The recent gaffe made by Microsoft’s CEO prompted me think that one of the reasons why I didn’t have a career was Karma.
Still, there was a time when I truly believed that a job well done would lead to a career. As a graduate student at the University Of Iowa I was the program director at the university Hillel House. That university is the home of the distinguished Writers’ Workshop and the International Writers’ Workshop, and Iowa City has always been a paradise for literature lovers.
It was a perfect position for a graduate student of literature, and one of my goals was to make our Hillel a cultural and literary center. I worked hard, and was so successful that in my second year one of my programs won a national award.
Although the job at Hillel was demanding, and required long hours on weekends, and on Jewish and non-Jewish holidays, I was paid less than my friends, who were teaching assistants at the university. So, since it was clear that I was doing a good job, and it was the beginning of my third year at Hillel, I asked for a raise.
The Hillel board, which only short weeks earlier was honored by the national prize, and the Hillel Rabbi. my immediate boss, declined my request. In my letter I asked for a small pay raise, but I also suggested other ways in which I could be compensated for my job. The board rejected all my requests. It was as though my good Karma disappeared as soon as I had any demand at all.
I felt unappreciated and quit.
The members of the Hillel board and the Rabbi were all men. Off the record, they implied that I was lucky to have a fulfilling job, and besides, they didn’t believe that I really needed the money as my husband was a professor at the university.
So although it could have been the beginning of a successful career, my perfect position at Hillel remained just a job. When we speak about career we usually mean a life-long work which involves goals and ambition. Yet, the concept is subjective, what I saw as a promise of a career was obviously seen by the Hillel board as a part time job suitable for a bored professor’s wife.
Mine is not an unusual story, a survey, conducted by a large company several years ago, contacted females employees that the company had considered “regretted losses” to know why they had left. The answer was that they did not feel valued, and didn’t realize they were regretted losses until they were contacted for the survey.
So perhaps it is not the women who have a hard time asking for a raise, but the men who refuse to believe that we actually mean it.