Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a content writer and freelancer who specializes in women's issues, food, and travel.
Asking for a raise can sometimes be as daunting as jumping off a cliff blindfolded (please do not attempt), but it’s a necessary evil in today’s workforce. And with the global gender pay gap not expected to close for another 200-plus years (Did you know not a single country in the world pays women equally to men? Come on people.), it’s clearly up to you, not employers, to make sure you’re getting the pay you deserve.
To inspire you–and to encourage you—we’ve compiled a list of the most badass ways women have asked for a raise. If they can do it, you can too.
1. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is one of the most iconic sports teams in history—they played (and won) in the most watched soccer game in U.S. history and became the first team in the world to win three women’s soccer World Cup titles, among other accolades. Despite all of this, they still received a bonus significantly lower than the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team. So how did they take action? They sued the United States Soccer Federation a second time for gender discrimination on International Women’s Day to demand higher salaries and bonuses. Bad. Ass.
2. Michelle Obama
Yup, even the former First Lady had to demand a raise. Before her iconic role in the White House, she worked at the University of Chicago while raising two children. In an interview with Parade, she said, “I didn’t have a babysitter, so I took Sasha right in there with me in her crib and her rocker. I was still nursing, so I was wearing my nursing shirt. I told my boss, ‘This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. And if you can do all that, and you’re willing to be flexible with me because I will get the job done, I can work hard on a flexible schedule.’ I was very clear. And he said yes to everything.”
3. Lilly Ledbetter
Ever heard of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. or The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009? Yep, Lilly Ledbetter was the woman at bat behind those efforts. After working at Goodyear for 19 years, Ledbetter received an anonymous tip revealing that she was making thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts. Following her realization, she filed a sex discrimination case against the company. She successfully sued Goodyear, but the decision was reversed in the Supreme Court since she hadn’t filed within 180 days, which was a stipulation of discrimination claims. Arguing Ledbetter had no way of knowing what was happening within that timeframe, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a fellow badass) dissented, and her words led to Congress’ passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a piece of legislation that restarts the 180-day time period to file a lawsuit to every time a discriminatory paycheck is issued. Talk about a legendary legacy.
4. Sheryl Sandberg
Before Sheryl Sandberg accepted Mark Zuckerberg’s job offer at Facebook, she had to make a tough decision. Zuckerberg had thrown out a starting offer and Sandberg was keen on accepting it, afraid that she would cause a fiasco if she tried to negotiate. But her husband insisted that she push back—he didn’t think a man would accept the first offer, so why should she? So, she went back to Zuckerberg and made a counteroffer, saying, “Of course you realize that you're hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.” They negotiated, and the next day he improved her offer and extended the terms of her contract. Moral of the story, know your worth and make it be known.
5. Tamara Mellon
Tamara Mellon worked for Jimmy Choo for 16 years as co-founder and chief creative officer when she found out the men who worked for her were making more than her. After the company failed to successfully negotiate with her, she left the company to start her own venture. At her self-named company, she’s made sure her company policies reflect her beliefs on equal pay and has employed more women than men. So if your company refuses to match your pay to your value, you can always do what Mellon did: start your own.
6. Meryl Streep
When beginning to film The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep was disappointed by her first offer. She said, “The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project.” Streep claimed she had avoided salary negotiation throughout her entire career, but at age 55, she wouldn’t tolerate it any longer. She threatened to leave the film unless she was paid a fair amount, and that act paid off—quite literally. Her salary was doubled and the movie became one of the defining projects of her career.
Read more: Never Say...When Negotiating a Raise
This article is part of InHerSight’s month-long coverage of equal pay. Timed with Equal Pay Day, the series looks at how the pay gap affects women of all backgrounds and in all industries.