How to Get Paid What You’re Worth

Illustration courtesy of Monica Garwood

How to Get Paid What You’re Worth

In partnership with our friends at Trial by Woman

Photo courtesy of
Jaimie Baird Photography

It’s not easy to ask for a raise. But it may be marginally easier when you know every man around you (with equitable experience and skill) is making more than you. Still, there’s that moment when you have to look someone in the eye—someone who could take away your health insurance and retirement plan and entire income in the blink of an eye—and say: I believe I am worth more.

Effectively communicating your worth is a pillar of what Theresa Bowen Hatch and Courtney Rowley practice. They’re lawyers who specialize in basically balancing an imbalanced world. And when they’re not fighting for their clients, they’re teaching confidence communication to women of all professions via workshops, speaking engagements, and mentorship. Because it touches “all aspects of women’s professional and personal lives,” says Rowley—whether it is communicating about love, friendship, justice, respect, or in the case of our conversation, fair pay.

Bowen Hatch and Rowley want all women to be able to communicate confidently and consciously. Which is why they founded Trial by Woman, a network of female lawyers, “to encourage women to seek out mentors and partners, to communicate openly about money and workload allocation, and to jointly set expectations.” There’s a lot more than money at play here. Speaking up about fair compensation is another way of fighting for justice and fighting for what’s right—for ourselves, our daughters, our fellow women, and our future.

(If you want more of Bowen Hatch and Rowley’s outlook, check out their book, Trial by Woman, which we’ve written about here.)

A Q&A with Theresa Bowen Hatch and Courtney Rowley

You’ve both said that when someone is underpaid—hourly, daily, weekly, or yearly—that is an injustice. What’s behind that?

Rowley: There is nothing more valuable than a person’s time. It is irreplaceable. Once time is gone, you can never get it back. Corporations, businesses, employers that pay less because they can get away with it are inflicting injustice and damage on our society and economy. It’s cheap and wrong. When we don’t stand up against it, we are part of the problem and we are participating in lowering the bar and allowing other people to be treated the same.

What we are seeing now is how powerful one person’s actions, the courage of one person, can be—and how that can impact and help so many. Knowing that standing up for ourselves means we are making the world a better place for other humans is a big motivator that gives some people the courage to insist on full, fair compensation and justice for themselves—because sometimes it is easier to stand up for others than it is to stand up for ourselves.

Bowen Hatch: What makes me sad is that despite the world knowing about this injustice, in most places and professions, women are still making eighty cents on the dollar compared to men. And a more horrible injustice exists, which is the fact that the figure is a lot less than eighty cents on the dollar for women of color. Even that isn’t the end of the story. There’s ample research that tells us that mothers are hired less frequently, promoted less frequently, and not given the schedule flexibility they need to raise their children. And make no mistake: Those practices—all of them—are discriminatory and illegal. But because we’ve lived with these conditions ourselves and have heard stories passed down for so many generations, they inevitably affect our view of our own self-worth.

There is so much good work that still needs to be done in our country, and fixing the problems here is just the beginning—because this is a worldwide problem that is much worse in other countries. What we have to do is commit to insisting on nothing less than the full value of what a person is worth, beginning with ourselves and those close to us. Otherwise, we are contributing to and allowing the indignity of humanity as a whole.

But sometimes it’s hard to find the courage. Asking for more can be scary. What if the answer is no? What if you have to walk away from a job? What’s your advice for people faced with this dilemma?

Rowley: Fear of rejection is one of the worst fears. And yes, for some people, walking away from compensation, employment, negotiation can be very scary.

Believing in ourselves is the first step. Next, we must—absolutely must—understand and believe that it’s not greedy to insist upon and to tell others that we should be compensated for nothing less than 100 percent of what our time is worth. Anything less is an injustice. Big companies, insurance companies, corporations, the government, those in power are used to getting away with paying less. It’s often connected with greed. But it continues because we allow it to. And oftentimes we don’t even say a word and instead accept and go along with it. When we do this, we are part of the problem.

We need to reverse the fear by getting the source of the injustice to realize the consequences. They need to realize that if they continue to treat people cheaply, they will be exposed.

Bowen Hatch: We have to be committed to whatever we do. When we walk in the door or sit down to negotiate, we need to be confident. One way to do that is to have a backup plan in place that gives us the power to walk out. That will affect how we hold ourselves, what we say, and how we say it. Confidence is such an important part of effective communication—and so much of that is driven by your belief in yourself. That’s communicated by your energetic field, your aura, your vibe, whatever you want to call it. If you ask for something you don’t think you deserve, you won’t get it no matter what you say because the nonverbal communication—the energetic communication—is stronger and trumps the words.

