MONEY Oscars

Patricia Arquette Wants You to Get a Raise — Here’s How to Make It Happen

The Oscar winner gave a shout-out to American women—and called for fair pay regardless of sex.

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An exciting moment for many Oscar viewers on Sunday was Patricia Arquette’s Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech for her role as the protagonist’s mother in the film Boyhood.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said. “It is our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

Those words, which drew cheers from fellow actresses Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, reflect growing tensions in Hollywood over the way women in the industry are represented and compensated. Not only do actresses have fewer roles available to them than men—only 30% of speaking characters—but they are paid less across the board. Even Academy Award-winning women face a huge pay gap: They get an extra $500,000 on average tacked on to their salary after winning an Oscar, compared with a $3.9 million bump for men.

Of course, pay discrimination is not limited to La-La Land. Women still make only 78¢ for every dollar a man makes, the Census reports, and that’s true across all wage levels, for everyone from truck drivers to top executives.

If you’re frustrated by your salary (or the pay earned by a woman in your life) and Arquette’s words resonated with you, here are some ways to change things right now.

1. Talk to a man whose job you want

A recent study found that women tend to express satisfaction with low pay because they compare themselves with female peers, and therefore never get a full picture of how underpaid they are relative to men.

Finding a male mentor in a position a notch or three above you can be a huge asset for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that he can give you an unbiased idea of what salary you should be asking for when you seek a promotion or new job.

2. Don’t say “yes” without making a counteroffer

Whether because of social expectations or a hesitation to appear too aggressive (a fear that is not unfounded given proven workplace biases), women are less likely to negotiate than men. One study revealed that only 31% of women countered the salary offer for their first job after grad school, versus 50% of men.

When you are asking for a raise or naming your salary expectations for a new job, it helps to come prepared. You’ll want to be ready with a clear description of your successes and how you have added value in your current position. And you should have an exact dollar figure in mind; research shows negotiating with a specific number makes you sound more authoritative than using a ballpark one.

If you get a resounding “no,” don’t just give up: Consider asking for a one-time bonus instead.

3. Become a mentor

It’s obvious advice to seek out strong mentors to get ahead at work. But taking subordinates under your wing can be just as effective for increasing your status.

Wharton professor Adam Grant has shown that women and men alike tend to be most successful when they balance both giving and taking at work. And women in particular can get a leg up as negotiators when they are in a mentor position, Grant found.

When the higher ups see you as a person who gives a lot and supports the people around you, it’s easier for you to take a little back—in the form of higher pay.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Things to Consider Before Investing In a New Project Idea

business-presentation
Getty Images

Following through on the wrong project ideas can be a big waste of resources

startupcollective

Question: What is one thing you ALWAYS do before green-lighting a new project or biz idea?

Test Assumptions

“There are lots of great ideas, but it’s easier to devise them than to execute them. So before you go off and try to execute new plans, it’s imperative you test some basic assumptions. If you already have customers, speak with them directly about the idea and take their feedback to heart. If you don’t, set up a landing page with an AdWords campaign to test response and prove the market exists.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

Ensure It Aligns With KPIs

“Before giving the go-ahead to a project or idea, it’s critical for me that the project aligns with our key performance indicators. If a project doesn’t drive to one of our key metrics, it’s likely not a worthwhile pursuit or use of resources. To have these kinds of checks and balances, it’s important to establish KPIs early on. Once in place, it’s a useful rubric to green-light ideas.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Take a Step Back

“The worst thing you can do is pursue a new project or business because it sounds like an exciting opportunity. The problem is that pretty much every new idea seems like an exciting opportunity at first, but only the best of the best maintain that excitement weeks or months down the road. Set it aside and don’t think about it for a while. If you pick it back up and get just as excited, go for it.” — James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

Analyze the Pros and Cons

“I’m always thinking of new projects or business ideas to help grow our business, so I’ve developed a system to green-light them. First, I write them down and let them marinate for a few days. If the idea still seems legit, I’ll set up a call with my partner, discuss the plan/implementation in detail and write out a pros/cons list. We then analyze the data to make the final decision.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Run the Numbers

