Have you asked for it?

31 Aug 2018

By Ko Un ‘Clara’ Park

When I was a trainee, my co-trainee was getting her manuscript finalized for submission, “It says the submission fee is $60.”  Sure, sixty dollars isn’t a lot of money but to a trainee on a budget who wasn’t guaranteed reimbursement, it was a lot. I asked, “well have you asked your mentor to help pay for it?”

To which the response was, “No.. I just feel weird asking for something like that.”

The research mentor has funds to pay for activities related to research including cost of publication. She knew this but because the mentor didn’t initially offer to pay, she felt uncomfortable asking.

While in training, I had a great opportunity to hear one of the authors of the book “Women Don’t Ask” speak at a symposium. The financial repercussions of not negotiating were staggering. What was more eye opening to me were the missed opportunities because women didn’t ask for them. Leadership roles, a raise, promotions, or lead on a project – women tend to think ‘if I deserve it, then those who see the hard work I put in will offer it to me’.

The fundamental reasons why women don’t ask are complex and deeply rooted in our culture. (So really, it’s not just me who feels uncomfortable asking) The authors of the book point out that men were ‘offered’ higher salaries or more opportunities sometimes because they asked for them and their female counterparts did not.

I couldn’t believe it. Was it really as simple as that? I just needed to get over the uncomfortable feeling or preconceived notion that asking equals demanding and ask for it?! I set out on a personal social experiment. Every time I thought ‘I hope they offer me that’, I ignored the rising heart rate, simply took the initiative and asked for it (luckily the sequel to the book “Ask for it”, had some nice wording I could use).

A poster for a conference – I was wondering as my research mentor if you had funds to help cover the cost of the poster?

A committee I wanted to join – I am interested in joining this committee, is it possible for me to join?

Funding to attend a conference – I think it would be a highly valuable experience for me to attend this meeting and was wondering if there are any funding to help me attend?

Sure, it doesn’t always work and it needs to be something within reason (recently I asked if I could get my flight upgraded to first class for free – it didn’t work). What was most reassuring for me was knowing that there were no negative repercussions to asking. Also, with practice, the entire process of asking became more natural and less forced.

Regarding that submission fee, my co-trainee reported the next week that her mentor would be paying for it. Her mentor said it wasn’t even a big issue and my co-trainee was so glad she asked.

So, have you asked for it?

Dr. Ko Un ‘Clara’ Park (@KClaraPark) is a breast surgical oncologist at The Ohio State University.





Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *