Being a woman is love but who are we kidding? It's also a challenge as we consistently work to merely chip away at the glass ceiling, throwing what feels like boulders at it. The only thing more difficult than being a working woman is doing so while being Black. The sage life advice of ancestors rings true, even from beyond the grave: You have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have.
Black excellence as a woman has never been easy to attain and it never will be, but that doesn't mean we can't keep demanding it in every space we step into but most certainly the place we spend the bulk of our time: The workplace.
That starts with knowing our worth in the workplace and asking for the big bucks for our big bag that we've been working twice as hard at getting forever. It's easy to feel intimidated or unable to advocate for yourself in any work setting because women are called b*tches, while men are framed as headstrong go-getters when they cut to the bottom line. But, there's no justice in shrinking ourselves to fit into a sexist society that tells us women are undeserving of a closed pay gap. So, how do we do it? How do we boss up and get this money in the words of an underrated Detroit rapper?
Well, these 7 black and brown women share stories and the most important things they learned about negotiating their salary throughout their careers:
Donna R., Audit Director at TD Bank
"Be able to verbalize and prove that you're an expert at what you do. Be known for thinking outside the box, stepping outside your comfort zone, and driving results."
Heather R., Manager of Employee Health at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital
"I transitioned from working as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department 10 years ago. I worked 12-hour shifts three days a week. My new role was an exempt manager role that provided a nice raise. However, six months into the role I was provided additional duties based on my dual degree. The hours became longer but the pay did not change. I knew that was to my benefit. I also knew based on my work and the autonomy that I had that my boss trusted me and relied on me to get things done.
"I went to my boss with a prepared plan of action in writing. I methodically laid out the additional duties and the impact that I had with my current role, the hours involved, and the return investment the organization was receiving because I took on the additional responsibilities.
"Know your worth and add tax, meaning find a number you're okay with as compensation for your work and then ask for more providing room for negotiations. Also, do your homework and know what you bring to the table before asking for a raise. Be ready to provide examples of how your work has driven change and/or impacted the company."
Fabiana M., Publicist at Zilker Media
"If giving a hard number gives you anxiety, you can settle on a range (ex: 40K to 46K). This can help employers see you won't settle for less than a certain amount and can give you wiggle room for negotiations."
Joy C., Transformational Speaker
"What I learned was how to make a case. When you're going to ask for more money, you bring the data and you do so with confidence. There was a little pushback when I first presented my request to the chair, prior to him taking it to the committee. I had made myself so invaluable, I used the circumstances of the organization (they had been without a director for over two years and so now they've got me on board, it made a big splash) and it's all in the papers, so they don't want to look bad by losing a CEO. They would've lost a lot had I walked and because of this, it didn't even make sense for them to argue with it."
"So it's about building a case, making yourself invaluable, and being assertive, not aggressive (we're Black women so you know how that goes), and then showing it in the numbers (they don't lie)."
"I locked that figure in (additionally 25K) and as a selling point, I opted out of being able to receive pay increases for the duration of my three-year contract. And while I was eligible for bonuses, this is not something I would do again nor do I recommend it. Lastly, I would say ask for more clarity on what is required of you to receive a bonus."
Keyantee D., Executive Director Human Resources
"Always talk to people in similar roles and ask about perks (increased life insurance, car allowance, extra PTO days) so that you can understand what negotiable perks are out there. The salary is just a small part of the overall compensation packet."
Tiffany J., Director of Patient and User Success
"My biggest piece of advice for women who want an increase in their salary is to 'Know your worth.' I feel like this phrase gets used in many parts of life, from relationships, friendships, and even in your professional life. I realized in my current role that I was working above and beyond my title, and I started to compare what I was making to those in the industry. I did research online, spoke with previous co-workers, and realized I was underpaid. More than anything, this was hurtful, I took it personally. I thought, 'This company that I thought I meant so much to, how could they not pay me what I deserve?' My next step was figuring out, how do I have the conversation to get more money, where do I start?"
"So I found this book Secrets of Six Figure Women. The biggest takeaway from the book was to just ask. Men do it! Even if they don't qualify or have the necessary credentials. I had to learn to be brave and advocate for Tiffany because no one else will. I did my research to figure out an estimate of how much I thought I should be making and asked for it. When doing this, keep in mind that this is a starting point so you can negotiate down if necessary. Not only did I ask for a pay raise, [but] I also gave reasoning on why I deserved it. My strategy was to keep it professional, leaving my personal reasons and circumstances out and instead, focusing on the facts and outcomes that I have contributed to the company."
"Ultimately, I got what I wanted, and in all honesty the opportunity to make more money was always present, but no one gives you anything for free. You have to know your worth, and just ask."
"My last piece of advice is to be prepared in case they say no. I had a plan of my next steps in case I was denied my request. Because I know my worth, I knew if this company didn't pay me what I deserved, someone else would. Why? Because I am amazing at what I do!"
Ashley F., Healthcare Professional
"I was given an opportunity to take on a director-level role within the organization and the role was to develop and grow a new service line or program in the hospital but also to take on additional responsibility within another service, as well. I was offered to take on this role, which I was thrilled about. To be so young and have so much responsibility trusted upon [me] was a big deal.
"Although there were other African-American women who held these roles, I was the youngest. I was given an offer for this role but I knew that it was significantly less than my peers [were] receiving. And to see that told me a lot of different things, but primarily that my age was the number one factor in the salary offer. Within post roles you have a pay grade – you'll have a minimum, a mid, and a maximum. And I knew that they were basically lowballing me in my offer.
"This led me to advocate for myself to demonstrate that not only was I prepared to take on this role but also that I had the experience, skill set, and education to do this.
"At the time, my boss was unaware that I spoke off the record to those within my network within HR about negotiating a fair salary. I brought the case to my boss and not to go above her, but I was prepared to take my argument to the head of HR and beyond. She was supportive and advocated for me to receive an increase in my salary offer.
"In essence, if I were to give a tip to other African American young women in any field: Know what type of role you have and how that aligns with your market. Know the scope of your role and do your research to see what salaries are comparable to that. Doing your research and knowing what's expected of you is important too. Job descriptions can often be vague and there's always that line at the bottom that says 'other duties assigned,' and you always want to keep that in mind because additional pay does not come with that. Be able to think five steps ahead and foresee the additional responsibilities.
"The last tip? Know your worth. Don't downplay what you're worth despite age, years of experience, or anything else – that confidence shows."
While I set out to pull together a running list of tips from these women, it seems that all of them had one solid piece of advice that covers every situation and organization that you may come across and as simple as it may seem, many of us forget to do so all too frequently: Know your worth and add tax, but be prepared to show your work.
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Featured image by Getty Images.
Motor City native, Atlanta living. Sagittarius. Writer. Sexpert. Into all things magical, mystical, and unknown. I'll try anything at least once but you knew that the moment I revealed that I was a Sag.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
I tried sliding into my crush’s DMs like Vanessa Hudgens successfully did to her soon-to-be husband, Cole Tucker, after she met him during a Zoom meditation group call. For me, it was akin to a backfired romance in a Mara Brock Akil comedy series.
At the wiser age of 30, I stopped side-eyeing online dating and acquiesced to the possibility of finding love in the digital realm. My one rule: He has to take the lead. I wouldn’t strike up a single conversation once the confetti cues burst that we’re a match. That rule trotted out the door once I swiped on a presumably tall, brawn, and accomplished venture capitalist sporting a million-dollar smile.
The clock was ticking; our match would expire in mere hours if one of us didn’t take the gambit. Screw it. I made the first intro, and the suave VC responded. Turned out we had a close mutual friend, too.
He had an upcoming business trip but said he’d reach out once he returned. I never heard from the VC guy until one year later when I mistakenly ambled into what felt like a zombie ambush at an intimate Thanksgiving gathering our mutual friend held. Then and there, I vowed never again to take the lead at the precipice of dating!
At 36, however, I surreptitiously stumbled across a mutual acquaintance who left me breathless at one of my girlfriend’s husband’s 40th surprise birthday celebration.
Mobilized by swoon-worthy anecdotes from countless women who successfully found love because they weren’t too shy to slide into their dream man’s DMs, I heeded the enticing call to a fortuitous meme: “Ladies, this is your sign to shoot your shot.”
He strolled into the decorated backyard, late, while the rest of us were enthralled by illusory magic tricks performed by a bookish magician; the real enigma was, who is this man who’s left me utterly captivated?
I tried to excavate more intel from my girlfriend, but she was incredibly tipsy from one too many of her husband’s themed cocktails to divulge. From the time I sashayed to the bar to standing across the extended dinner table for 30 – where we locked eyes and grinned at one another – until the end of the night, where I lolled in line for photo booth fun, I noticed Mystery Crush staring back at me.
“You have tree shrub on your butt,” a handsome guy with a stocky athletic build, who’d later introduce himself as B. warned me with a heavy southern drawl, as he and Mystery Crush chuckled. I blushed in embarrassment and swept the debris off my derriere.
Bright, professional lights flashed. I shook off the flub and angled every curve on my body, accentuated by my slinky black, backless dress.
“Let’s take a pic together,” B. smiled. I peered over my shoulder, watching Mystery Crush gazing back. Why couldn’t he be as vocal and proactive as B.? I agonized.
Later, as celebratory glasses clinked, B. boldly asked for my number, in hopes of snagging a copy of our photo and getting to know each other over lunch.
“I haven’t dated anyone in almost two-and-a-half years,” I hesitated, conjuring up any truthful excuse after B. casually revealed he was close friends with Mystery Crush.
Still, my racing heart couldn’t leave the party without officially meeting Mystery Crush. I had to know if his voice, intellect, and character matched his sultry vibe.
Channeling my inner badass Beyoncé, I meandered to him and introduced myself as I firmly shook his smooth cocoa hand. Aside from us exchanging names, no in-depth camaraderie followed.
That should’ve been a clue to relinquish any lingering feelings, but as a single woman who often comes across a smattering of gentlemen who rarely generate a mutual, palpable connection–coupled with a recent missed romantic opportunity in Mexico, I felt compelled to take the leap.
Hey. It was really great meeting you. You seemed afraid to talk to me, but I was really wishing you weren’t…
I hadn’t expected him to respond, however, within a couple of days, he DM’d me with his number. I replied with mine, squealing in excitement. Maybe taking the initiative favorably worked after all?
“Don’t call him. Wait for him to call you.” My sage hair stylist instructed me as she ran her fingers through my curly coils. “Of course not. I believe in attracting, not chasing.” I grinned.
Seven days passed since I first slid into Mystery Crush’s DMs. My optimism waned as calls from family, friends, and aggressively pesky scammers filled my phone log, but none from him, leaving me temporarily deflated. I resurfaced feeling empowered for confidently seeking after what I wanted–not from a place of desperation, but from a well of self-certainty and wholeness.
I’m a type A, go-getter accustomed to proactively risking it all for the unknown and receiving unrequited outcomes. It works wonders for my career; my love life… not so much.
A month prior, I’d just returned from an invigorating solo trip to Cabo, where I met two, late-30-something eligible men while I was enjoying an al fresco brunch buffet, overlooking the Sea of Cortez. One included a charming Black resident doctor who lived near me in LA. He struck up an amusing yet fruitless conversation while we picked over steamy mini waffles and dispensed fresh pressed juice. His geeky friend, however, mustered the courage to ask for my number.
As I was boarding my flight home later that day, a white middle-aged couple, who recognized me and my flowy white linen maxi dress from brunch, probed if the cute doctor connected with me after he expressed he was smitten.
“I told him he should’ve asked you, but he said he didn’t think you were interested,” the wife lamented. “That’s too bad, because I was waiting for him to ask me.”
The doctor’s misinterpretation of my interest and lack of initiation fueled my otherwise reserved proclivity to slide into Mystery Crush’s DMs.
I’m still a traditional millennial woman who appreciates the chivalrous elements of courting, and I’m perfectly content in waiting for my future love to spark the dating communication.
That’s how I’ll know he’s divinely meant for me.
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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images