“Before moving forward with any new project, I want to make sure that it’s worth our time and the ROI is there. Numbers don’t lie. Financial projections are an essential tool for determining ROI and helping us make business decisions based on fact, not gut.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Ask If It’s What People Want

“I see so many entrepreneurs, especially in the startup world, creating new businesses and products without even determining whether there’s a market for them or if people really want their product. Before green-lighting any new idea, I survey people, hold focus groups, run market tests through AdWords and even call people.” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Organize the Project First

“Before green-lighting a project, you should take the time to organize it. It is prudent to the success of the project or idea to know how long it will take, how it should be executed and who will be responsible before committing to a launch.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Define What Success Looks Like

“Without a clear definition of what success will look like for a given project, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s on track or even finished. By making a point of defining success before we even get started, we can decide how to measure a project and tell if it’s reaching the necessary goals.” — Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

Run Some AdWords Tests

“Google AdWords is fantastic at validating market interest. I’ll run a few different ads over the course of a few days or a week to test how well they convert and at what rate. That tells me how crowded the space is and how strong the market interest is. Usually I don’t even create a landing page. Instead, I’ll send them to one of my other sites.” — Jared Brown, Hubstaff

Talk to Real-Life Customers

“Always test your ideas by talking to people in the real world before you invest tremendous amounts of time, energy and money. Don’t be afraid of anyone stealing your ideas. Get feedback in the wild. Even if it’s simply by sending an email to your customer list asking if it’s something they’d be interested in, that’s a start.” — Cody McKibben, Thrilling Heroics

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

MONEY Workplace

Wage Equality Takes Center Stage at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards put the gender wage gap at the forefront of discussion.

MONEY salary

500,000 Walmart Workers Are Getting a Raise. Here’s How You Can Get One, Too

Walmart raise minimum wage $1.75
Gunnar Rathbun—Invision for Walmart

These 5 moves can help you make sure you get what you deserve.

Two corporate giants have made headlines recently for perking up their workers’ paychecks.

Last month, health insurance provider Aetna announced it would be raising the lowest wage it pays to $16 an hour, effectively giving raises to 5,700 of the company’s workers. On Thursday, Walmart followed Aetna’s lead, revealing it would be giving 500,000 associates a salary bump of at least $1.75 above the federal minimum wage.

While across-the-board wage increases such as these are unusual, other corporations are also expected to be more generous with pay this year. Among mid- and large-sized employers, the average increase in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up from 2.9% in 2014 and 2.8% in 2013, according to HR consulting firm Mercer.

You can help your chances of boosting your pay with these five tips:

1. Ask at the Right Time

Choosing the optimal time to approach your boss about a raise will significantly increase your chances of success. Stay on top of your own industry’s salary trends and consider whether your company and division are doing well enough to afford what you’re asking for. It’s also a good idea to ask for a raise a few months before performance reviews so that salaries aren’t already set.

Read more: How to Tell if Now Is a Good Time to Ask for a Raise

2. Know What Others are Getting

Before you ask for a raise, you’re going to need to know what kind of raise is reasonable. Check sites like PayScale.com and GlassDoor.com to get an idea of the industry standard for your position, then consult your colleagues to see what the story is internally. For women, that means making sure to check with your male mentors as well. As MONEY’s Margaret Magnarelli writes, female employees tend to be underpaid relative to their male counterparts, and often remain unfairly compensated because they compare salaries with female colleagues who are also underpaid. Gathering a broad cross section of salary data can help break through the ceiling.

Read more: The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

3. Be Able to Prove You’re Better than Average

The 3% average bump that Mercer projects isn’t bad, but being better than the norm can be very lucrative. In 2014, Mercer said the highest-performing employees received a 4.8% raise—more than 2 percentage points higher than the average for that year. How do you show you’re the best of the best? Gather a portfolio of past endorsements and ask satisfied clients to write testimonials. Then do your best to quantify your accomplishments so that your boss has the hard numbers as well.

