Statistically speaking, black women are grossly underpaid. So much so, that an entire holiday (August 22) was created to bring awareness to the issue. That's right—despite having the same credentials, or better, an equal pay day for black and brown women needed to be organized so that they are paid equally and/or more than the current average of .63 cents on the dollar.
But even in this climate, it's important to understand the navigation of salary expectations and negotiations.
My curiosity got the best of me as I wondered how many women in my life have had experience in actually negotiating their salaries. And to my sheer disappointment, I discovered that most women are terrified to do so at all.
Recently, we met with a woman who took her life into her own hands by taking the power from her companies to get what she wanted. To set the scene, Carmen Garrett, a Clinical Data Manager, was working for a Fortune 500 company when she was offered another position elsewhere. Upon learning that she was resigning from her position, her company offered a promotion and bonuses to stay in her current role. When she told the new company she was no longer accepting the position due to her promotion, they topped her company's offer entirely, and threw in additional perks that she could not refuse.
Ultimately, Carmen accepted.
Tell us about your career journey.
I've always been interested in research, but wasn't exactly sure how to pursue it. I fell into clinical research in November 2009 after I graduated with my Master's Degree in Psychology and couldn't find a job. I thought therapists made a lot of money (from watching TV and movies) and said, well, I like helping people and I'd like to be successful as well. So, I went into clinical research focusing on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. But it was during that time that I realized I wasn't strong enough to take on everyone's psychosis. I discovered that I was an empath. With this, I became unhappy with work, financially, and romantically. Things had to change and they did, but not until after they got worse.
Tell us about the thought process of moving forward with your new job.
I was EXTREMELY stressed at work, to the point that I was clinically depressed for almost a year. I did the absolute bare minimum with my life, friends, and family. I wouldn't even answer my mother's phone calls because I was too exhausted to speak (a lot of wasted time that I would eventually regret). When things cooled down at work, I started to relax and come back to myself, only for my mother to pass two weeks later. At that moment, I began to regret staying so long and wasting a year of my life by not being myself or actively engaging with my mother, friends, and family. At the same time, I wasn't meeting my financial or career goals while waiting for a promised promotion that never came. So, it was simply time for me to move on.
What should women consider when seeking/interviewing for new positions, accepting job offers, or negotiating their salaries?
Before, I was always afraid to counter offer because I felt I didn't fit 100% of the job description. This absolutely does not matter. Can you do the job? That's what matters. It wasn't until I saw literally almost everyone incompetent around me get promoted that I said I need to sell myself just like my colleagues. I also learned to always ask for the salary range. Make them show you their hand and decide if it's something you want to move forward with. My go-to phrase is: "I'm not sure what the range is for this position. I'm seeing jobs offering $80K-$120K, so I'm not sure where you fall in this." I once had one company offer me $75K when they initially contacted me about $100K. I stood firm because it is a simple math game for me in my industry. I was willing to walk away from the offer because they did not negotiate with me at all even though I knew $100K was in the budget. Then a week later, I was contacted by my current company that met my asking offer and my previous company could not match. I knew my worth and went for it.
"Make them show you their hand and decide if it's something you want to move forward with. My go-to phrase is: 'I'm not sure what the range is for this position. I'm seeing jobs offering $80K-$120K, so I'm not sure where you fall in this.'"
What are common factors black women face in the workplace? How did you not let them affect you?
As an African American woman, I quickly realized I had to play a different game than my other colleagues. They were afforded the right to cry, become loud, rude, and overall unprofessional and it be chalked up to "having a bad day". The world would not stop for them. I am very aware that my presentation has to be different. The key is to do your job well so no one can question you, and when they do, be ready.
"The key is to do your job well so no one can question you, and when they do, be ready."
How would you personify the confidence needed in negotiating your salary?
It's funny because I interviewed with my current company a year ago and they immediately rejected me less than 24 hours after the interview. They reached out about three more times before I stopped to reconsider again. At that point, I knew their hand. My company is very large, so it was very unlikely that I would interview with the same team AND I knew exactly what I did wrong. In the year since first speaking with them, my experience level had increased which made me attractive to them, and I was aware of that. I asked my recruiter to submit me at the highest offer for this position because I was expecting to negotiate. The worst they can say is no and meet you somewhere in the middle. I completed the interview, asked some great questions, but was still very nervous the next day. I didn't get the immediate rejection email the next morning, but got a phone call that afternoon from my recruiter saying they agreed to my offer plus a sign-on bonus. We were both shocked, but ecstatic—which made me think I didn't ask for enough—but I still sold myself anyway [laughs]. It was an AMAZING feeling!
What was the driving force behind your decision to leave your current workplace?
At first I thought it was money, but I reached a point in my life where I realized that although I'm comfortable, I'm going nowhere fast. I needed specific experience to help increase my salary over time and I simply wasn't getting it. I moved on to a position that's extremely fast-paced, three levels above where I was, but it's what I needed. Everything can be overwhelming until you get the hang of it. But I had to go in fearlessly, so I did.
What advice would you have to young black girls negotiating their salaries?
HR expects you to negotiate. Again, they have ranges and will try to bring you in for the lowest amount possible. Understand that it takes a lot of time and hard work to hire someone, so if they want you, they will give you the number you want (or additional PTO or increase your bonus target or increase your 401K contribution). Remember, everyone is running a business, so do not take anything personally. If they cannot increase your starting salary, negotiate other things. Know your expectations and keep in mind what you will agree to. Be realistic, but ALWAYS negotiate.
