That One Piece of Paper: Step 4

Step 4 is called, “What Level (Of Responsibility) do you Most enjoy working at, and at what salary?”

The instructions say:

Salary is something you must think out ahead of time, when you’re contemplating your ideal job or career. Level goes hand in hand with salary, of course.

1. The first question here is at what level you would like to work, in your ideal job? Level is a matter of how much responsibility you want, in an organization:

  • Boss or CEO (This may mean you’ll have to form your own business)
  • Manager or someone under the boss who carries out orders
  • The head of a team
  • A member of a team of equal
  • One who works in tandem with one other partner
  • One who works alone, either as an employee or as a consultant to an organization, or as a one-person business

Enter a two- or three-word summary of your answer, on the Level of Responsibility and Salary petal of your Flower Diagram.

This is easy. Having already noted that working by myself or with one other (occasionally) was miserable enough to end up on my working conditions list, the bottom two options are out. My summary on my flower will be: Manager, team leader, and/or a member of a team of equals.

However, salary is harder.

2. The second question here is what salary would you like to be aiming for?

Here you have to think in terms of minimum or maximum. Minimum is what you would need to make, if you were just barely “getting by.” And you need to know this before you go in for a job interview with anyone (or before you form your own business, and need to know how much profit you must make, just to survive).

Maximum could be any astronomical figure you can think of, but it is more useful here to put down the salary you realistically think you could make, with your present competency and experience, were you working for a real, but generous boss. (If this maximum figure is still depressingly low, then put down the salary you would like to be making five years from now.)

Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now, listing what you need monthly […].

I could type you the list from the book, but that seems a little boring to me, and in my opinion, it wasn’t very complete. I like the list I found here after a little Google digging: Free Sample Monthly Budget Template. I wouldn’t download anything from that site, but I like the list.

I pulled out our YNAB4 budget, I asked Tim to pull out his pay stub, and I opened up our electronic bill pay and accounts to figure out how much we’ve been spending in each category, and filled out my spread sheet.

(Apologies with not sharing the numbers, but I am sensitive to potential comparisons.)

 

Next steps:

Multiply the total amount you need each month by 12, to get the yearly figure. Divide the yearly figure by 2000, and you will be reasonably near the minimum hourly wage that you need. […]

Parenthetically, you may want to prepare two different versions of the above budget: one with the expense you’d ideally like to make, and the other a minimum budget, which will give you what you are looking for, here: the floor, below which you simply cannot go.

My income from this career will be the second income in my family. We live comfortably on my partner’s income, and don’t have any interest in having more stuff, or “increasing” our standard of living (though, my knowledge of economics says that is inevitable). Having a small child, we’re going to incur the expense of child care when I work, which is my major concern with salary. And, it would be nice to lower our debt load, and save for emergencies, vacations, and retirement.

I need to work for personal security reasons — Working now will make sure that I have a good retirement income, either from savings or social security. Working is important, in case of the contingency that my husband dies, because entering the job market is difficult, especially after a long break. Also, knowing these numbers is critically important to valuing my own work. I deserve a salary for skilled, educated and qualified workers.

I decided, using math, and considering above, that my contribution salary would need to be approximately $40,000 per year at the low end. Using a little bit of research (on salary.com and cbsalary.com), I found that the upper quartile of people with “Program Assistant” jobs (which is a title I could have) is probably about $75,000.

[Aside: This is so privileged! I’m talking about making four to seven times the poverty level for one person ON TOP of the salary of my partner. Not only is it a privilege to know how much money you’re going to make in a year (i.e. not have to fight for hours), this is before/including benefits like paid vacation and insurance. We so need to put policies in place for the women who cannot make this choice between staying home and working, because working is an economic necessity.]

Finally, the book talks about an optional exercise in which you think about other rewards, besides money, that you hope for — nontangibles that can’t be converted to cash. These include: Adventure, popularity, intellectual stimulations from the other workers there, a chance to be creative, etc.