Read more: 5 Ways to Get a Big Raise Now

4. Identify Your Added Value

Think about what you do that no one else at the office can do—either where you’ve particularly excelled or what highly marketable skill you bring to the table—and then frame your ask around this added value. Jim Hopkinson of SalaryTutor.com suggests framing your requests as follows: “Not only do I have [all the standard requirements that everyone else has] + but I also possess [the following unique traits that make me worth more money].”

Read more: The Secret Formula that Will Set You Apart in a Salary Negotiation

5. Just Ask!

As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss you 100% of the shots you don’t take. According to CareerBuilder, 56% of workers have never asked for a raise, which is a shame because 44% of those who did ask got the amount they asked for, and 31% still got some kind of salary boost. It might seem daunting to ask for more money with the economy still in recovery mode, but job openings are the highest they’ve been in a decade, almost three-quarters of employers say they’re worried about losing talented workers, and raises are gradually getting larger. Being assertive can be scary, but don’t let fear stand in the way of a bigger salary.

Read more: New Study Reveals the Odds You’ll Actually Get the Raise You Ask For

More from Money.com:

How to Balance Spending and Safety in Retirement

When to File an Auto Insurance Claim—and When Not To

4 Ways to Hit Your Money Goals

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Disagree With Your Boss and Still Get Ahead

The Boss mug on a desk
Getty Images

Disagreeing with your boss in the right way can benefit your organization as well as your career

The fear of disagreeing with authority is universal. It exists in life, and certainly in the regimented corporate workplace. While millennials are arguably more willing to express their opinions to a superior, most workers still remain shy – to the detriment of their career progress.

The fact is that it is not only possible to disagree with your boss without endangering your job, but the willingness to do so could put you on the fast track to professional success. What we tend to forget is that most managers benefit from having their employees provide constructive feedback and contribute original ideas. It can help the managers do their own job more effectively and easily.

The key lies in why and how that disagreement is communicated. Here are 5 tips that can help you navigate those waters successfully:

  1. Make sure you are disagreeing for the right reason. Too often, we disagree to compensate for our own lack of authority, without a good reason or an end goal in mind. That’s a serious mistake since it can compromise your professional credibility with your boss. It’s also just annoying. Disagreements that have a valid context and add real value, on the other hand, can be a big plus.
  2. Disagreeing is not about arguing but making an argument. Anyone who argues routinely with their boss is likely to be eventually fired. But a worker who frames her disagreement as a logical and thoughtful argument in favor of a better approach to a situation or a new idea will be heard gladly, and win serious points with the boss. Avoid attacking other people’s views or complaining and focus instead on making your own constructive points.
  3. Do your homework. Nothing irks a manager more than a worker who insists on sharing his opinion but hasn’t done the research to support and stress test his argument. It shows intellectual laziness on the part of the worker and fails to provide the manager with the tools to evaluate the input. Think about it. If you don’t do your homework, you are effectively forcing your boss to do it for you. Could that ever be a good idea?
  4. Be passionate but not emotional. Arguments are more convincing when they are delivered with passion. The listener needs to feel that you genuinely care about your suggestions, believe in your perspective, and are willing to take ownership of it. But that doesn’t need to involve an excess of emotion, which can make you look hysterical and your boss feel pressured. A clear, confident, and calm presentation will have the best impact.
  5. Speak in the same language as your boss. Some people are extremely data-driven whereas others are more intuitive. Knowing your boss’ personality will help you relate better and communicate your argument more effectively. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes. If you think in numbers, then a numerical argument might persuade you of a different viewpoint whereas a purely gut-based presentation will meet with instant skepticism.

To summarize, don’t be afraid to disagree with your boss. Alternative views and good ideas can benefit your organization as well as your own career. Just follow these guidelines to do it the right way.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.

MONEY Bankruptcy

Bankrupt RadioShack Wants to Reward Execs With Bonus Pay

RadioShack with clearance sign in window
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Why should CEOs make more when their companies fail?

For most Americans, the “failure” concept is scary precisely because it means taking a financial hit. For a few others, though, there tends to be a little more victory — or at least a lot less agony — in defeat. Even in the midst of what most of us would call epic failure, the top tiers of corporate managements often get paid handsomely despite failure.