Shame or embarrassment often surrounds the topic of money. How can we start to shift this conversation?

Rowley: There is such stigma around women talking about money, and it doesn’t serve us. Maybe that’s because when we talk about money, we talk about desire, and a lot of us (not just women) have been taught not to talk about our desires. Every time I made money, I would become afraid of it: I’d be afraid it would stop coming in, afraid it would disappear, afraid it wouldn’t be enough. And then I would feel guilty for having made it.

When women are intentional about money—the value of irreplaceable time, the fact that anything less than full value is an injustice—they reframe the conversation. We need to stop asking for money and reframe the issue in our minds and the way we communicate. “Don’t ask, do tell” has become our motto as trial lawyers. When we ask, we are not in a position of strength and confidence. And we give whoever it is we are asking the permission to say no. This is an irony for many women because historically women haven’t gotten to tell, and many times, others have not asked from them; they’ve just taken.

Bowen Hatch: Money has always been about status in our country. The idea of the haves and the have-nots is deeply woven into the fabric of our nation. All families have certain narratives about money, and those influence how their children relate to money. We all have that ingrained in us. (If you reflect, it’s likely easy for you to identify the narratives around money that came from your family of origin and to trace how those beliefs influence your relationship to money today.) Identifying those themes and tracking how your family’s beliefs have influenced you are the first steps toward making shifts for yourself.

Another way we have found to shift our core beliefs about money is the way we look at it in our own lives. I see money as a way that I can make positive change on the planet. I control my money just as I control my time. Intention goes a long way. No one else has a say unless I allow them to.

And what about greed?

Bowen Hatch: We have heard the words “greed” and “greedy” used in conjunction with what we do as trial lawyers countless times. What’s interesting is that our experience is actually the reverse. We see greed coming from big business, corporations, the government, and insurance companies—the ones with the most power, money, and control. This greed—the willingness to do whatever it takes to pay people less than what they are truly worth—is what gives us our purpose as trial lawyers. The moment that insurance company, big business, and corporate greed ceases to exist is the time we get to take a break. We don’t see our early retirement coming anytime soon.

What is the best approach for negotiating a raise?

Bowen Hatch: Take our “Don’t ask, do tell” approach. Think: I’m worth this much. I’d love to stay here, I’d love to take this job, I’d love to continue working here, but I can’t. I owe it to myself. And I owe it to other women to not work for less than what I’m truly worth. And if I’m ever in a position where I get to decide how to compensate people, I will make sure to pay them what they are truly worth.

Rowley: When you walk into a supervisor’s, manager’s, or owner’s office, reframe how you talk about the issue. Be very clear about the purpose of your communication. Start by saying something kind and true about how much you appreciate the opportunities you have and how you envision the future, but that in order to continue doing the job or take the contract, you need to be paid X amount. Kindly explain the reasons why. Cite the statistics that women are getting paid 80 percent of what men get paid in our country, if that fits as an evidence-based justification for what you deserve. Or maybe it has nothing to do with what men get paid, and what you are entitled to is based purely upon who you are, what your time is truly worth, and what a badass you truly are. It could be that in order to do the work and have the lifestyle you want, you need to make more money or charge a certain amount to have that lifestyle.

Bowen Hatch: By being up front about what you’re asking for, you’re giving the person you’re talking to a framework to help them really hear you and consider what you’re asking for. If you come in and beat around the bush, your audience is not paying attention. She’s trying to figure out what you’re talking about and what you want. “Good morning, I’m here to talk to you about increasing my compensation package” gets you right to the point—and the person is now listening for the information that will move her.

You both are business owners. What has this experience taught you about being an employer? And an employee?

Bowen Hatch: At every level up the chain of a business or corporation there are people making the decisions. Working for an employer and dealing with an organization often requires an evidence-based approach and insisting on fair pay in writing. But what also helps move the needle and make change is enlisting help, having others advocate on your behalf. This is how we effect change and have a greater impact than simply helping the individual making the case. A great example of this on a much larger scale is the 2018 movement in Hollywood demanding equal pay for female actresses. The women demanded it, and the men supported them. Joined voices—no matter the gender—are powerful.

Rowley: We both had employers for many years before we had our own businesses. As lawyers for serious injury victims and families, the burden is on us, which means it’s on us to show why the humans we represent deserve a certain amount of civil justice and money. We decided years ago that this conversation doesn’t need to be harsh or confrontational. It can be quite the opposite.

