Money is power, and women aren’t getting their share of it. In America, men earn 20 percent more than women, and that disparity is even greater for women of color. Now is the time to close that gap—and these are the women doing it.
Ellen Pompeo is an expert negotiator. The Grey’s Anatomy star famously fought for a pay raise as the show’s leading lady, becoming the highest-paid woman on a TV drama and netting $575,000 per episode. Lucky for us, she’s not keeping her learnings to herself.
Pompeo gave us her five tips on how to own your shit and get what you want, which you’ll definitely be taking to the bargaining table when it’s time to negotiate your next raise.
And let’s be honest: the time is now. In 2018, women, on average, still only earn 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns, meaning we’re working more than 15 months to earn the same salary that men do in a year.
This year, Equal Pay Day falls on April 10—the date you'd need to work until to make up for last year’s gender pay gap. And that’s if you’re a white woman. On average, black women make only 63 cents for every man’s dollar, and Latinx women fare even worse, making just 54 cents on the dollar.
Pompeo is not quite on the same level—her new contract has her earning more than $20 million a year—but she’s well aware of the struggle. She fought hard get paid as much as her male co-star, Patrick Dempsey, did and then argued for fair compensation once more when she became the show’s one and only female lead.
In the video at top, the Grey's Anatomy star shares her one deal-breaking piece of advice for negotiating a raise: you have to be willing to leave. "The only time you ever really have power in asking for anything is if you’re willing to walk away," she says. "When you’re asking for a raise, you’ve got to be willing to walk out the door if you don’t get what you want."
What else did she learn from those trips around the bargaining table? For one thing, keep it real. “Be 100 percent honest. No, no, no, no, no, wait, wait—98 percent honest,” she says “One hundred percent honest with yourself, 98 percent honest with the rest of the world. In being honest, it’s best to sort of start with the positive. Find something positive and lead with that, and then get into the more truthful parts of it.”
Honesty, in fact, is the trait she values most. “I crave honesty when I read interviews. But my honesty has gotten me in trouble. I’ve tried in the past to defend people and come from a good place—but the way my words get edited, my intentions get misunderstood, and then I end up hurting feelings. I forget that my words can be edited to create a catfight,” she says.
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So, be entirely honest with yourself, and mostly honest with the rest of the world. Next, “Don’t be worried about what people think. Unless, of course, what you’re going to say is an insult. Then be worried about what they think,” she jokes.
Another tip we can get behind: “Stop trying to be perfect. Nobody’s fucking perfect.” Pretty self-explanatory. “I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and no one can expect us to be. The closest we can get is to be true and respectful to each other."
Also important is to own who you are, she says. “The definition of success, I think, is different for everybody. That’s the most important thing to note. But my definition of success is happiness."
And her final piece of advice is to embrace what makes you unique. “Be okay with your flaws. We all have them. Stop trying to speak perfect, look perfect, act perfect,” she says. “Men don’t try to be perfect.”
“I’m not down with this fucking perfection, you know?" she adds. "I’m not trying to come off as something I’m not. Owning your shit is owning who you are and not trying to be anybody else.” We hear you.