What is holding women back from expecting equal pay in the workforce?

Why do we as women under value ourselves?

This question came up the other day while chatting with a girlfriend. Keep in mind, she is in her early 60’s and still works harder than most 20 year olds I know.

She started a fairly big operation for a college. It was her idea. Her vision. And her sweat and tears that went into it.  Now it’s a huge success.  And she still finds it hard to ask for a raise.

At the beginning, they told her it was a start-up.  There was no guarantee of success. They didn’t want to invest a bunch of money into something just off the ground.

That was years ago.

Now they are making plenty of money off of her.

And she is still underpaid.

I can relate.

So why does she stay?

Why do we all stay in jobs and working for bosses that don’t appreciate what we bring to the table?

In my opinion, it just boils down to one thing – we are afraid to ask for what we are worth.

We feel uncomfortable asking for a raise, because somewhere along the way – at least for the generation 40 yrs and up – we were told we “better just feel lucky to have a good job.”

I even remember my grandma in my 20’s telling me, ‘“Have a grateful heart Nicole and don’t make any waves at work.  Just keep your nose down and do a good job.”

This comes from a woman who lived through the Depression, so it makes sense looking back.

I am not alone.  

And think about this, in most cases, men are our bosses.

Perhaps women are not sure how to explain our value to someone else, when we can’t see it in ourselves?

Our lack of demanding what we have earned comes from generations of women before us, “taking one for the team.”

Women have always been great helpers.

Just refer back to the bible. To Adam and Eve.

Eve was created, biblically speaking, to be a helper to Adam.

But allow me to dive in deeper.

She was made from his rib … which is from his SIDE.

He is not ABOVE her, or BELOW her … which you could argue makes them equal.


No where close to where we should be.

We get to work early.  We stay late. We stress about work while at home. We answer emails and take corporate calls after hours.

We do the same things men do.

And we are just as smart as men.

Yet, we are afraid to assert our self worth.

We are afraid we will get told no, or maybe they will find someone younger and cuter and cheaper.

This is a sad reality I see way too often, especially as a 42 year old woman with many female friends in corporate America.

Do you ever think any man would ever say, “I feel embarrassed or awkward asking for a raise?”

NO. NO. And NO.

Ladies, this is not skill issue.


We must get more confident, and that in turn will allow us to truly SEE our worth and what we bring to the table.

And when that happens, we can all expect what is fair.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me I couldn’t get a more than a 1 percent pay raise, because “your husband is successful and makes a good living!”

I swear to God.

How does this have ANYTHING TO DO WITH HOW I CONTRIBUTE to my company?

And yet I didn’t quit.

That is my fault, just as much as it was my bosses fault at the time.

I share that story so you guys know you are not alone.

I would argue every women in America can relate to something in this article.

But we must break this cycle for our daughters. Our nieces. Our female cousins. And our granddaughters.

I would love to hear your opinions in the comment section as to what we as women can do to change and level the playing field.

This is a discussion worth having. NOW.

And for the men out there reading this, I would also love to hear your thoughts. This is a safe zone to talk candidly and openly.

I will say I find it hopeful that reports say millennials are only staying at a job for 2 or so years before moving onto the next great opportunity. Is the mindset shifting for the better, or do we just have a generation of quitters? I wish I knew the answer.  



  1. irene grubbs
    September 23, 2019 / 4:10 am

    First, for an fascinating history of women’s pay issues and other discriminatory practices that have gone unnoticed by many women because “that’s the way it’s always been” read “The Notorious RBG” [about Ruth Bader Gunsburg]. A significant reason we are underpaid is the secrecy in which employers shroud salaries. A cardinal rule everywhere I worked was that salaries were not to be divulged. When you gain access to wage information, things can happen. Remember Lily Ledbetter, the woman who worked for years in a Gadsden, AL, Goodyear plant? When she learned how little she had been paid compared to men who did the same or lesser work, she filed suit. The case made it to the Supreme Court. She had been awarded $3.5 million dollars by the jury at the trial level (later reduced by the trial judge to approx. $360,000). When the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court Ms. Ledbetter’s win was reversed. The Court held Ledbetter had no cause of action because under the EEOC laws you had to bring your case within 180 days of the alleged wrong (which flies n the face of the legal concept of a continuing wrong). In what I find to be tortuous reasoning, the Court held 5-4 that Ms. L. had not timely filed and could not be compensated for any of the years of wrongful pay because her claim for any given paycheck lapsed 180 days after it was issued under the EEOC laws. Ms. L didn’t know about the pay disparity for 19 yrs when she received an anonymous note telling her about the wages paid to male workers! Justice Gunsburg read her brilliant dissent from the bench on the day of the ruling, something that is seldom done. Ms. Ledbetter never received any monetary award, but her case led to the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This act bolstered worker protections against gender-based pay discrimination, supposedly already outlawed by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 . The 2009 act allows individuals who face gender-based pay discrimination to seek rectification under federal anti-discrimination laws and specifically allows for the restarting of the period during which a case could be brought on the date of each wrongful payment. Ms. Ledbetter, a woman of very modest means, said she was all right with not recovering any money, as long as she wouldbe remembered as someone who had made a difference. Indeed! Should women not ask and be told in job interviews what the pay range is for the position and further ask if that rate is across the board? If the question raises hackles, maybe you need to look elsewhere because discomfort in answering or a refusal to answer that question reveals the employer’s mindset regarding equal pay.

    • nicoleallshouse
      December 28, 2019 / 4:49 am

      Irene, You might be in the top 5 smartest humans I know! Love you!

  2. Jo Barnes
    September 23, 2019 / 2:13 pm

    Wow great article and so true. Women lack self confidence for sure and we are very under appreciated in the work force.

    • nicoleallshouse
      December 28, 2019 / 4:50 am

      Jo – It makes me sad…but also inspired to see some growth each year with women in the workforce … we must keep these conversations going ….that’s how change will happen. Keep shining and happy almost 2020!

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