Here’s a story about an amazingly gifted businesswoman. She had an advanced education, a proven track-record of effectiveness and one of the highest levels of responsibility and trust her company bestowed. Yet, as she moved up quickly in her company, she was not given equal increases in pay to match her new titles and job descriptions. So after much consideration, thought and emotional turmoil, she requested a meeting with her bosses. She explained with clarity and conviction that she believed she was worth a higher salary and asked what she needed to do to earn more. Her bosses, who honestly liked this employee, listened to her politely and responded, “You’re too young to think that you can walk in here and demand more money.”
Needless to say, this is not the meeting she had planned in her head. I’m not going to describe what she decided to do after that. I’m simply interested in her employer’s excuse, she was too young to be demanding more money. As a young professional, this concept has peaked my curiosity. As a hopeful woman, I’d like to challenge its validity.
Let me first say that I appreciate the need for experience. I believe its the only compelling argument to be made for short-changing young people. Yes, you can learn a lot of valuable information in two decades of work experience. There are plenty of lessons that cannot be taught in a book or a case study. Experience in a certain industry can be a significant selling point on a person’s resume. It can be a factor in their promotion.
However, once you’ve begun working in an industry, the matter of experience becomes exponentially less important. Once you’ve adapted to the vocabulary and intricacies of the business, your age doesn’t matter nearly as much. And once you’ve been entrusted with higher level responsibilities, shouldn’t you be paid higher level earnings? If an employee’s productivity is on par with their more experienced colleagues, I believe they should be making the same amount.
In many companies, ambitious, younger employees are treasured because of their fresh perspective and innovative ideas. They have the ability to bring new life to floundering projects and new eyes to outdated practices. There are many positions in which less-experienced employees can thrive. If these qualities are so valuable for a company’s business model, shouldn’t the employees who exhibit them also be given equal value?
I’m not saying that young employees should receive money that they don’t earn. But I don’t believe that they should be paid less simply because of their age, either. The excuse is often made that young people don’t have mortgages to pay or families to support. Therefore, they can survive on a lower wage, which makes them more attractive to employers. Their expectations are lower. But at the risk of sounding Randist, when did we start paying employees based on their need, as opposed to their merits?
If an employee has worked hard and earned a high-paying position, they deserve a high-paying wage. I don’t care what their sex, race or age is. Any person with the ability to perform a task should be given the same consideration and the same compensation.