I’m A Digital Accessibility Consultant & I Was Once Offered $10K Less Than A Male Counterpart

In our seriesSalary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

Been in the workforce for at least eight years and interested in contributing your salary story? Submit your information here.

Previously, we talked to a customer relationship marketing manager in Long Beach, CA, a founder of a concierge company in Dallas, and a healthcare consultant in Atlanta.

Age: 28
Current Location: Minneapolis, MN
Current Industry & Title: Financial Industry, Digital Accessibility Consultant
Starting Salary: $37,440 in 2012
Current Salary: $98,000 + 10% bonus
Number Of Years Employed: 7
Biggest Salary Jump: $70,000 to $124,800
Biggest Salary Drop: $54,080 to $31,200

Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: “My biggest regret was being intimidated by the idea of negotiation. The people on the other side of the table are most likely not offering you the most they can. They do not care that you’re negotiating and expect it. As long as you do it in an informed, professional manner, chances are good that they are going to come back with the ability to at least offer you more, if not exactly what you asked for. Worst-case scenario, they say they can’t and you’re no worse for the wear.”

Best Salary-Related Advice: “Do not be afraid to talk to your coworkers about your salary. Going into my most recent round of negotiations, I knew what to expect as an offer ahead of time, which meant I could prepare for what to ask for. I was also able to (kindly) let a coworker know she was being underpaid. She is up for a promotion soon and therefore will be in a better position to get what she’s worth.”

Thoughts on Equal Pay Day: “I’ve had to deal with the experience of being paid less than a male colleague. We’ve all heard the stats on how women, particularly WOC, are paid less than their male counterparts, but it’s hard to actually notice that in everyday life. My experience of sexism and pay disparity reads so textbook that it’s almost cliché. That’s not at all how it felt at the time. I was utterly convinced it was all in my head and if I just worked harder, did a better job, I would finally be treated with respect. Even right now I’m uncomfortable saying out loud that it was sexism. We’re taught that these concepts only exist in the abstract, but the truth is that it’s the lived reality for enough of us that Equal Pay Day exists.

“So celebrate Equal Pay Day by trusting yourself in a way that took me too long to figure out. If your gut is telling you that your work is not being reflected in your paycheck, advocate for yourself. A lot of people, particularly now, are not in a position to leave their jobs. What you can do is keep your eyes peeled. Maybe another department is hiring and a change in manager is the chance you need to negotiate your paycheck. Maybe it comes up in December during your yearly review. Maybe you hear about an opportunity in two years, which the experience you’ve been building up makes you the perfect candidate for. Or maybe it means taking a risk and leaving a job anyway. I can’t say what’s right for you. Just don’t stop vocally advocating for yourself, because there is no one in this world more invested in your future than yourself.” 

“Entry-level, data-entry type of a job for a financial-services company. I spent most of my day taking data that customers had written on a form and putting it into a computer. I also processed checks that people were putting into their retirement accounts. It was mind-numbing work, to say the least. The benefits at this job were amazing, though, and I was saving by living at home.”
"I had been working for this company for about a year and a half at this point. I was continually asking for special projects and additional activities (ambitious, yes, but also I was bored). When a position became available that involved all the work I was already doing but had additional responsibilities, I immediately applied and started within the same week. I didn't have actual career goals at the time, but any motion felt like going forward. I had the same boss but worked with a different team within our department that dealt with a particular set of clients. It meant dealing directly with financial advisers, which was a nice break from the data entry. I also offered to train new folks so often that eventually they just made that a job responsibility of mine as well. <br> <br>"During this time, the company was launching a new suite of software that needed QA (quality assurance) testers, which I volunteered for with no experience. The ladies running it took me under their wings and showed me the ins and outs of tech. I ended up being the only person on the project full-time, and by the end knew the intricacies of how to use the software."<br><br>
“I had been working for this company for about a year and a half at this point. I was continually asking for special projects and additional activities (ambitious, yes, but also I was bored). When a position became available that involved all the work I was already doing but had additional responsibilities, I immediately applied and started within the same week. I didn’t have actual career goals at the time, but any motion felt like going forward. I had the same boss but worked with a different team within our department that dealt with a particular set of clients. It meant dealing directly with financial advisers, which was a nice break from the data entry. I also offered to train new folks so often that eventually they just made that a job responsibility of mine as well.

“During this time, the company was launching a new suite of software that needed QA (quality assurance) testers, which I volunteered for with no experience. The ladies running it took me under their wings and showed me the ins and outs of tech. I ended up being the only person on the project full-time, and by the end knew the intricacies of how to use the software.”

