Claire Wasserman is not afraid to talk about money.
The career coach and podcast producer and host is the founder of Ladies Get Paid, a group that offers resources and holds events in 15 cities around the country for women to negotiate salaries, raises and promotions at work. But, perhaps more importantly, it gets women used to talking about money, a topic that still seems taboo for many.
“There’s a feeling that we want to prove to ourselves we’re great before we speak up,” Wasserman said in an interview. “It’s hard to speak up for yourself when we’re constantly shrinking ourselves and doubting ourselves.”
Unlike other women-oriented spaces like The Wing, which charges more than $2,000 a year to be a member, Ladies Get Paid, which boasts 50,000 members around the world, is free to join.
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The organization is currently gearing up to host its third annual “Get Money Get Paid” conference in November at the Brooklyn Expo Center, with about 1,000 attendees signed up. Female founders and executives from a wide range of industries are slated to speak on topics including how to “Marie Kondo Your Finances” and “Be Your Own Boss.” The keynote speaker is Megan Twohey, one of the New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story.
The genesis of the professional network can be traced back to Cannes Lions, the advertising festival in the South of France, a few years ago. Wasserman was there for her job when an older man approached her at a party, introduced himself and asked whose wife she was. It was just one of several experiences that prompted Wasserman to pen an essay and share it with her friends. That opened the floodgates for them to tell their own stories.
“It created this viral email where everyone would write back with their stories,” she said. It made her realize that she “had to take these experiences seriously.”
Wasserman organized a town hall-style event in 2016, right before the presidential election, with no intention of throwing another. The kickoff event led to a Slack group to continue the conversation, and it exploded from there.
“Quickly, I could see what the business model would be,” she said. “Hiring career coaches, finding office space to do workshops, splitting proceeds from the tickets. Women were signing up all over the world.”
Wasserman didn’t want to leave her full-time job at a recruiting firm, but she was forced to choose between that and her fledgling business. “If I wanted to own this, I had to quit my job,” she said. She left a month after that first event.
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Ladies Get Paid now has one full-time employee and two part-time staffers, and Wasserman is working on a book of the same name about “all the levels of self-advocacy,” tentatively scheduled for release in fall 2021.
While progress on equal pay can seem slow — celebrities like actress Michelle Williams and soccer star Megan Rapinoe have put the issue in the spotlight after learning their male counterparts commanded more money — Wasserman said every small step is significant.
“We have to be vigilant, and we also have to be creative,” Wasserman said. “It always begins with speaking up, and knowing there have to be next steps, and those next steps have to be strategic.”