Credit: Margaret Groves, Engineered Process Improvement
I had no idea what he would say, but I had to ask.
"Would you like a co-host?" I said. "I'm available."
Plain and simple. Words of one syllable. Put it right out there. And then, I gave him options. "But if you'd like to use someone else, Ms. X of LocalTechCo and Ms. Y of LocalTechOrg might be good options. I don't know them personally, but I'm sure they'd be delighted." (This was possibly a big presumption, but heck, *I* would have been delighted, so I assumed they would be, too.} And then, the selling point: "I think it would be good PR to have a woman in tech as a co-host for this Women In Tech event."
I read over the email: Pitch, options, selling points. Not too long. High value (I used specific examples), low word count. No weasel words, or overuse of the word "just", as in, "I just think..." (When I see or hear that, I always want to respond, "Yes, that's all you're doing. You're JUST thinking. When you're ready to contribute something of value, please let me know.") But I digress.
I hit send.
I had to wait, maybe, a few hours. Not long at all. "I would LOVE a co-host," he wrote back. And then he refunded my ticket with the caption, "Hosts don't pay. :)" It was that easy.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: as women, we are NOT TRAINED in the art of the ask. Why? Well...when was the last time YOU asked someone out? Think about those ramifications for a second.
That's right. In the society in which we live, men gather ten to twenty years of experience, in their EARLY and FORMATIVE years, of asking people out. Women don't. TEN to TWENTY YEARS of EXTREMELY EARLY EXPERIENCE ASKING PEOPLE OUT. And, just to compare, women...don't have this. It's not a subjective discussion question. It's a fact.
So the next time some well-meaning "meritocracy" apologist says to you, "Well, men get paid more because women don't ASK for raises!", I suggest this plan of action: resist strangling that person, nod, (because it's true) and then make a note to yourself to go out and practice asking for things three times that week. At the second-hand store, ask if they'll take less for this bag. At work, ask for informational interviews with high-ranking women or men you admire. In line at Safeway, ask the person in front of you with 40 items if they wouldn't mind letting you go ahead with your half gallon of milk. The key to this practice is to ask LEVEL or UP. Don't practice asking by "asking" the waiter for extra sauce or the barista for an extra shot. They're getting paid to be nice to you and that is not fair. Ask for favors from those on YOUR LEVEL or UP.
Or, you know, if you'd prefer, just quickly walking away from the meritocracy apologist and taking a professional development class about emotional intelligence are good options, too.