How Women Can Fight the Apathy of Silence and EnvyBy Caroline Miller, MAPP
Last week I had an “aha!” moment when a close friend called with a sheepish question: “Am I undercharging for speaking?” I know her credentials well and I immediately answered that she WAS undercharging and that she could more than double her fee and easily get booked in a number of places at the higher fee.
She sighed with relief and admitted that she’d been embarrassed to ask me or any other woman for guidance, and almost hadn’t called me at all. “I didn’t want anyone to know that I haven’t figured this out, and that I’m probably undercharging for what I’m worth,” she said. “Plus, I have female friends who don’t have the confidence to charge much when they speak, so if I said I wanted more than I’m already getting, some might think I’m greedy and should be content with my standard fee.”
This conversation came hard on the heels of a superstar academic asking me to band together with others to promote her for an important award, which I immediately agreed to do. “There aren’t many women I can ask to help me promote myself for things like this,” she noted, “because I have found that if I do, I’m criticized for being too forward, or they are passive-aggressive about helping at all. But I see men doing this for each other all the time, and if we women don’t adopt that approach, we’ll never get the seats at the table that result in meaningful power.”
My trifecta of awarenesses came when I finally absorbed the fact that any social media post of mine from a vacation spot or about my children always earned the support and “likes” from my female friends, but that the moment I had the audacity to say that my latest book had been mentioned in a national publication, or that I had achieved a tough physical goal, those same females disappeared. Not all, of course, but a noticeable decline that has been apparent for many years, but that I was afraid to really look at or even talk about.
Like most of my female peers, I’ve been thinking a lot about issues of women and empowerment since the 2016 presidential election because it opened the kimono on just how far women need to go to earn wage parity, essential reproductive rights, and company promotions, among many other troubling gender-based issues. But it has also been on my mind because of an invitation from the Harvard-Yale women’s salon series in Washington, DC last fall, which invited female graduates to attend an afternoon discussion about the problems of women undermining other women. Although I have