Take RadioShack’s RADIOSHACK CORP. RSHCQ -0.12% bankruptcy for example. Despite being broke, the retailer is now angling to pay out several million to a handful of employees.

Just a little set aside

RadioShack, which finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection recently, has asked the bankruptcy court to allow it to allot $3 million for retention bonuses to give eight executives and 30 other employees financial incentive to stay on board.

It’s still unclear who exactly would qualify for the bonuses, which would range from $88,000-$650,000 for eight executives, with the additional $1 million set aside for 30 others who also landed in the “critical employee” bucket.

Meanwhile, though, many of the 27,500 RadioShack employees out there are likely worried about their jobs or have already been laid off. When it comes to regular old severance, RadioShack had already changed its policy in December so that former employees would no longer receive lump sums, but instead get payments in weekly or bi-weekly dribs and drabs until the full amount is reached.

Given the bankruptcy, that also means they’re just part of the huge crowd of entities to which RadioShack owes money — money they may or may not receive.

Looking up the (pay) record

RadioShack had already been using its scarce financial reserves to try to convince upper tier execs to stay long before this most recent setback.

Last year, the company agreed to pay Chief Executive Officer Joe Magnacca a $500,000 bonus to hang in there through next year; its rationale was “due consideration of the skills and talent deemed critical to the company’s business turnaround efforts currently under way, the difficult business environment, and the competition for skilled, talented employees.” Other executives were eligible for bonuses of $187,500 and $275,000 at the time.

Clearly, the incentives didn’t do much to help the struggling chain, which hasn’t reported a profit since the year ended December 2011. Things were bad enough without its own strategic missteps; the electronics landscape is super competitive, and it had to contend with a multitude of big-box stores like Best Buy BEST BUY BBY 2.79% , not to mention online powerhouse Amazon.com AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN 2.82% .

However, it’s pretty easy to say management’s strategy was lacking, too. Take last year’s bizarre decision to spend big bucks on a Super Bowl commercial. The retailer went on to report continued poor financial results and 1,100 store closures shortly thereafter.

It hasn’t been lost on RadioShack’s shareholders that some people have been making gains despite the retailer’s struggle to survive — and it wasn’t them.

Last August, the majority of RadioShack shareholders used their say-on-pay votes to express displeasure with overall CEO pay policies for the second year in a row. Only 43% voted in favor of the pay plan. In 2013, CEO Magnacca had received a base salary of $893,000, and a $1.3 million bonus, $1 million of which was a sign-on bonus.

The bankruptcy benefits club

Word of RadioShack’s request gave me a case of déjà vu. In 2011, Borders sought to pay out $8.3 million in bonuses as it plodded through bankruptcy and shut down stores in its efforts to put its financial house back in order. (As we all know, though, Borders ultimately couldn’t be saved.)

Digging deeper in my archive for related topics, I remembered that in 2012, The Wall Street Journal published an article called The CEO Bankruptcy Bonus, which revealed some disturbing data along these lines.

It teamed up with consulting firm Valeo Partners and studied CEO pay at 21 of the largest 100 companies that had gone through bankruptcy. Those CEOs together raked in $350 million when one takes into account base salary, bonuses, stock, and severance, and some enjoyed larger windfalls during bankruptcy protection than they had beforehand.

The median pay for the studied set of folks was $8.7 million, only a tad lower than the $9.1 million median pay for regular S&P 500 companies at the time. RadioShack’s case is grating, but it’s not without precedent.

Death of the meritocracy

The court will decide whether RadioShack can go forward with the bonuses at a hearing scheduled for March 4.

Regardless of RadioShack’s specific outcome, this situation highlights some questions about our own society’s view on merit, money, and the marketplace.

Why do so many default to a hard-edged “tough luck” attitude toward most Americans when things like mass layoffs go down, yet shrug or sometimes even defend CEOs and other high-ranking executives who make out like bandits even though their performance has been poor or even downright damaging?

Things like bonuses for bankruptcy and a more common insult to common sense, golden parachutes, represent perverse incentives.

