Propel Women Sophia   

Can I Ask For a Raise?

by Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis


Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here. 

I was thrilled when I saw the job advertisement for the Executive Director’s position  Prior to this posting, I had worked in church planting for twelve years as a new church strategist and coach.  I was pretty confident that the Lord was prompting me to apply for this new position yet I was nervous because a woman had never served as Director of this national team.  After praying about it and talking with my mentors I decided to apply. After all, the worst they could say to me was “no” . Yet I would prepare and make it as hard as I could for them to say “no” to me because I knew I was qualified and the right person to lead this team into the future.  A few weeks later I interviewed, was offered the position, and accepted. The salary was less than I thought I would receive, yet I was confident I could lead this team, manage the budget, and accomplish the goals that had been set before me. Why? Because like Esther, I had been called to the Kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:14)!

Equal Work for Unequal Pay

A year into my new job, I was going through the files and found the old salary information for the previous Executive Director.  I was shocked to find out the previous Director —an older, married male—was paid almost 20,000 more than my compensation. I was hurt and disappointed to know my Supervisor would allow such inequity to exist in our Christian organization.  What was I going to do? I was afraid. Addressing the problem could cost me my job, but it was also not fair to pay me less when I was doing the same work as my predecessor.  

What do we do as women in leadership when we discover inequalities and injustice exist in the workplace or in the church? Do we have the right to speak up and say, “No, I will not be unfairly compensated”?  Do we have the courage to speak up for what we deserve and risk the consequences if our voices are not heard or acknowledged?  

 Was I empowered to address this wrong and seek justice and equity?  A voice in my head wondered whether I should not just be satisfied with the status quo as a new woman executive. Maybe I shouldn’t rock the boat. My mentor (herself a woman in executive leadership at a local university) was the Mordecai in my situation.  She explained that “women don’t get what they deserve but what they negotiate”. She challenged me to be courageous and own my God given worth and value. She explained that if I didn’t stand up for myself, other women would be paid less than they deserve simply because systems think they can get away with it. This wasn’t just a me-issue. It was a justice issue for women across our organization.

Speaking Up for Myself. And For All Women.

I talked to my girlfriends in my prayer group and we prayed, fasted, and asked God to give me the courage to expose the inequality and ask to be compensated fairly.  The meeting was tense. Negotiating and asking to be paid fairly for my work and worth was new to me. I had to be willing to name the harm being done to myself and other employees within this organization.  There were biases in their hiring practices and salaries. With the support of my Mentor and prayer circle, God gave me wisdom and the courage. I initiated a conversation and asked like Esther. I felt the risk of it deeply: my career had an ax dangling over it. "If I perish, I perish," I thought (Esther 4:16) 

My request was favorably approved and I was compensated equally as my male colleagues for the work I contribute to our team.  I am created by God and I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Just like God invited Esther to be a part of changing the laws so the Jewish people were saved, I believe God invites us as women today to be strong and courageous and call out injustice when it exists.  We can work to create more just systems for all people who are treated unfairly.   

Gratitude is what I felt as I learned to use my God given voice to speak truth to power. Gratitude is what I experienced as I shared the news of my raise with my mentor, family, and my prayer circle.  Gratitude is what others expressed when the rules changed at the company and they stopped discriminating in pay for men and women who did the same job. We can make a difference as women as we stand up and speak up and celebrate who we are and the gifts God has given to us to share with the world for such a time as this.    


Rev. Dr. Candance Lewis

Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis is a sought after leader, speaker, teacher, and church planter, currently serving as District Superintendent of the Gulf Central District of the United Methodist Church. She is co-author of Resurgence: Navigating the Changing Ministry Landscape (Heritage: 2019).