Oprah Winfrey knows how important it is to be valued for your work. So when she worked her way up to a position of power, like all the best superheroes, she used her powers for good.
In her acceptance speech for the inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment Award, presented by Alicia Keys, at the Hollywood Reporter‘s luncheon in Los Angeles, she spoke about her journey to getting paid fairly–and then making sure others got their fair share, too.
“Back when I was doing the news in Baltimore, I asked to make the same [salary] as my co-anchor who was doing the same job I was doing–except he called me ‘babe’ the whole time,” she told the crowd.
Her bosses turned her down. “I realized at that moment that my employers didn’t get it; didn’t understand my value,” said Winfrey.
But Winfrey remembered that moment. A few years later, when her own talk show got nationally syndicated and she earned a raise, but her all-female team of producers did not, she decided to do something about it. She asked her male boss to give her team a raise, too, which seemed to shock him. “They’re only girls. What do they need more money for?” she recalled him saying.
Oprah had learned a few things over the years, though, and wasn’t going to accept that sexist response. “I took a deep breath in that moment. I said, ‘Either they’re gonna get raises, or I’m gonna sit down. I’m not gonna work if they don’t get paid more. Babe,'” she said on stage. Naturally, the women got their raises.
Oprah has gotten so good at negotiating that when her BFF Gayle King was negotiating her salary with CBS News, according to the Hollywood Reporter, she turned to Oprah for advice. “I said, ‘Get what you want. Get exactly what you want because now’s the time. And if you don’t get what you want, then make the next right move.'”
That’s good advice for everyone negotiating a raise.