Adventure is one of my family values, so I’m going to add that to my flower. Intellectual stimulation from the other workers sounds like a nice benefit. And a chance to help others is important to me.
Now my flower looks like this:image

Why I am not looking for a job right now

It’s not because the Michigan job market is crap, and most of the jobs I’m qualified for skill-wise wants me to have a Master’s Degree, though all of that is discouraging. It’s more like this:

1. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 does not apply to me.

FMLA was hailed as a great thing early in President Clinton’s term. It granted 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave with benefits intact and job security for persons who worked for a public agency, a business with 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius, who had worked for the company at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months.

In other words, you have to have worked some place for a year, and that place has to have 50 or more employees, or be public agency in order to qualify for these federal benefits.

My term of service for my national service with AmeriCorps ends February 3rd; I have worked with a nonprofit for the last two years, and probably qualify as a public employee — but since my service is ending, much like a contract position does, it is all a moot point.

The jobs I want are in nonprofit or public service; nonprofits rarely have more than 50 employees, and if I were to work for the state government (where there are plenty of job openings due to retirements), I would not qualify by time-served.

Long story short: the federal government would not protect my job security or benefits, nor my right to the time needed to care for a child after birth. Some states have extended the benefits; most not enough.

2. Individual Employers may extend FMLA-like leave to non-qualified persons, but it’s risky business.

First of all, the fact that any law exists — even a law as admittedly as flimsy (on a personal, policy, and international scale) as FMLA — shows that individual employers were not protecting their own employees. As it stands, the law only begins to apply to what I’d believe you call “second stage” businesses — no longer start ups or small companies, but neither are they big companies either.

From an economic point of view, it does not make sense to hire a 7 month pregnant woman, train her, and then allow her to take 2, 6, or 12 weeks off (debates about how long the postpartum period last are on-going) to take care of her child and adjust (or readjust) to motherhood, and then return to work. First of all, training someone is a huge investment in and of itself; it’s why many companies require contracts of 2 years in order to train people in the first place. Then, there is no guarantee of loyalty; with the way motherhood is treated in today’s society, it isn’t certain that the mother will return to work — thereby costing her employers the money and time spent on training, even if the leave is unpaid and benefits are suspended for its duration of the leave.

From a functional and managerial point of view, it’s quite possible that the job held by the pregnant women is vital to a small company, and will need to be filled while she is away — either by a temporary employee, covered by another employee at the company, or possibly hiring a new employee. This last option is prohibited by FMLA — but let’s remember that I’m not covered by FMLA, and neither are many people working at companies with <50 employees. Temporary employees are expensive (training, remember?), and delegating a leave-taking member’s responsibility may cause resentment if not managed correctly. Conventional wisdom says it isn’t really good management to let employees take a leave of absence like the one described by FMLA.

From the employee’s point of view, especially mental health-wise, more than 12 weeks is ideal — a baby at 12 weeks hasn’t smiled spontaneously, yet. But, without the protection of FMLA, or even the NEED to work because going without income for 3 months is impossible, 2 or 4 weeks just has to suffice — leaving mothers separated from their children and at greater risk for postpartum depression and other complications. Perhaps individual employers could work with employees for longer periods of leave; but because of the above reasons, it would need to be a seriously enlightened employer to make that happen.

If I were to apply for a job, I’d have to hope that they would look past my being pregnant to hire me in the first place; that they would train me, that they would keep my job for me, and give me sufficient leave for me to become a confident parent and protect my mental health. It seems too much to ask, and it’s a lot to hope for.

3. A new job and an infant at the same time is a recipe for Postpartum Depression.

Let’s be honest, I’m a prime candidate for PPD. I’m already depressed and anxious, my medications don’t cut it, I haven’t been in therapy (but I’m going back!). One of the first things they tell you to help prevent PPD is to not change too much in your life at the same time you have the baby — you know, like move (done last month), end a job (2/3), or start a job (not happening).

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when caring for an infant. It’s easy to be overwhelmed while beginning a new job. Hint: attempt only one at a time.

4. It is because I am privileged that I can make this decision, to not look for a job.

This is a choice I can make because I have a committed partner whose job pays most of our bills. It is because our rent isn’t unaffordable, because we have health insurance through Tim’s work, it is because we don’t go hungry when only one of us works that I can say, “I can’t work right now.”