If you would like tips or just overall support in how you can negotiate your salary, feel free to reach out to Carmen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image courtesy of Carmen Garrett
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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
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith went to social media to share their Thanksgiving holiday with followers. The pair were surrounded by family and friends Thursday, and both posted how grateful they were to be with the ones they loved. Yet this comes on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s whirlwind of negative opinions and critics forecasting her book would be a flop.
Despite the negative feedback she received, Worthy, Pinkett Smith’s memoir, still debuted at #3 on the New York Times’ Best Seller list on October 25. The greatest backlash she received was centered around her relationship with Smith and the fact that the two had been living separate lives since 2016.
The commentary about their marriage overshadowed the reality that this book is ultimately about her journey to self-worth and the path she’s had to take in order to get there.
Social media comments about her book tour ranged from, “Me counting all the times Jada woke up and chose to embarrass Will Smith,” to podcasts like The Joe Budden Podcast saying, “Take me out the group chat,” which was a sentiment shared by many celebrities and fans alike. Yet, a point made by comedian KevOnStage proved that even though people say they don’t want to know about the Smiths, they’re secretly interested and want to know more.
Since the Smiths were wed in 1997, people have been fascinated with their marriage, and rumors about their marital arrangement have always been a topic of conversation. People continue to speculate that the pair is gay and swingers, and even new allegations have come out that Smith and Duane Martin shared an intimate relationship at one point.
However, despite their consistent united front throughout their marriage in recent years, Pinkett Smith has borne the brunt of backlash in the couple’s relationship, from her entanglement with August Alsina to Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards to the recent truths she’s shared about the couple’s marriage in her memoir.
Individuals are consistently running to the internet to support Smith and villainize Pinkett Smith, from podcast guests saying things such as “She doesn’t like Will, she likes the lifestyle” to deeming her “mean” or "manipulative" because of her facial expressions and demeanor.
Likewise, when you have hosts of daytime talk shows such as Ana Navarro saying, “I think she’s having a relationship with her bank account,” insinuating Pinkett Smith only shared stories about Smith to increase her book sales, it begs the question of where was this same energy when Smith released his memoir?
In Will, Smith discusses both of his marriages and how, in relationships, because of his upbringing, he needed constant validation and praise from his partners to feel secure. He also shared the reality that Pinkett Smith never wanted to be married, just as she never wanted the huge estate they share in California, but he wanted to give it to her despite her feelings about it.
Smith admitted to creating this family empire that only further boosted his ego and what he wanted his legacy to be instead of actually asking his family what they wanted or needed. People praised him for his vulnerability and said his book was an inspiration.
So how is it that one book about a person’s family, upbringing, and journey to self is praised, and another is villainized? The glaring thought that comes to me is, does likability often trump accountability?
People love Smith and his “good guy” persona; he’s always been an attractive, charismatic man that people can relate to, so even when he speaks about the way he mismanaged his marriage and family, it’s seen as growth. On the contrary, because Pinkett Smith doesn’t constantly fawn over him and shares how miserable she was in their marriage, she’s the villain.
People still blame her for not stopping Smith from smacking Rock at the Oscars and share their sentiments about how she embarrassed Smith with her entanglement with Alsina. Though this is a celebrity couple we’ve all followed for years, the question must be asked, how much accountability must Black women be subjected to in relationship to their partners' actions?
Why is it that the media is more interested in the marriage between Smith and Pinkett Smith than her childhood, or the fact her memoir consists of writing prompts, meditations, and methods for other women to find their sense of worth?
Could it be that the larger society doesn’t value Black women having the tools to find their own sense of worth? Or is it that Black women are expected to accept whatever is given to them regardless of how they feel or what they want?
The exclusive interview with Eboni K. Williams (@ebonikwilliams) and Dr. Iyanla Vanzant about if she would date a bus driver seems to have a lot of people talking. You can watch her response tonight on #theGrio. Catch the full interview, here: https://t.co/ctxE0zKFWj pic.twitter.com/BhIO52T2fg— theGrio.com (@theGrio) May 2, 2023
When Eboni K. Williams shared that she wasn’t interested in dating a bus driver, the internet blew up with individuals saying that Black women need to be less selective with their dating prospects. The commentary around this conversation shed much light on the reality that this demographic is expected and invited to settle in love if they actually want a life partner.
Black women aren’t often given the space to find their joy, fulfillment, or even self-worth because of the responsibility they’re forced to acquire in order to support their families and communities. Yet, “high value” Black men speak vehemently about Black women’s masculinity and inability to submit. We’re often inundated with podcast guests sharing that they’re not impressed by our success and are uninterested in our aspirations.
Black women, from a young age, are taught to place their community first and cater to the men around them regardless of what they do or how they behave.
We see this when young girls are told to put on pants when male relatives come around, we experience it when domestic violence survivors are encouraged not to press charges against their perpetrators, and we even see it when Black women face backlash for dating outside of their race.
The way Pinkett Smith has been treated since sharing the truth about her life and journey of discovering her self-worth is another example of how the world isn’t receptive to Black women being their most authentic selves.
It’s another example we can hold up to illustrate how Black women are expected to be magical but not human.
Even with this article, I’m sure there will be many who want to argue why Pinkett Smith was wrong in her narrative, but at the end of the day, it was her story to tell, and no one has more authority to share her lived experience than her.
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Featured image by James Devaney/GC Images