When Principles Become Problems (UPDATED!)
In addition to my classroom responsibilities, I am also formally tasked with duties relating to supporting and promoting diversity in my school. I receive a base salary for the former and a stipend for the latter. And I recently sat down with my boss to discuss both in regards to my upcoming contract, looking for the type of raise I’d need to offset recent tax increases and growing family needs. This, unfortunately, was a non-starter.
“Why?” I’ll pretend you asked…
Well, it turns out that my head’s predecessor (retired two years ago) paid men significantly more than women, such that I was already the highest earner amongst colleagues with similar experience and training.
Harumph. Here I have two important areas of my life… providing for my family and supporting an equitable and just workplace… coming into direct conflict.
Before I tell you how I responded and what ultimately came of it, I have three questions for the studio audience…
- What do you think I did? Not necessarily what came about… but how do you think I responded?
- What would you have done? How would you have responded?
- Have you ever encountered a situation of such magnitude where two important principles of yours came into conflict?
I’m curious to hear your responses and will update later with the resolution of my situation (which is still currently in the works).
So what ultimately happened?
Well, the first question was a bit of a trick one, because before I could even get a word in edge wise (a difficult task with my boss), she had already proposed an alternative route to increasing my pay that would not exacerbate the gender inequality: she would up the stipend enough to get me close to my target total compensation package and would justify this by transitioning my schedule from a typical 10-month teacher contract to the 12-month admin contract. I would not officially be an administrator, but would move from a “Coordinator” to a “Director” (technically a meaningless distinction but quite important on resumes, even though the terms mean different things at different schools), would sacrifice part of my time off (shortening my winter and spring breaks from two weeks to one each and getting 4 weeks vacation time in July and August as opposed to the whole summer). This not only meets my financial goals but is a huge progressional development step on a path towards leadership. And while I’m still being paid more than female colleagues, it is unequal pay for unequal work, a much more justifiable approach than the former one.
There are still some issues at play here… would she have been as receptive to a female negotiating in such a manner as a male? We all know how men and women, particularly in the work place, demonstrating similar behaviors often get labeled very differently (e.g., “He’s take charge and assertive… she’s bossy and bitchy). The fact that I had this position in the first place might have been a function of gender; then again, the position didn’t exist before I pushed for it so theoretically anyone with the desire and skill set could have achieved it and no one stepped up before me.
Ultimately, I was able to maintain both principles thanks to some creative thinking on my boss’s part and a willingness to sacrifice in other areas. The lost time off will be a change but I usually end up working or staying busy during those times anyway because I can’t sit still do the hit isn’t so bad.
Thanks to everyone for the feedback!