June 18, 2007

Valuing what women do

It was several years ago, but it seems like yesterday.

About a month before Merrill Lynch management was to decide on bonuses, my boss reviewed my various performance metrics, including, among others: did my stock calls make money for our clients, were the clients happy with my service. When he got to the metric “# of phone calls and/or meetings with clients”, a number which was 40% higher than the average, he said:

“That’s great, but isn’t the number of client contacts high because it’s fun for you?” The implication being: “I don’t know that I need to compensate you for your client interactions (even though it helped drive revenue for the firm) because you’re a woman — and women like to talk on the phone and socialize.”

Intl_bills Source: JIFormales, Flickr

With nearly three years of hindsight, here’s what I wish I would have said:

“John (that’s not his real name), I do like what I do. Correction. I love what I do. I love servicing our clients, and in many instances, I am genuinely fond of them. Aren’t you glad that what I “love to do” generates revenue for the firm? Now, let’s talk about bonuses for this year…”

In fairness to “John”, his attitude is widespread and pervasive. And not just among men.

Let me illustrate by asking you the following two questions:

When you stay at a hotel, how much on average do you tip the bellmen/valets?

How much, on average, do you tip housekeeping?

Said another way, do you pay a lot more to the people (usually men) carrying the luggage that you don’t need carried, opening the door you don’t need opened, and retrieving the car you could get yourself, than you do to the people (usually women) who clean your room, something that you very much want to be done, and don’t want to do yourself?

Now for a “not walking the talk, mea culpa” story:

When I was in Mexico last month, after the bellman hoisted my suitcase (which I could have lifted myself) into the back of a cab, I apologized (apologized!) because I didn’t have any cash on hand for a tip. Just hours before, as a housekeeper put the finishing touches on my room, I thought “I don’t need to pay her; she likes doing what she’s doing.”

She likes to make my bed, pick up my towels?

That’s not what I said last summer when the person cleaning our family’s cruise ship cabin was a man.

We tipped him well, very well.

Hmmm.

Here’s my take:

Because nurturing and caring for others tends to be a strong suit for women (I would argue it’s innate), when a women gives/helps/mentors, we easily slip into a mindset of “she’s doing this because she likes to, and therefore doesn’t need to be compensated”.

What’s sad is… when she (we) aren’t compensated for our work, we wonder — did I not do good work? I’ll try and do better next time. Worse yet, do we think — is what I’m doing not important? Does what I know how to do not matter to society? If it doesn’t matter to society, should it matter to me?

And what’s especially sad is that when we’re in this dump of a place, even a double-dog dare may not be enough to get us to dream.

So, let’s change. Not a chump change. Or a small change.

But a big change.

A big wad of cash change.

Some suggestions:

1) The next time one of us goes to a hotel, let’s leave a tip for housekeeping. It will be hard. Let’s do it anyway.

2) When one of our female friends (or not) offers to provide us with a service – like cutting our hair – and she wants to undercharge, or do it for free, let’s tell her we are going to pay market because we value her skill, her work and her time. Note: If money is an issue in the short-term, what about a barter arrangement?

3) Finally, when a woman renders a service, before deciding whether to pay, or how much to pay, let’s ask ourselves: If a man were to provide this service to me, would I expect to pay him? If so, how much would I pay?

I’m ready for a big wad of cash change — how about you?

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  • Susan in Utah

    Thank you so much for this enlightenment! I travel a lot and you’re right – I seldom think to leave a tip for housekeeping. I do sometimes resent the tip to the shuttle driver or the bellman (but I give it to him anyway). I’m embarrassed to think I don’t pay more attention to the women who serve me since I make my living helping women to find and maximize their own potential. I’ll do better!

  • http://www.wisdomgettingloaded.com/ tracy ho

    Thank you for your great post , its remind me sometimes thing I had over looked,
    To your success,
    Tracy ho
    wisdomgettingloaded

  • Pingback: Lean In: Is Sheryl Sandberg Giving Advice to Herself? | The Daily Muse

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