"This job was a direct result of the QA project from my previous role. I moved from Kansas to Minnesota to act as a backup for the then resource education coordinator, who was working to teach financial advisers how to use the new software we had been testing. When the HR person called to offer me the job, I attempted to negotiate a higher salary because I'd be moving. She was shocked and told me that there wasn't any room for negotiation; I could either take the offer or reject it. Looking back on it, I think her reaction was strange. At the time, I thought that I had done something wrong, but it seems more likely now that she just hadn't had someone try to negotiate before. <br> <br>"Turns out I knew more about the software than the resource education coordinator, and ended up being the person most people came to with their issues. Consequently, I was doing two jobs in one. I had all the responsibilities of being a branch admin (checking in guests, keeping track of paperwork, handling incoming checks), while also acting as IT for issues that any of the 45+ people working at that branch ran into when using this new mandatory suite of software." <br><br>
“This job was a direct result of the QA project from my previous role. I moved from Kansas to Minnesota to act as a backup for the then resource education coordinator, who was working to teach financial advisers how to use the new software we had been testing. When the HR person called to offer me the job, I attempted to negotiate a higher salary because I’d be moving. She was shocked and told me that there wasn’t any room for negotiation; I could either take the offer or reject it. Looking back on it, I think her reaction was strange. At the time, I thought that I had done something wrong, but it seems more likely now that she just hadn’t had someone try to negotiate before.

“Turns out I knew more about the software than the resource education coordinator, and ended up being the person most people came to with their issues. Consequently, I was doing two jobs in one. I had all the responsibilities of being a branch admin (checking in guests, keeping track of paperwork, handling incoming checks), while also acting as IT for issues that any of the 45+ people working at that branch ran into when using this new mandatory suite of software.”

"The guy in this position, whom I had been supporting, found a better job. Despite my being the obvious person to be next in line, since I'd already been doing the role, I later found out from my predecessor that I was offered $10k less than him. I had also been told to smile more during the interview, so I guess that shouldn't have been a surprise. I did attempt to negotiate, but was told that this wasn't a promotion so much as a lateral move, despite the fact that this was the only position of its kind in the nationwide company and would be used as an example for future versions of the position. I took the job because I saw it as a chance to create something completely from scratch. I could basically write the manual on how to do the role myself. <br><br>"I spent six months working my butt off. I created how-to guides and wrote technical documents. I put on seminars and trained over a hundred people on the software. I had to come up with individualized implementation plans, because financial advisers are independent business owners and each wanted to utilize the software in a different way. But in the end, I had to leave due to a hostile work environment that HR did nothing about. The same boss who told me to smile more stole my ideas after publicly calling them stupid, left for a month the day after hiring me without a single word of direction but chastised me upon return for not doing certain things, and intentionally interrupted a presentation I was giving only to later say that I was unprepared. I left that job with 12 pages of detailed notes of the harassment I experienced, but a workplace-harassment lawyer said unless I had video or recordings, it wouldn't get very far." <br><br>
“The guy in this position, whom I had been supporting, found a better job. Despite my being the obvious person to be next in line, since I’d already been doing the role, I later found out from my predecessor that I was offered $10k less than him. I had also been told to smile more during the interview, so I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise. I did attempt to negotiate, but was told that this wasn’t a promotion so much as a lateral move, despite the fact that this was the only position of its kind in the nationwide company and would be used as an example for future versions of the position. I took the job because I saw it as a chance to create something completely from scratch. I could basically write the manual on how to do the role myself.

“I spent six months working my butt off. I created how-to guides and wrote technical documents. I put on seminars and trained over a hundred people on the software. I had to come up with individualized implementation plans, because financial advisers are independent business owners and each wanted to utilize the software in a different way. But in the end, I had to leave due to a hostile work environment that HR did nothing about. The same boss who told me to smile more stole my ideas after publicly calling them stupid, left for a month the day after hiring me without a single word of direction but chastised me upon return for not doing certain things, and intentionally interrupted a presentation I was giving only to later say that I was unprepared. I left that job with 12 pages of detailed notes of the harassment I experienced, but a workplace-harassment lawyer said unless I had video or recordings, it wouldn’t get very far.”