The most successful approach is a collaborative one: “Good morning, here’s what this is all worth. Let us show you why, based on the evidence and the law, we have an opportunity to do something great together.” This is called civil justice. Be confident, civil, and kind, and let others know that accepting anything less will make you a part of an injustice that you cannot be a part of as a self-respecting, confident woman.

Bowen Hatch: Through our experience litigating cases, we have spent a lot of time talking to jurors, voters—Americans. What we’ve learned is that most people inherently want to do what’s right. What we’ve seen is that even in our current political climate, people from different states, different religious beliefs, different economic backgrounds all have something in common: They want to make the world a better place, and they are offended by the notion of people being treated cheaply. Most people want to do the right thing if their eyes are opened to the injustice.

What’s a barometer for knowing what you deserve to be paid?

Bowen Hatch: We have to start with the basics. There are plenty of resources out there about pay ranges in a given field. But where the real work comes is doing an honest assessment of how you are showing up in this job, in this position; what your true commitment is to what you’re doing; and the true value of what you’re bringing to the table. We all have moments when we’re not fully present—maybe we’re really phoning it in—but looking at the norm for you, how much energy and presence and value and spirit are you bringing to what you do day in and day out? Let’s acknowledge that and be honest with ourselves about how much value we’re really bringing to the table. The pay ranges in a field are guidelines and customs and starting points for information, yes. Your heart and your true, authentic presence in what you’re doing and the presence and awareness and energy you bring are what will ultimately determine how your value is perceived and understood and recognized by others.

How does broaching this topic impact other women—and society?

Rowley: How we think and talk about compensation and money significantly impacts all women and our society as a whole. If we don’t start to think and talk differently about it, we are remaining silent, which is fuel for more injustice. Silence is a tool of oppression. It stops women, minorities, and less-advantaged humans from being treated equally.

This is an incredible time. We are experiencing a shift in consciousness that has the potential to be a massive shift that can effect great change. People are speaking up. The wind is in our sails, but it’s up to us to navigate and keep our ships pointed in the right direction. How we value ourselves and others right now will define the future of civilization, its systems, its people. We need to work hard now, refuse to remain silent and be part of the oppression—not for us, but for our children and our children’s children.

Bowen Hatch: As we grow and move toward the highest and best versions of ourselves, something in us lights up and we stand as an example to the people around us. We lift other people up just by being present and being examples of growth and courage. Sometimes that growth and courage are as simple as being willing to talk about something.

You’ve talked about women amplifying other women. What does this mean?

Rowley: We all have such great power and courage within us. When women have one another’s backs, when we set examples for one another, we become unstoppable. Amplification is a strategy that is attributed to women working in the Obama White House. As the story goes, some women found that it was tough to exert influence in certain meetings. They didn’t feel their voices were being heard. They developed an amplification strategy. If a woman made a point and it wasn’t acknowledged, another woman would make the point again and give the first woman credit. When a reporter was trying to track down the source of this story and was sharing the story with other women around Washington, women across the D.C. metro area started adopting the strategy, and it took off.

Bowen Hatch: Amplification is something we can do in public and in the workplace. Commit to amplifying as many women as you can. Repeat their ideas. Give them credit. Compliment their work, their lives. This is something that all of us have the power to do on a daily basis: Make a conscious effort to talk about women and their achievements. It’s time to shift the collective conversation and consciousness.

Rowley: By standing together with dignity, transparency, and—importantly—civility and respect, we can change our country, the world, and our future. I love this quote by Dr. Cornel West: “Love is what justice looks like in public.”

Courtney Rowley is a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, a civil attorney, and the owner of the Rowley Law Firm. She has extensive experience representing victims of serious injuries, wrongful death, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and medical malpractice. Rowley has studied and taught at the Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming. She lectures nationally, speaking to other lawyers about trial work and finding human connection in trial. She cofounded Trial by Woman with Theresa Bowen Hatch and coauthored its namesake book, Trial by Woman. Rowley also practices with her husband, Nick Rowley, a partner at Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley. She lives in Ojai, California, with her family.

Theresa Bowen Hatch is a mother, a wife, a trial lawyer, an entrepreneur, and the founder of Bowen Hatch Law. Her legal career has focused on personal injury jury trials. Before pursuing a career in law, Bowen Hatch was a journalist. She worked as an on-air television news reporter and as a print and broadcast writer for the Associated Press. She cofounded Trial by Woman to create a space for female mentorship. She is also a coauthor of the book Trial by Woman. Bowen Hatch practices law and teaches trial skills throughout the country. She lives with her family in San Diego, California.