I was asked to do a speech for International Women’s Day. It was a panel speech, with four other talented, accomplished, experienced women.
At the time of being asked, I didn’t raise the question of payment.
I didn’t raise the issue of payment because I thought it might be raised by the organiser.
I also didn’t raise it because payment is a hard thing to discuss as a freelancer – as a woman.
Often the moment you ask about pay, the opportunity is no longer yours.
I also thought, deep down, this is a union organisation running the event – we’ll be paid.
I spoke on the panel with the other women. We spoke a lot about equal pay for women. I talked about people with disabilities being asked to work for free, and how that devalues and lowers the expectation of us. (See this piece for more on that.)
We spoke for two hours. We weren’t paid.
This wasn’t a charity or a not for profit. This was a union organisation that fights for workers’ rights. We weren’t paid.
It was an uncomfortable irony – a union organisation-run women’s work themed event not paying their female panelists.
The organiser spoke to me after the event, embarrassed she didn’t pay any of the panelists for any of the events her company runs. She thanked me for raising the issue of what it’s like to be asked to work for free, and said she will consider paying future panelists.
The discussion and the lack of pay played on my mind all night. The very topic of and discussion during the event set the expectation and necessity of payment.
So with trepidation, I sent off an email the morning after. I sent it to the organisers, the panelists and the producers – because we were all encouraged to be transparent and question pay inequalities during our discussion on the night. I wrote of the irony of our discussion, and the lack of payment, and suggested future panelists be paid. I was apologetic, because I didn’t want to burn bridges. I emphasised how hard it is to broach the issue of payment.
Because I didn’t raise the issue of payment in my initial emails, I wondered whether it was the right thing to do. Nothing was in writing prior, so was it ok to raise it after the event? And I didn’t practice what I preached – I said I didn’t want to work for free, yet I wasn’t being paid for this. But I hadn’t negotiated.
That afternoon, the organiser emailed me. We will be getting paid for our time and expertise. She will be looking to pay future panelists. Thankful.
Never settle. Know your worth. Always speak up.
(Image: three rainbow cakes in jars, spoons tied on them with bows, and a blue background. Text: ‘know your worth’ plus my blog URL. It has nothing to do with the post, but I loved the pic!)
This was originally a Facebook post – you can find that here.