"After leaving my last job, I wasn't sure what to do. I knew I loved the technical side of software, so I decided to go to a coding bootcamp. It was six months of very intense work, and I graduated in the summer of 2018. While I was looking for a job in coding, I started working at a local co-op, in the deli department, and doing freelance web design on the side. I had attended a presentation about accessible code while in school and was instantly interested. The vast majority of websites out there are a nightmare for disabled people, so I started teaching myself web accessibility through online courses and blogs, and by studying the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)."
“After leaving my last job, I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I loved the technical side of software, so I decided to go to a coding bootcamp. It was six months of very intense work, and I graduated in the summer of 2018. While I was looking for a job in coding, I started working at a local co-op, in the deli department, and doing freelance web design on the side. I had attended a presentation about accessible code while in school and was instantly interested. The vast majority of websites out there are a nightmare for disabled people, so I started teaching myself web accessibility through online courses and blogs, and by studying the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).”
"I got this job through networking and personal/freelance projects, and by showing up to the interview with examples demonstrating that I was already doing what the job required. It took six months of working toward this job to get it. Once in the door, I continued to spend a lot of outside time learning more about the industry, and the owner noticed by giving me specialized projects and more responsibilities. <br><br>"My day-to-day job was manually auditing our clients’ websites for accessibility issues. I also spearheaded our training program by offering client trainings and working as the point person on the help desk. I wrote a lot of technical documents while I was there as well. It was the first time in my career that I felt like I finally knew 'what I wanted to be when I grew up.' The salary was also comfortable enough for me to start putting serious money away in savings, which was a boon." <br><br>
“I got this job through networking and personal/freelance projects, and by showing up to the interview with examples demonstrating that I was already doing what the job required. It took six months of working toward this job to get it. Once in the door, I continued to spend a lot of outside time learning more about the industry, and the owner noticed by giving me specialized projects and more responsibilities.

“My day-to-day job was manually auditing our clients’ websites for accessibility issues. I also spearheaded our training program by offering client trainings and working as the point person on the help desk. I wrote a lot of technical documents while I was there as well. It was the first time in my career that I felt like I finally knew ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up.’ The salary was also comfortable enough for me to start putting serious money away in savings, which was a boon.”

"Again, this came through networking and hustle. I found a recruiter who treated me like a human and kept me in the loop every step of the way—I cannot understate how valuable that makes her. She found me a position at a large international bank, negotiated for more than I asked, and was quick to answer questions or take care of whatever needed to be done. <br><br>"This job is more UX (user experience) focused than the last one. I spend a lot of my days looking at designs or prototypes from teams for potential accessibility issues. It's a lot more about building good relationships with people than my last job, but I enjoy the challenge of showing people the benefit of creating code that's accessible. <br> <br>"Going from living off of around $10,000 (from loans and cashing in a 401(k)) in all of 2017 to $60 an hour, I can confidently say that money does buy happiness. It grants you the security of a roof over your head, food in your stomach, good health insurance, and knowing that if you lose your job, you'll still be okay." <br><br><br><br>
“Again, this came through networking and hustle. I found a recruiter who treated me like a human and kept me in the loop every step of the way—I cannot understate how valuable that makes her. She found me a position at a large international bank, negotiated for more than I asked, and was quick to answer questions or take care of whatever needed to be done.

“This job is more UX (user experience) focused than the last one. I spend a lot of my days looking at designs or prototypes from teams for potential accessibility issues. It’s a lot more about building good relationships with people than my last job, but I enjoy the challenge of showing people the benefit of creating code that’s accessible.

“Going from living off of around $10,000 (from loans and cashing in a 401(k)) in all of 2017 to $60 an hour, I can confidently say that money does buy happiness. It grants you the security of a roof over your head, food in your stomach, good health insurance, and knowing that if you lose your job, you’ll still be okay.”

"When our team had funding for a full-time position, my manager told me to apply. Although technically this job was a pay cut, I'm now a salaried employee with benefits, including a 10% bonus and 401(k). This was the strongest position I'd ever put myself in for a negotiation. I did the math of what the value was of all of the benefits, in addition to my salary, figured out the minimum I was willing to accept, and negotiated in the job-offer call. I also very clearly laid out my value to the team and why I was negotiating for the amount I was. <br><br>"Overall, I love this job. My coworkers are almost all women who are both kind and don't take shit from anyone. I spend my day getting to do something that makes a tangible difference in people's lives, and I'm passionate about the work. I never have the same day twice, and now make enough to help out my parents as well. I say all of this not to brag, but instead to emphasize that only four years ago, I was barely able to get out of bed due to the anxiety I had from a hostile work environment. Don't stay in a crappy job. Be loyal to yourself instead of to a company." <br><br>
“When our team had funding for a full-time position, my manager told me to apply. Although technically this job was a pay cut, I’m now a salaried employee with benefits, including a 10% bonus and 401(k). This was the strongest position I’d ever put myself in for a negotiation. I did the math of what the value was of all of the benefits, in addition to my salary, figured out the minimum I was willing to accept, and negotiated in the job-offer call. I also very clearly laid out my value to the team and why I was negotiating for the amount I was.

“Overall, I love this job. My coworkers are almost all women who are both kind and don’t take shit from anyone. I spend my day getting to do something that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives, and I’m passionate about the work. I never have the same day twice, and now make enough to help out my parents as well. I say all of this not to brag, but instead to emphasize that only four years ago, I was barely able to get out of bed due to the anxiety I had from a hostile work environment. Don’t stay in a crappy job. Be loyal to yourself instead of to a company.”

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