It’s time to rethink who we see fit to reward, and why. The last thing a healthy marketplace needs is incentive to fail.

Check back at Fool.com for more of Alyce Lomax’s columns on environmental, social, and governance issues. Alyce Lomax has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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MONEY Aging

Pop Goes the Age Discrimination Bubble

senior man blowing bubble out of gum
Getty Images

Age discrimination charges have returned to pre-recession levels—another sign we're getting back to normal

The popular narrative holds that age discrimination is off the charts and employers can’t shed workers past 50 quickly enough. Yet age-related complaints filed with the federal government fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2014, and the percentage of cases found to be reasonable have been trending lower for two decades.

Certainly, there remains cause for concern. The 20,588 charges filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act are higher than in any year before the recession. But the number is down from 21,396 in 2013 and from a peak of 24,582 in 2008, according to new data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Meanwhile, the EEOC found reasonable cause in only 2.7% of the cases filed. That is up from 2.4% in 2013 but otherwise the lowest rate since at least 1997. Monetary awards hit a five-year low of $78 million.

Just about everyone past 50 knows someone who believes they were discriminated against in the workplace because of their age. In a 2012 survey, AARP found that 77% of Americans between 45 and 54 said employees face age discrimination. Clearly, in many cases older workers command higher wages. Organizations can cut costs and make room for younger workers by moving older workers out—even though doing so on the basis of age is against the law.

This helps explain the rise in age discrimination charges during and since the recession, when companies undertook vast reorganizations and laid off millions of workers to cut costs and adjust to the slow economy. Older workers who lost their job have had a difficult time finding employment, further driving them to seek relief wherever possible.

Now age-related charges in the workplace are roughly at pre-recession levels. Charges ranged between 16,008 and 19,124 from 2000 through 2007. Returning to near this level is the latest sign—along with more jobs and rising wages—that the economy is getting back to normal.

Age discrimination is a serious issue. It is more difficult to prove than discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or disability. It also takes a heavier toll than other forms of discrimination on the health of victims, research shows. Boomers who want to stay at work typically need the income or the health insurance that comes with full-time employment. Turning them away places a greater burden on public resources.

Meanwhile, older workers have a lot to offer, including institutional knowledge, experience, and reliability. Some forward-thinking organizations including the National Institutes of Health, Stanley Consultants, and Michelin North America, among many others, embrace a seasoned workforce and have programs designed to attract and keep workers past 50.

None of this is to say age discrimination is no longer a problem. One alarming aspect of the EEOC state data is that warm climates popular with older people have a high rate of age-discrimination complaints. No state had a higher percentage of EEOC age-related complaints last year than Texas (9.2%). Florida had 8.5% of all cases and Arizona had 3%.

Federal officials note that the government shutdown last year contributed to a falloff in cases filed. So official complaints may be understated last year. And an overwhelming number of age-related sleights at the office never get reported. Still, the bubble in recession-related age discrimination cases appears to have been popped. That’s a start.

MONEY Startups

3 Reasons to Take Your Startup in a New Direction

150213_CAR_PivotStartup
Robert A. Di Ieso

Many successful companies changed up their business plans early on. Here's when you should too.

Podcast platform Odeo turned into Twitter. Check-in app Burbn switched its focus to photo sharing and became Instagram. Does your startup need a change in direction to succeed? Here are three signs it’s time to revamp:

1. Customers Are Telling You

Is your target buyer consistently asking for something you don’t offer? “Customers exist because you make them better off,” says Gary Gebhardt, an associate professor of marketing at Canadian business school HEC Montréal. Listen to them.

2. Your Idea Isn’t Sticking

Do you have a hard time holding on to business? Go beyond focus groups and surveys. People often misrepresent their behavior. Instead, says Gebhardt, observe your customers going about their day. “When you see how people do things, you see how you can create a solution,” he says.

3. The Competition is Winning

Look at why people are favoring your rival’s product. But don’t panic pivot, says Steve Blank, co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual. “A pivot requires substantial evidence that your original hypotheses for your business were incorrect.”

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