A coachee of mine has had a tough time wrangling for a pay rise as she steps into a new, bigger role. Over in drama land I watched with awe as Neve Campbell directly told her client/boss, the First Lady of the USA, Claire Underwood (played with poise by Robin Wright) that she wanted to talk pay. Neve Campbell plays Leann Harvey, campaign manager come strategy advisor to the First Lady, a woman who has a spectacularly warped marriage and is now driving forward with her own political ambitions against the President’s wishes (Frank Underwood played by Kevin Spacey). Here it is:


I love the quick, easy and straightforward request Neve/Leann makes for a conversation about pay. I love the driven, confident and certain statement Robin/Claire makes about thinking bigger. I love the display of female collaboration, both women believing that by working together they’ll achieve more and more quickly than without the other.

What does it inspire for you as a business owner, a partner, a woman in a male-dominated industry, an employee in an uninspiring workplace, a family member, a woman who never thought she’d be in the situation she’s in now?

Let me say a bit more about each of those.


I’m used to negotiating fees and have become fairly comfortable doing it, but even so, I did an air punch and virtual high five with Neave when she delivered her pay line. It was as easy and simple as saying “I’d like us to set up a meeting.” She didn’t ask “Can we talk about my remuneration?” she said “We need to talk seriously about my compensation.” Statement. Fact. Not a question seeking permission. Let’s heed that one. So next time pay needs discussing I suggest that’s your opening gambit. Let it hang, sit with the silence and let your line manager start talking. If you’d like help preparing to ask for a pay rise, do check out advice from the excellent career and management resource, Mind Tools and the Talented Ladies Club.

Claire Underwood

Putting aside Claire Underwood’s conniving, manipulation and self-interestedness there’s much to admire about her. She’s packed with self-belief and determination, retains a cool head when all around folk are losing theirs and has an astonishing ability to remain composed when she’s wrong-footed.  Watching Claire in action often makes me go gooey (a ‘girl crush’?) and it’s watching that clip back a few times that I stopped to reflect. We’ve all got it within our gift to conduct ourselves just about any which way we want to. I need to stop salivating and see myself as my own script writer! We can borrow and model any qualities we admire in others be they colleagues, parents in the playground or the woman who lives down the road. I know it’d be grand to have the House of Cards script writers feeding us lines at work from time to time but I’m convinced we all have far more ability than we know. Just imagine you were writing a script for a colleague you believe should have more power/clout/success than she currently does and gift it back to yourself. “We need to think bigger.” Oh yes Claire, we do.

Partnering and pushing others on

Last week a senior bod replied to a tweet re men banging the drum for women (see http://talentkeepers.co.uk/men-managers-conference-keynote/). My mouth puffed and my nails dug into my palms as I read her frustration:

“Hi Jessica. I read your article ahead of your CIPD speech with interest. While I agree men need to be part of the solution, women can also be part of the problem. Some won’t throw the ladder down. We have just 15% female board representation in my organisation (below our regional average of 17% and the national target of 25%). As the communications director, in the past 12 months I’ve had to announce five white, middle aged male board appointments (despairingly) as our female HR Director (who has broken the glass ceiling and bolted the trap door and thrown away the keys on her way up) refuses to believe we have a problem, has not hired or promoted a single woman to the Executive or Operational boards and has allowed all the above to happen “on her watch.” I believe it’s a duty of senior women to throw the ladder down first and foremost. I’d appreciate confidentiality. It’s hard enough being a senior woman in business! Many thanks (name).”

For the record this really pisses me off. But this being August I’m not going to dissect it, I’m going to offer you a drop of golden sun instead. On Tuesday morning my daughter (Artemis, age 7) asked me why I turned a BBC radio journalist down when she called to ask if I’d talk about mothers’ pay lagging far behind men’s on the drive time show. I told Artemis we’re still on holiday, it’s just you and me today, I don’t want to think about work, it ties us down to being back home…blah blah blah. From the back seat of the car: “Mummy! You should ring her back. You are good at talking on the radio. I don’t mind. You should do it. Are you going to?” I did. Thank you Artemis.

Anyone else want a bit more of this in the world?

We need to keep pushing each other on like Artemis did for me and partnering like Neve and Robin. We flourish when we help ourselves and other people in equal measure. No psychology research to back that up but I’d stake my reputation on it being true.

What will you do this week to push someone else on? And how will you push yourself on? Go on, make a public commitment to act or tell us about what you did, using the comment box below.

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