It’s so easy to doubt ourselves.
Do I know enough? Am I skilled enough? Will everyone think I’m a fraud? No one will take me seriously…
I ask these questions and say nasty comments to myself on a daily basis. I’m constantly in fear that one day someone will “expose me”. That they’ll show the world I’m not as great, strong, or brave as I say I am. They exclaim, “She’s been faking the whole time! She’s just a scare-dy cat!!”. And to an extent they would be right. I am scared. But, the only way to be strong or brave is to be insanely afraid, nervous, and terrified and then do it all anyway.
When I was offered a promotion back in June 2017 to be Assistant General Manager I was excited - and terrified. I had worked as a floor manager before, and worked every single FOH position there is, but I never worked a salaried position. It all felt so “adult”, so real. I was put in charge of scheduling and leading training classes. This was a position in one of the restaurant's new locations, so I was to teach all new employees and give directions on how to set up the restaurant for opening. I helped coordinate how the opening parties would go, and hosted throughout the night making sure investors and VIPs always had a drink in their hand and a smile on their face. With over 30 staff members looking up to me I had to roll up my sleeves and go into boss mode.
At 23 years old I was scared - would anyone take me seriously? Would they all follow my direction? Would they like me? Could I be the manager that I always wanted?
Thankfully, those opening nights went off without a hitch, and most (hey, it’s a restaurant shit happens) of my shifts as manager were as smooth as butter. Throughout my time in this position I started to notice the way I was treated… During the parties, I introduced myself to everyone I could. "Hi! My name is Arielle, I'm the Assistant General Manager". The responses were mostly the same, “But you look so young!” or “You’re too pretty to be working in management” and my favorite, “Where’d they find you??”, with the weird old guy wink… I did my best to assert myself, feeling the need to back up why I was promoted - “Well, I’ve been working in the company for over a year, and helped open two other locations.” and “I’ve been working in hospitality since I was 14, it’s all pretty natural to me.” I felt the need to explain to everyone there that I was the right person for the position, and that I knew I belonged there.
Fast forward 7 months. Not only did I open up the location, but I created training programs, recalculated COGs, and updated menu descriptions and packets for all new and existing employees. I came in early, stayed late and remained as far ahead of the curve as I could, so when someone asked me to do something I could say, “It’s finished and on your desk.” But, I wanted more. I wanted to impact more people - teach other managers what I accomplished when building and leading my team. We became a family and I wanted others to feel the strong bond that we did.
So, I asked for an evaluation, a change in position, and a raise. I wasn’t shy about it. I knew exactly what I wanted and I wasn’t taking no!
Except I had to. I got turned down. For every request.
I was devastated. I thought, “But this is my life’s work! This is what I’m meant to do!” Before I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel... after that meeting I felt like I ran so fast that the wheel flew me off against the hard glass wall. I worked as hard as I could, put in all the hours, and yet… I was still receiving paychecks that were less than most of my full-time employees (who worked 15-20 less hours than I did a week). I was told that this was the job I signed up for. More responsibility. Less pay. That’s just how it works, kiddo.
Except I knew that wasn’t entirely true. I knew that my male counter-part was making $5k more than me, for his initial salary. I was all ready to bring it up claiming that as a woman I deserved to get paid the same!!!!!! But, I couldn’t do it. I didn't want to sound like a cry baby. I didn't want to point my finger and say, “But he makes more than me! And I work harder!” I’m sure there are ways to bring this up without sounding like that, but in the moment when you're sitting across from your male boss who is twice your size and has no problem saying no… you feel small. I felt smaller than small. I felt useless.
So, I kept my mouth shut after hearing no. I said, ok. I completely understand.
But I didn’t.
I lost my fire. I was no longer happy going into work. I felt undervalued, unappreciated, and honestly, pretty worthless. You see, words mean nothing without action behind them. It is completely meaningless to tell someone they’re important or vital without providing value behind those words.
Less than a month later I quit that job in search for a place where I could make a difference and an impact (that didn’t quite work out either, but that’s a story for another time).
The bottom line is that sometimes you will fight for what you believe in, and it will not be easy. There will be men in your position to make more than you do. There will be men that think that compliments pay the bills. There will be people who tell you, “You get paid enough already”.
This fight is hard, and you will not always win - but it is worth it.
I encourage you to stand up for what you believe in. Surround yourself with individuals who will cheer you on, lift you up, and pay you what you deserve. There are good companies, and good people who will pay you what you work for.
Ladies Get Paid is a movement that supports equal pay for men and women. They provide support through a wonderful community of badass women. It is vital to have honest spaces where women can open up about their experiences in the workplace without feeling judged. However, there are some men that don’t agree. Specifically, a group of men who are suing Ladies Get Paid for discrimination. To read more about Ladies Get Paid you can click here. And to support their cause click here.
This is a movement close to my heart, and I’m sure many other women who have experienced any kind of bias based on their gender.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading a small part of my long-ass story. Now, get out there - kick ass & get paid ;)
Shout out to Lauren Hom for her kick-ass illustration used for the thumbnail of this post!