This year, Equal Pay Day falls on April 14th. We shouldn’t need such a day to exist as a reminder that everyone should be paid equally for equal work, regardless of gender or skin color. Unfortunately, this day does serve as a yearly reminder that women in our society effectively work for free for nearly two months out of the year. (Want to see if and how much our wage gap affects you? You can here.) Today, we as a nation hit a pause on our progress and optimism.

We have a few options for today. Let’s use this opportunity to be proactive and let it inspire us. There are many stories of women around the world who have had to learn how to ask for more in their careers. Today, let’s get you what you need so that you can make the changes in your life that you need.

Asking for things has never come naturally to me. When I was younger, I would never ask for the full amount of money when babysitting because it felt rude. Even as an adult in my first job, I didn’t negotiate my entrance package or a salary raise after a successful evaluation. I thought that, if I simply did my job well, success would come to me eventually. Unfortunately, I discovered three years into working for the company that I was being paid less than my male colleagues who had the same responsibility and role as me.

You won’t get what you deserve by waiting around – only by going out and fighting for it.

I went from the woman who didn’t ask for what she was entitled to, to a crusader raising millions of dollars for something I cared about. And you can do the same. The love I had for Levo and what we were creating surpassed any negative feelings or anxiety I had about speaking up. Don’t be like me–waiting until your sense of self-worth is based on something outside of yourself.

Think of asking like working out a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger it becomes. I started by practicing with small requests and eventually worked my way up to the Big Daunting Asks.

Here are some stories of women who have learned how to flex their asking muscle in the last year and have been immensely happier for it:

Asking for a Flexible Schedule

Carly McLeod, Pittsburgh: “I have a full time job, I’m the leader of Local Levo Pittsburgh, and I’m a part-time grad student working towards my MA in Mass Comm & Journalism and my MBA. All that plus making time to take care of myself and see my family, friends, and boyfriend. Over the past couple of months I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with everything on my plate, but with no desire to drop any of it. After putting a lot of thought into it, the solution I came up with was to shift to a four-day workweek at my job.”

“I did the necessary research to see how my health benefits and retirement plans would be affected, and I crunched the numbers to make sure my finances would be taken care of. Next, I came up with a list of pros and cons for both myself and my employer. Last, I met with my supervisor and shared the list with him, making sure to carefully highlight the pros for the company if I make this change.”

“I didn’t even get through my list and he approved the shift. There was a little bit of minor negotiation to do to tie up loose ends (What day of the week would I be out? Could that day shift if necessary? Could I come in if there’s an emergency? Will I monitor my email to a degree during this time off?) but all in all, it was a great discussion and could not have gone better. I used the strategies from Levo’s #Ask4More workshop in asking for more flexibility in my schedule and now I’m able to dedicate even more time to reaching my goals.”

Asking for a Raise

Maureen, Nashville: “I had been at my company two years without a raise. I had worked my way up and taken on quite a bit of responsibility. We are a startup, so budgets are always tight and we don’t have typical annual corporate reviews. Asking for a raise is pretty taboo because we are all working with slim budgets. Another company approached me trying to recruit me away from my current company.”

“I took the meeting as a chance to find out more about what they were offering and use that as leverage as well. I told the other company I wanted a 10% to 15% raise; they said sure. So with that knowledge, I put together a rundown of everything I was currently working on for my boss and what I had accomplished over the past two years. I planned a meeting with him at the end of the day and brought in everything and presented it. And then I said I would like a raise, plus a few more items I wanted. I used figures and statistics showing how much it would cost him to hire outside publicists for each project versus giving me a raise. I also let him know that other companies had been pursuing me and that I wasn’t keen on leaving, but I also wasn’t fond of not getting paid what I deserve. He took that information, told me he would talk to the CEO, and let me know a couple of (anxious) days later. I got a 12% raise and some of my other items of my “wish list.” My year in this position is coming up in May so I guess it is time to “ask for more” again.”

Asking for More Responsibility

Jessie Reyes, Miami: “I asked for more at work: more projects, more responsibilities, suggested different tasks that I could take on and it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I was at my first job as a Social Media Community Manager and was eager to learn and do as much as I possibly could. Instead of sitting back and waiting for opportunities to fall on my lap, I asked for them. I wasn’t asking for more money or a better title; I was just focused on asking for more work. I knew the title and the money would come eventually. A couple of years into that position, I was recruited by another company as a marketing manger; the better title and pay raise came sooner than I thought. When I was resigning from my community manager position they asked me to stay on as a consultant, which I accepted. Then one consultant job turned into several. From one day to the next my eagerness to work gave way to my own marketing consulting company.”

Asking for a Move

Chloe DuPont, France: “I am French and had been working in Paris in the Environmental Strategy sector for two years when I understood I would not be able to stay in Paris for much longer, since my partner was actually living in London. At the same time, I was so motivated by my work in Paris, which was offering me so many opportunities that I found myself in a bit of a dilemma: either go on with the frequent Eurostar train to see my partner from time to time, but not build the personal life I wanted either, or quit the job I loved. After weeks of thinking and talking with friends, I decided that I would try to have both. So I began to negotiate with my company to be able to have the same job, but based in London.

“In the strict French HR environment, these kinds of moves are not usual and even less so for young professionals like me. I had to convince and negotiate with quite a number of people during almost a year to convince them about the benefits for the company of having me in London and to finally make this happen.

“I am now based in London with the person I love and able to perform in the job I am so passionate about at the same time. I have been there for one year now and things are going even better than expected. My company is now even duplicating this by allowing other young professionals like me to move to other cities for a better personal/work life integration.

“What I learned from this is that the first step of talking to my manager about what I needed to perform well at work, meaning being able to be surrounded by the people who were important for me, has been a scary, but an incredibly rewarding step to make. My manager has been my first sponsor in this project and does not regret the move.”

I hope Carly, Jessie, Chloe and Maureen have inspired you to join them on the training circuit and get your muscles into shape. Whenever you’re ready to get started, I have a personalized action plan just waiting for you here.

It’s time to do away with that space between the life you want and deserve and the one you have today.

This article was originally published on Fast Company.

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