Like most of us, Claire Wasserman was feeling very disheartened and disturbed over the wage gap, and unlike many of us, she decided to do something about it. Claire launched a platform, aptly named Ladies Get Paid, to help empower women to harness their professional ambitions and be proactive in their careers. Through networking events, town hall meetings, and an online community of women with the same overarching goal, Ladies Get Paid is the first step in closing the wage gap and ending workplace inequality.
COOLS sat down with Claire to learn a thing or two about how misogynistic microaggressions affect us more than we think, how simply recognizing our own self worth can begin to combat that, plus what it truly means to be a feminist today.
COOLS: Why did you start Ladies Get Paid?
Claire Wasserman: I’d read a lot about women in regards to the wage gap and just felt really disturbed, to be frank, about the lack of of leadership and seeing how wide the age gap is, particularly for women of color. And as a professional, I was feeling that I really didn’t have information about salary negotiation, basically all the things I wish I would have learned in college about being ready to be in the workforce, I didn’t really have. So I didn’t set out to make these campaigns, I just did an event. It was a town hall, open forum, and I asked women to come and talk about money, to tell stories about what money means to them. Of course that tuned more into more of a conversation around power.
COOLS: What is it that most people don’t realize about sexism in the workplace?
CW: A lot of it has to do with microaggressions, these experiences that we have that are in retrospective a bit weird, like “this guy is talking over me or doesn’t look me in the eye,” or when a man jumps in and interrupts you. We don’t look at that as sexism, but then when you notice over time these little things keep compounding, you realize that it’s part of a larger system. That’s a system where the workplace was set up for men, and older men in leadership tend to mentor younger men because they look like them. And sometimes women can be mean to each other, so these women have a hard time finding a support system within work. I think a lot of it has to do with small moments like microaggressions.
COOLS: What do you think needs to happen in society to end these types of issues?
CW: Right now, we’re focusing on giving women the tools and resources for them to be able to thrive and advocate for themselves. That’s the first step we can do right now. What’s really going to move the needle is companies changing policies and then legislation making companies change their policies. And I think one of the biggest obstacles for women to rise up in the workplace is the lack of paid family leave, or the lack of adequate paid family leave. That’s where we’re seeing a lot of drop-off of women getting stuck in middle management.
Even though we’re teaching women, we’re not going to be the only solution. We can contribute to it, for sure, but the people in power right now have got to make some changes.
COOLS: What are the two tips to women to get what they want in their careers?
CW: I think it all comes down to knowing your worth and being able to express it. You can employ that when you’re negotiating salary, you can employ that all throughout the year to demonstrate that you should get a promotion. Knowing worth is doing a lot of digging into what we like to call imposter syndrome—do you deeply believe that you are worthy, that you are not a fraud, that you don’t need to be this expert to be a leader?
When we’re people pleasing, we don’t tend to set boundaries. There’s a lot of internal work that we need to do in order to recognize, embrace and articulate our worth. How do you talk about your accomplishments without feeling like you’re bragging? How do you remind your boss that you’re doing all this work? Don’t just assume that they’ll see it; you have to tell them. Knowing how to recognize and embrace your self worth and being able to articulate it would be the two skills I want to teach women.
COOLS: What have you learned since starting Ladies Get Paid?
CW: I’ve learned how giving women are to each other. The kind of woman who would be attracted to our mission will not only join, but they will be unbelievably supportive of each other. At Ladies Get Paid, we teach them how to both help themselves and support others. I don’t have to jump into the online community to facilitate it anymore. It’s self-sufficient at this point and it’s been amazing. I feel like I’m a parent and like my kids grew up into like healthy adults and don’t need my guidance anymore.
COOLS: How do you define feminism today?