value and then voicing those expectations when the need arises.

Busy is the New Black

BusinessofBusy

Do you remember the days when a casual greeting to a friend or colleague went something like this?

You: Hi. How are you doing?

Friend: Oh, fine, fine. And you?

That was it. Short, sweet, drama free.

But things change and evolve and just get downright weird. The idea of the ‘simple greeting’ is mere nostalgia at this point. Nowadays, no conversation is complete without one or both parties lamenting the depth and breadth of their busy-ness.

Mind you, it’s often the same people claiming busy-ness who, in the next breath, tell you how they just finished binge-watching the last two seasons of “House of Cards” in preparation for the upcoming season premiere. Is it just possible that we’ve lost track, not only of the real meaning of busy, but also of our own role in the constant perception and sensation of feeling that way?

Many people seem to wear busy-ness like some badge of honor, a competition to see how much can be packed in to a day, a week, or more. A competition that – if you believe the time-crunched masses – measures worth and importance.

Early in my career, I worked with a guy who, almost on a weekly basis, would let me know how many hours he’d worked the previous week. It was often in the triple digits. He didn’t seem to know how to turn the tide and get out of the cycle. In the beginning, I listened attentively. It seemed like something he was genuinely trying to resolve. I tried to understand what was requiring so much of his time and attention. It certainly didn’t seem like a sustainable situation, so surely changes must be made.

He rebuffed any suggestion I made. He and I had similar roles, and while I routinely worked more than 40 hours a week, I couldn’t imagine how one could possibly approach triple digits. Was I not carrying my weight? Was I the reason he was having to put in so many hours?

Perhaps in a parallel universe, everything’s about me, but in this case, it certainly wasn’t. He was just “that guy”. The guy who wants to complain about his load, effort, and loyalty being greater than everyone else’s. The guy who says he doesn’t want things to be that way, but seems incapable of setting and following boundaries. The guy who, in the time he takes to detail all the ways in which he’s in over his head, could have knocked out at least three things on his burgeoning list.

The problem is that now every third person seems to be “that guy”. Whether it’s work, or kids, or even “House of Cards”, too many people are complaining about being busy. Through rigorous statistical analysis (well, perhaps not – I’m much too busy for that!), my guess is that at least half of these people choose to act busy, choose to fill their days and time with laundry lists of tasks, never stopping to let the dust settle.

Of course, sometimes we really are busy, and that’s just the way things are for a bit. Maybe you’re moving house, starting a new job, preparing for a baby, or planning a wedding. Those life changes will push the most balanced of us a bit off-kilter. But it’s temporary. We plan for it, suck it up, and move on.

When busy becomes a lifestyle, one that we complain about at the same time we’re perpetuating it, we’re heading toward dangerous territory. It’s almost hard to imagine what busy would have looked like in Socrates’ time. I mean, they didn’t have the power of flight or 24-hour fitness centers, much less the Internet. But he wasn’t wrong when he described a continually busy life as barren. It’s an uncontemplated life. Perhaps, it’s an impressive list of completed tasks, but all the meaning, importance, and value is sitting on our surfaces, waiting to be brushed off as we flit to the next thing on the list.

Breathe deep. Just sit for a minute and let your mind wander. “House of Cards” will wait.