PHOTO CREDIT TO CLAIRE LORENZO
Claire Wasserman is pissed about the wage gap, and she’s doing something about it. With sassy hashtags (#f*ckthewagegap) and 3,000 members, her company Ladies Get Paid helps women advocate to get the pay and recognition they deserve. Wasserman recently shared her experience launching the company and the role mental health support played in empowering her to take action.
After a particularly unpleasant work event that she describes as a glorified frat party, a friend of Wasserman’s introduced her to the concept of the wage gap and they discussed the various forms of inequality women grapple with on a daily basis. Frustration, Wasserman says, can be the greatest motivator for a business, and that was precisely what prompted her to launch Ladies Get Paid.
With blog titles like, “Negotiation War Stories: Gather Your Ammo,” Wasserman uses a conversational and cheeky style. She says, “If you’re approaching something as dense and depressing as the wage gap, sexism and the lack of women in leadership, you have to bring humor to it. ” Using a playful but substantive approach attracts a like-minded audience and keeps Wasserman excited about the business.
It’s a business that wasn’t planned. When Wasserman hosted her first town hall (entitled Women and Money) in May of 2016, it showed her that women were interested in a space to have conversations about getting ahead, getting paid, and having their work taken seriously. She left the event certain that she wanted to do more of this work, but unsure of what that would look like.
In the years prior to launching Ladies Get Paid, friend after friend observed a pattern in which Wasserman would self-sabotage whenever she was close to turning a new idea from its beginning stages into a full-fledged business. It took her a while to seek out help.
After a year and a half of productive work with a therapist, she accepted that she needed something more. Initially, Wasserman was very apprehensive, thinking, “God no, I’d never do something chemical.” She laughs that she took “a million ginkgo pills” in an effort to treat her symptoms naturally. When she finally agreed to explore a prescription mood stabilizer, the results were rapid.
Six weeks after beginning her new prescription regimen, she says, “I got my shit together and quit my job [to start Ladies Get Paid].” She’s careful not to attribute the success of her company exclusively to medication, “It’s not like I took a pill and became a super woman, but from my own journey, getting on a freakin’ mood stabilizer helped me make my business.”
Fast-forward to the present, and that business – Ladies Get Paid – has hosted 19 events on topics ranging from negotiating and networking to business operations and mindfulness.
As the momentum builds for Ladies Get Paid, Wasserman sees more open conversation about mental health as integral to women’s professional success. She tells me, “The topic of mental health comes up quite a bit at town halls since for many of us, our careers form so much of our identities and self-worth, which in turn is tied to our mental health. ” Via candid conversations at town halls and a Slack messaging group where women recommend service providers, Wasserman strives to “normalize something that can make us feel so abnormal.”
Wasserman’s careful not to prescribe (her degree’s in sociology, not medicine), but she hopes that sharing her story will encourage other women to speak openly and feel more comfortable about exploring mental health options.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.