I got a unpaid job offer at Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day

A few days ago, the 9th of November, it was Equal Pay Day. It’s a day to spread awareness about the gender pay gap, e.g. the fact that women earn a lot less than men do, for equivalent work. From this day, and the rest of the year, women basically “work for free” corresponding to males’ yearly income.

This was the same day I was offered part-time employment. It was at a Research Institute, with UX/Usability evaluation. It seemed perfect and I was really flattered they wanted my expertise. Then, they told me they wanted me to do it for free. Twenty hours a week, at least. This is the fourth time this year I get asked by a company to do unpaid work.


To get the offer of working for free

It’s a bizarre feeling when someone wants you to work for free. At first, it might feel nice to get a job offer — I fall for this every time — but after a while it becomes obvious that they don’t appreciate your expertise enough to actually pay you for it. Coming home, after a couple of hours I felt terrible and really disrespected.


Bad arguments used by companies

Some argue that working for free, or “doing internship” for free, is a good thing since it’s an easy way to get experience in the beginning of your career. I don’t agree. As soon as you are giving a company value you definitely should be payed for it. I have seen this tendency, especially within start-ups and companies within design or programming, of employers trying to convince young talented people lacking experience to work for free. They use arguments such as “if you just do this design task, then we can discuss future employment”, “this work will be perfect for your portfolio”, “you will learn so much” and “you get to work with great people” etc. Start-ups often label unpaid work as something very common and quite natural, see the quote below, it’s from an email I got today. Many startups, not being profitable, often supposedly “can’t” pay you, even though they would like to. Don’t be fooled by these kind of arguments.


“We can make an exception from the standard for part-time internships. The payment would be x …”


where x = ridiculously small amount

I have been asked several times to “design an easy landing page” or “make a re-design concept for this bit of our UI”. Several companies have basically asked me to work on their product for them, to see if I’m “good enough” (And yes, I do have an official portfolio with similar work). And this is before even starting discussing salary and employment. You wouldn’t ask an accountant to work for free to see if they did this year’s tax return good enough, and then maybe hire or maybe pay them. That would be ridiculous.


Think twice before saying yes

My point here is that you should really put some thought and research about salary before saying yes to these kind of offers. If a company wants you to work for them, that most likely means that you will bring some kind of value to that company. “Sample work” of a company’s landing page definitely give value, and potentially a lot.

I believe this is especially important to think of if you are a woman; if we are to ever close the salary gap, it’s important that we do not settle with less salary than we are qualified to. No matter your gender, or how young or inexperienced you are:

You are overqualified to work for free.

Helena Stening2 Comments