Equal Work for Equal Pay

Yolanda had never heard of the gender wage gap.

But she did hear when a male coworker SHE trained in the same position was getting paid more than her.

As a mother of four and a participant in YWCA Oahu’s work furlough program, Yolanda relies on her job as a full-time restaurant server to help pay her restitution and save for a new home.

The pay discrepancy bothered her for several days, but she didn’t bring it up to her manager. She wondered what she was doing wrong, that he was doing right.

It wasn't until she attended a professional development luncheon at YWCA O'ahu when she gathered the knowledge and courage to speak up for herself and ask for a raise. 

Guest speaker Carla Harris, a Wall Street Banker, gospel singer, and motivational speaker, shared her "pearls" of wisdom with the audience. Those pearls stayed with Yolanda and since that "aha" moment in November, she's received four pay raises and a newfound self-confidence.  

In August 2015, Yolanda was hired as a full-time server in one of the busiest restaurants in Honolulu. She works six days a week and catches the bus in for her 3 p.m. shift and takes the last bus out around 1 a.m.

“I’m a hard worker. I’m gung-ho in everything that I do,” Yolanda said. “My goal is I’m gonna do the best that I can in this job and prove myself able so I can move up.”

As Yolanda progressed at her job, she became a designated trainer within two to three months. She befriended her first group of new hires and eventually the topic of pay came up. “I was curious so I asked how much they was getting paid minimum, cause I started off at $9.50 and I was STILL at $9.50 when I was training all these people,” Yolanda said.

She found out the new hires (in the same position as her) were getting paid $10.25/hour. Normally employees have to wait for their six-month reviews and receive a $0.50 raise depending on their performance. “I was training these people, working 10 times harder than these people, so I was kind of frustrated about that. I didn’t understand why I was getting paid $9.50 and they started off at $10.25. I found out, supposedly, that because they needed workers, they were taking the pay that they requested, but I requested more and at the time they didn’t offer me that.”

Yolanda also found out that a newer male coworker in her same position was receiving $13.50/hour.

“He’s been there less than me and he’s always late. So I’m like ‘why are you getting $13 and you’re not as clean as I am when you work, you’re always slamming things and he’s gotten into confrontations with guests and employees.’ What am I doing wrong that he’s doing right?”

She took several days to process the information and wondered how to move forward. It was then that Kehaulani Coleman, Director of Economic Advancement, asked if Yolanda would like to attend a luncheon with Carla Harris, a motivational speaker, gospel singer, author and Wall Street banker from New York. Seven YWCA O‘ahu supporters had generously sponsored 11 women from the Fernhurst Residence to attend.

Yolanda had no idea what she was coming into, but she was blown away by what Carla had to say.

“It was like an ‘aha’ moment. I felt like she was talking directly to me,” Yolanda said. “She was sharing how being in a corporate company, they don’t recognize these things cause there’s so many employees and they have so much that they got to do too, so I kind of looked at the whole picture after she shared about how we need to stand up for ourselves.”

She returned to work and let Carla’s advice sink in. Several days later Yolanda approached her manager and said “You know what, I’m not making ends meet. I have a lot of legal obligations that I have to take care of financially, and the pay that I’m getting here is not cutting it.

“I would like to know if I can get a raise because I feel I’m a hard worker, I proved myself responsible, I’m always on time, I never call in sick, I always say yes to whatever you guys need and I go over and beyond my expectations to fulfill positions that other people are getting paid more to do.”

Unsure of which way the conversation would go, the proposal worked out in Yolanda’s favor and she received a dollar raise…and then another…and another…and another! She recently completed a cashier training course and is now making $12.50, with a goal of reaching $13/hour. All because she asked for more.

“I never really knew (about the gender pay gap),” Yolanda said. “That’s something to be concerned about because it adds up. Women work just as hard, if not harder.”