*This is a preview segment from my upcoming book “Tales from the Trance”. In light of the ridiculous and infuriating FIFA scandal about the female soccer players who won the world cup making 25% of their male counterparts I felt sharing this one early was important.
The names and identifying details have been changed.
I often work with couples on similar yet separate issues. Usually it’s the wife who comes in first for some problem, and after she discovers that therapeutic hypnosis is both effective and not some kind of voodoo, the husband comes in regarding the situation from his viewpoint.
This case was no exception. I had seen Pia a week earlier for confidence and stress-related issues, and a week later, her husband Sadar came in for his own difficulties with anxiety. Pia and Sadar were both programmers who had met at college. Though both Indian, Pia had been born in this country, whereas her husband had grown up in India and had only been in the United States for about ten years.
I asked Sadar to explain what he thought was causing his anxiety, and I got an unusual answer. “Frankly, I can’t seem to get past the resentment I have towards my employer and my bosses. You see, my wife and I started at the company on the same day, went to the same college, got the same degree, and have the same job, but I make more money than she does…a lot more. She gets what I think you in this country call ‘lady bucks.’” Under other circumstances, I would have laughed at his reference to a very funny, yet sadly true, segment done on the “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” show on HBO the week earlier, where John Oliver referred to the 76 cents that women get for every dollar a man gets, as “Lady Bucks.” However, Sadar was not smiling, and it isn’t funny when it’s happening for real, right in front of you.
“Out of curiosity,” I asked him, “how much of a difference are we talking about here? The equivalent of a new car? Is it actually 76% of what you make?”
He replied, “I don’t think about it in terms of a car because that’s not what we would buy. More like a year of college at UCSD [around $26,000]. That’s how much my family is being robbed by our employer, and I am mad. Don’t get me wrong…our children will go to college, even if that means my wife and I have to work four jobs each, but it really isn’t fair, and I am having a hard time not being resentful.”
I had heard this same story told many times by very angry women in relation to their male coworkers, but I had never actually heard a man complain about it. Certainly, I had never encountered a man who saw the bigger picture of his whole family being cheated by this injustice. Sadar went on, “You in this country talk about freedom and fairness and justice, but yet you allow this kind of practice to happen in almost every company in every part of the country, and I don’t see anyone protesting it. People aren’t marching in the streets over this issue. Why is that?”
I found this question difficult to answer, and it bothered me for many reasons, the greatest of which was that Sadar was pointing out an unfortunate truth. “Sadar, I hate to say this, but as women, we have become used to it, to some extent. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make us angry, and that we won’t complain about it when it is right in our face, but no one wants to take on that kind of ongoing fight. Also, the truth is, it usually doesn’t go well for those who do fight it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protest, but that is one reason we don’t.”
Sadar told me that my answer was the reason he and his wife, who actually had a pretty good legal case against their company, had decided not to battle them. “They could easily come up with some reason why she doesn’t make as much as me, and our lawyer said it would be a really hard case to prove.”
During our hypnotherapy session, we did some work on anxiety and letting go of anger. Sadar was smiling and seemed to be feeling better when he left my office.
Now, though, I was angry! Sadar’s story had triggered my frustration with every employer I’d had where I knew I was being robbed of that 25% as well as promotions I deserved, but which had been given to my male counterparts instead. Then, of course, my anger surfaced about an obscene phone call I had received earlier that day, during which I asked a prospective client when he would like to come in, and he told me what he would like to come in. At the time, I had laughed it off, but now I wondered if, as people on this planet, we were laughing off too many things. Why weren’t more women upset about this disparity in equal pay for equal work? Why should a family with two incomes lose nearly 25% of one provider’s salary? And why weren’t more men upset about this as well? In our supposedly progressive country, why should this happen even once at a company, with no consequences?
Oddly enough, two weeks later I got an email from Sadar about a different and interesting side effect of making less money. It turned out that after I had seen him, the company had a big layoff. No one could figure out how they decided who stayed and who was laid off, but it looked like the accounting department had just gone down the employee list, taken a look at the salaries, and gotten rid of the highest-paid personnel. Thus, Sadar was let go, and Pia kept her job. To be fair, it could be argued that Sadar’s resentful attitude had factored into their choice. Fortunately for Sadar, he was able to get a better job for a higher salary at a neighboring company.
As a result of my work with Pia and Sadar, I had to ask myself why Sadar, a first generation American male, had actually been more upset about unequal treatment of women than I had been. It brought to mind how women in general are socialized not to make waves. Also, I realized how easy it is to ignore something just because you see it all the time, even if that thing is immoral and harmful. As a result, I raised my rates the very next week—not by a lot, mind you, but I certainly didn’t want to be the one denying myself a fair salary. I didn’t get one single complaint, which made me think I should’ve done it much sooner!