Saturday, August 12, 2006

Operating from a position of strength

Self esteem was such a mantra in the 1980's that now it seems like a really trite, over-done concept. But self esteem is still important, key, even in our lives. You have to feel enough self esteem to believe you are entitled to ask for what you need or deserve. Why is it that women have so much more trouble demanding a better salary? (she says, making a sweeping generalization)

Generalization and stereotype it may be, but there is truth there. I think it goes beyond being raised to be non-confrontational. I don't know if it is so based in biology that we can say it's gender-determined, but I am tempted. A friend is a trans-person, going through a sex change. She has commented on the very different ways she feels about confrontation as she progresses through hormonal treatment. Not many of us have the experience of being a total male and then being a total female (or the other way around). Talk about walking a mile in the other person's shoes!

I have great difficulty in asking for a better salary for myself, but if I am asking for somebody else, I can make the argument and make it strongly. Perhaps it would be one way to handle my preference to avoid confrontation if I tell myself that the salary I ask is not just for myself. The standards I set with my demands are set for my successors and for others in libraries since our human resources folks keep careful tabs on what other universities pay their librarians.

This is a great job, but the downside is low salaries. If you consider that many librarians have more educational credentials than some law faculty members (JD/MLS versus their plain JD), we have outrageously low salaries. If you also recall that we work 11 months to earn what we are comparing to their 9 month salary, we should be totally outraged.

We need to operate from a position of strength when we negotiate salaries at hiring time. If we cannot feel it within ourselves that we are entitled to a living wage, we must look at the fact that our negotiation affects others at our place of employment as well as those who follow in our position.

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