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No working woman should be afraid to stand up for her pay

When my then-military husband moved us from Germany to Oklahoma, I did what I did best: looked for a job. I’d held about two dozen jobs by that point; I worked all through high school, juggled two to three jobs during college and had a part-time job that I worked on Saturdays when I was off from my full-time job.

So I didn’t let it deter me when we moved and I didn’t have a job lined up. I figured I’d make someone give me a job. And I did. After cold calling him and finagling an interview, the managing editor of the local newspaper called me into his office and offered me a job. I didn’t mention pay. Neither did he.

More: 10 Reasons you can’t afford to stay out of the working family policy discussion

I got my first check three weeks later — I was making $10 an hour. And I had a master’s degree. Looking at that paycheck and the poster that listed the company’s insurance rates and costs, I thought to myself: “If I had to pay for insurance for myself, I’d have to live in my car.”

And just like I failed to mention pay when I got myself hired, I didn’t mention it through my entire stint there. I collected my check, I contemplated getting a second job. But I never ever considered asking for more money. I was scared, I guess. Maybe he’d question the decision to hire me. Did I really need the money? My husband’s job paid the bills. And plus, it’s my fault for not asking.

More: What President Obama wants all working moms to know

When SheKnows and BlogHer got the opportunity to moderate a town hall with President Barack Obama geared toward working women, I made sure to tune in — and not just because my company was part of it. And hearing women ask the same questions I had, women who said it was time to demand our voices be heard, time to demand equal pay, I had a virtual “slow clap” moment.

Since that job, I’ve held others. I’ve (tentatively) asked for more money during job offers, thinking as I did it, “A man would ask, so why shouldn’t I?”

During the town hall, 50 SheKnows Media influencers and community members asked that same question. And the fact is, we can no longer afford to be afraid to ask questions and demand answers about our paychecks. And neither can our families.

More: What to do when the women in your office are making less than the men

Watch those women discuss their own experiences and offer advice to other women in the video below.

The conversation is just starting. Join in with the hashtags #ObamaTownHall and #WomensLives. We want to hear your voice.

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