Women in suits chatting

“Can We Afford You?”

Have you ever heard the line “Can we afford you?” If so, what do feel when you hear this?

  • You must be really expensive – potentially a backhanded compliment
  • I don’t see the value in what you bring to the table
  • Truly we don’t have the budget but wish we did

We’ve heard this line in multiple different contexts – from job searching to consulting.

In job searches, I’ve gone through the hiring process that seemed to be going exceptionally well, only to be met with “you’re really smart and ambitious, I think you’ll be bored here” or “can we afford you?”. Keeping in mind these were companies boasting about millions of dollars in revenue, millions of dollars of assets under management, it was a known fact that employees were very well paid, and who just said “we could use someone smart like you”. I had the of work experience, I had the education, heck I had the volunteer experience.

I’ve talked to female colleagues who were very high up in their organizations, having helped build the company from scratch, but were then forced to leave because the promise of compensation, equity, and skin in the game never came.

I’ve heard of experts in their fields who are constantly asked “can I have an hour of your time” or “can we have some feedback” which translates into free work. And when the conversation about remuneration comes up for a service that they are paid to do, all of a sudden they’re not “giving back”.

So What’s The Deal?

Was it because we were pricing ourselves too high? Were we pricing ourselves too low? Was it because we were overqualified? Was it because we were underqualified? Was it because we were female? Was it because I was a person of colour? Now, I’m avoiding the “it’s a boys club” or other commonly identified reasons, because that’s a systematic problem that we don’t have the word count to get into right now.

The most likely answer: it was the intersectionality of all of this. The system is NOT made for everyone, it’s made for those who created the system. It’s been proven time and time again about the biases (both overt and subconscious) that foster opportunities being given to a person over another. And those in charge of hiring, if good at their jobs, are making sure that they have the right fit for their table.

suiting & tea

You should be fighting to create your own table.

Maybe We Don’t Need A Seat at THEIR Table

And this is what I realized through all of this – sometimes fighting for a seat at the table and trying to fit in with those who are already seated, isn’t what you should be fighting for. You should be fighting to create your own table. And then all of us should have one huge dinner party. Whether we agree with it or not, world views are propagated by those who have the capital and create the systems that we operate in. At SEWT, we’re trying to help others create their own table, and be the best dressed at that.

 So the next time someone asks “can we afford you?” tell them “if you have to ask, you probably can’t.”

What are your thoughts? Comment and share this post to get the conversation going.

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