What's Your Worth? Divorced Women and the Wage Gap

February 27, 2018

On my mad dash across the country I wondered if I’d made the right decision. Hard not to, given that I’m a planner, not a seat-of-my-pantser. But the Universe was kind enough to reassure me that I was on the right path - each day on my journey I sold an article and the amount I made from my writing covered the hotel cost each night. Since I've been back it’s continued.

Unexpected refunds from home insurance - delivered late even though I sold the house in September (can’t say I recommend State Farm). Getting paid out for my accrued vacation at the old job. Writing payments coming through. My bills have been covered. And then there’s been the job hunt - which has gone much better than expected.


Six phone interviews last week. My voice is fried, my throat is sore, and I have two more scheduled for this week. At first it was frustrating because employers were trying to low ball me (pro tip - this might be why you’re having a hard time finding someone to fill the role).





Looking towards my future. Shirt from modcloth. Photo by Jeff Pryor.

My first two interviews here the companies tried to offer me a $30-35k pay cut. Ugh, right? They tried to pull the whole "cost of living is cheaper here” thing which - no, it’s not. In panic mode - I’m not currently employed and don’t get unemployment since I had to resign in order to be back here for my son -  I was tempted. But then I went to yoga and meditated to chill myself out. And I sat down and crunched some numbers. 



If I'd taken that pay cut, how could I have recovered? The next time I was interviewing they’d ask me my current salary and make their offer based upon that.  I did a rough, back-of-the-napkin calc, and the cost to me over the next twenty-five years in foregone wages, bonuses, 401k match and more would have been over a million dollars.


A million dollars. And that was a conservative estimate.


I couldn't do it. Once I saw the impact in black and white, I stood firm.


I refused to apologize for my quoted salary range, to dissemble or explain, and the next two companies I spoke to didn't blink when I quoted them $90k - minimum.


That's the funny thing about establishing your worth. That six figure salary mattered to me, and represented financial independence, but it also sent a signal to companies looking to hire me. What's one of the first questions a HR person will ask when they're interviewing you? "What's your current or last salary?" If I'd taken a pay cut I'd be right back where I started and all my future raises would be based upon that amount. That is why the fact that women start behind men is such a problem - our future salaries, our raises, our bonuses, are all built on that starting number.  The lifetime impact upon women from the wage gap is estimated to be around $400k


This is why many states are passing laws that make it illegal for companies to ask about salary history. It forces employers to decide what the job and the skill set it takes to perform that job is worth. Often, it takes gender out of the equation in that if a woman started below a man at the same job it no longer has the same power to hurt her.  The idea is that the labor and skills are worth what they're worth and the market will dictate it. Employers shouldn't be able to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same job just because they can.


My story has a happy ending. Next week I'll be starting as Senior Consultant at a local accounting and consulting firm.  I think it's going to be an excellent fit and that I'll enjoy the project-based work. And it's within the range of what I'd asked for - and deserve.


Why do I talk so much about topics like sex, money, abuse and dating that are often considered taboo to mention in public? Because they're all inter-connected and have a HUGE impact upon women's lives.  My ex's abuse endangered my job (money), his financial abuse has cost me over ten grand in legal fees last year alone (on top of the over $14k for the divorce), the financial and verbal abuse left psychological scars that I had to work to in order to get back to knowing and demanding my worth which plays into my job and my relationships...A culture of shame, and of not sharing our stories, stands in the way of change.  We need to talk about our relationships, about sexual harassment, about money.


And we need to keep talking about it until our worth is never in doubt.









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