Kennedy Jefferies is only a month into her first full-time job. The O’Neill Civic Leadership major accepted a position as the director of preschool ministries for a large church in Indianapolis.
She now edits youth curriculum and recruits and manages 30–50 volunteers who lead classes for hundreds of children, provide childcare at church events, and work during youth functions.
Jefferies is passionate about volunteer work like this. She knew she wanted to work with a diverse base of volunteers. It’s why she took Marshawn Wolley’s Managing Workforce Diversity class.
“I think we can often be unintentionally exclusive,” Jefferies says. “To overcome that, I wanted to learn how to manage a workforce very different than me.”
Her volunteers now range in age from 8 years old to 82 years old. She’s even using her project from Wolley’s class to pair volunteers with mentors to develop relationships and bridge generational gaps.
That isn’t the only lesson she applied when interviewing for her current job. When the position first opened up, she almost jumped at the opportunity. Almost.
Before she jumped, she thought back to a class discussion about salary negotiation, the pay gap, and why women earn 85 percent of what men earn. Jefferies says she learned that research has shown many women simply don’t negotiate.
“We may not understand our own worth,” she says. “We may take an offer because we just want a job. Men are often more willing to assert themselves in negotiations and ask for more. And as they continue to earn raises, women continue to be left behind.”
That was a light-bulb moment for Jefferies.
“I didn’t realize there was something I could do to change the pay gap,” she says.
Jefferies couldn’t shake the discussion. She says the salary offer she had received was fine, but wasn’t what she really wanted.
“Negotiation is just not something I do,” she admits with a laugh. “But remembering that class, I knew I should negotiate, but I didn’t want to.”
Her reason? She didn’t want to seem ungrateful or arrogant.
“For me, I was so thankful get an offer that the idea of asking for more seemed greedy,” she says.
She feared they could rescind the offer and find other candidates “who didn’t overvalue themselves” if she tried to negotiate.
So she researched comparable positions and salaries. She knew she had the grounds to ask for more. And Wolley gave her the boost she needed.
“He really empowered me to do it,” she said. “He told me that—from a man’s perspective—it wouldn’t be a question of whether to negotiate and I should feel that way, too.”
The one caution he provided, she says, was that she must be willing to lose the job if she didn’t get what she deserved.
“That was a really hard concept for me because I really wanted this job,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to walk away, but he told me I had to be willing to do that if I was going to negotiate.”
She knew she could if she had to, though. She picked up the phone and made the call. The woman on the other end told her to email them what she wanted.
Jefferies pointed out comparable salaries and the cost-savings the church would receive from her declining their health insurance. That, she said, should go toward her salary. She wanted extra paid time off, as well. She asked for what she really wanted and she got it—and without any hesitation.
Because of the lessons learned in Wolley’s class, his support, and her own courage to negotiate, Jefferies helped move the needle on the pay gap by negotiating $5,000 more in her salary.
For her, Wolley’s class and the lessons learned reset her thinking and helped her change the game.
“I didn’t see the mentality of avoiding negotiation until it was pointed out to me,” Jefferies says. “Women have the ability to change the pay gap. So, why shouldn’t we?”