In one day last week I had to answer three separate emails requesting my time and considerable work for free (or a $10 gift card!). All in the space of one day, I had two for-profit businesses and a researcher (who mentioned she had been given a grant for her research) ask me to do considerable work for them, for free.
All three of them claimed to be about “empowering women”.
Sigh… is anyone else really, really sick of this shit?
You want to “empower women”? Pay us for the work we do. And pay us fairly – not in bloody $10 gift cards that are useless to us.We know that women are underpaid. Women on average do four years extra work than men in their lifetimes (which is compounded when you add other marginalised identities) and earn AT LEAST 25% less than men for doing the same work – white women on average earn 25% less than white men, again, compounded when you add other marginalised identities – ie black women earn at least 40% less than white men. That doesn’t include the frankly phenomenal amount of domestic and emotional work that women are expected to provide, for free, across our entire lives.
Yet still, businesses, organisations and academics constantly make requests of women to give our time and skills for free. As though we don’t already have more than enough piled on us both in the workplace and unpaid in our private lives.
Look, if I’m contacted by a non-profit organisation, and it’s a cause or concept that matters to me, I’ll volunteer, if I have the time. Because that’s what volunteering is about, supporting things that matter to you and contribute to society. If it is something that means I’ll have to travel, I appreciate assistance with my travel and accommodation, so that it’s not a financial burden on me to participate. I’ll even negotiate rates for small and emerging businesses, if they don’t assume that I’m just going to work for free for them. But if I have businesses contact me, tell me about how successful they are and then ask me to do work for them – and please, understand that what I do is WORK, it’s not a hobby – and then tell me that they’re not willing to pay me, that’s exploitation. That’s furthering your own agenda at the expense of someone else, and it’s wrong.
I’m not talking about being slung a few freebies in exchange for a review, I mean actual work – speaking at an event, writing articles or papers, something that takes my time and skills.
Of course, there are always those that claim that women are being unreasonable for expecting to be paid for their time and skills, that it’s somehow “selling out” to expect payment for work. I’ve even had it suggested to me that I’m somehow prostituting myself for expecting to be paid for my work. Nobody calls a man who expects to be paid for his work a prostitute.
Both businesses responded to my query about payment for my work with “The exposure will be great for you.” I don’t need exposure. Y’all found me OK didn’t you? You knew my name and where to find me. I’ve just been on a national TV show that has been a massive success – people have been stopping me in the street to tell me they saw me on telly. I can find my own “exposure” thanks.
Not to mention that as the saying goes, “exposure won’t pay my rent”. Exposure isn’t going to pay the bills that all of us have in our lives. We can’t live off exposure. Let’s face it, people DIE from exposure.
If you are in the position that businesses and other funded organisations are requesting your time and talent, ask yourself “Is this work? Shouldn’t I be paid for working for someone?”
And if you’re a business or other organisation that is looking for someone to do some work for you, at least ask them their rates, don’t turn up expecting them to work for free. One would hope that you’d pay your staff, so pay people who do short term work for you too. Especially if you’re going to trade off their name and reputation.
*Image credit: Pictures of Money on Flickr
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