I want to work, like many other mothers out there. Many mothers need to work. But public policy does not support women who need to work to make ends meet; and then vilifies them for being on welfare.

I wish I could apply for job after job and be the top candidate always and when they deny me the leave that I need to make sure I don’t spiral deeper into depression, I could walk away and teach them a lesson. I wish I could stand up and be an example, to cause discrimination to occur and start filing lawsuit after lawsuit. Would I be teaching them the right lesson — that it is important to take care of your employees? Or would I be teaching them that what their mentors told them about pregnant women was right — you can’t trust them to keep to their commitments? (That double standard is a whole post in and of itself.)

I’m not strong enough to make an example of myself; to live through the day to day of poor policy. And I can avoid it — I am privileged enough to avoid it, to become a housewife and a stay-at-home mom.

But, damn it, as soon as my baby is old enough, as soon as I’ve regained my mental health, I am going to do something about all of this — I’m going to Grad School and study the social policies that got us here, I’m going to intern and work for nonprofits and advocacy agencies that stand up for women’s rights, for the rights of those in poverty. I’m going to volunteer where I can, and I’m going to challenge this disgusting status quo.

Babies need Mamas, and Mamas need money to care for their babies. Can we please make it easier?

Equal Pay Day

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 was Equal Pay Day. This is an awareness raising event, which calls attention to the wage gap between men and women, positioned on the calendar approximately when a woman’s total wages from 2009 and 2010  would catch up to a man’s wage from 2009.

Many people believe we live in a post-feminist age where things like inequitable pay is a result of the choices of women. Women choose careers that pay less than men. Women choose their careers for something other than money. Women choose to not ask for raises, or to not go after the promotions. Women don’t get the same level of education as men. Women choose to quit their jobs and become stay-at-home moms. And, besides, these post-feminist thinkers would tell me, there’s now a federal law with a long statute of limitations that says that women can sue their employers if there is real wage discrimination.

I was struggling with what to say about this topic in this post, until I remembered my theme for this blog: stories, and recording activism.

As an AmeriCorps member, my yearly living stipend is determined by federal law. I make 11,400 dollars before federal income taxes are taken out of the income that comes from the federal government.  AmeriCorps is designed to allow people to serve, and for those who are privileged to experience poverty. (Not a perfect correlation, but we can discuss that in a future post.) I applied to and interviewed for the job in early January 2009.

Professionalism is marked, at least partially, by pretending that you do not have a family to whom you owe responsibility. I wasn’t my professional best at this particular interview, though, partially because I was already friends on facebook with my potential boss — she was a friend from college.  The interview went really well — until my potential boss walked me out and asked me, “When you get married, you’re not going to quit or anything, right?”

I was actually more ready for this question than I would have guessed. Rather than stumble, I had guessed on some visceral level that it was coming. “No,” I said. “Of course not. Not only am I not that girl, but Tim is really good about helping me make my career important. We’ll probably live between our two jobs, and I can commute.”

It wasn’t until later that I realized that this question was, in fact, illegal to ask. But you can’t very well point that out to potential employers — it makes everyone uncomfortable, and it makes it seem like you’re a pot-stirrer. No one wants to hire a pot-stirrer. But the fact that I was female and I was about to get married, another female thought it was appropriate or even necessary to ask me about my post nuptial career plans.

And then I got married. And I’ve been wary, ever since, of my new boss asking me about my plans to have children. (To his credit, and my unending gratitude, he hasn’t asked, and seems to have no plans to ask.) This question is also illegal. But I’ll go back to my previous comment about it seeming necessary to ask this question.

So, even in a situation where no one is going to change my rate of pay due to my familial obligations, my employers seem to be worried about my productivity due to my family obligations. How will you serve your community and put dinner on the table every night?

We may have federal laws that state that women cannot be paid differently from men for equal work, but the culture surrounding women and work hasn’t changed yet. Women do more housework than men. And when women work outside of the home, there are assumptions about who will break first when it comes to work inside of the home.

This isn’t even dealing with motherhood, yet. And let me tell you, I am terrified of that prospect in conjunction with my professional career.