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The Problem of Gatekeeping Techniques for Young Adults in the Workplace

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At some point at the beginning of a blossoming career, young adults will most likely encounter at least one supervisor or higher-up who will take advantage of the assumed naivety of a young professional. This happens more to young women or femme folks, especially when racial, gender or other power dynamics are within the workspace.

There seems to be an assumption that when you’re starting your career, any upward mobility is good for you, even if it is not as much as you deserve. 

I know this because a supervisor of mine once told me that any publication with my name, regardless of position, would be good for me “at this stage of [my] career” — all of this so that he could sign his name as the first author.

I was the youngest on the team and the only Latina. I had already earned my Bachelor of Arts, but two other coworkers were on the team with PhDs. I had the idea to write a literature review, collaborated on it with them, and wrote most of it; yet, it was so easy for my male Ph.D. coworkers to completely overlook my contributions because of how early I was in my career. They continuously stated how their names would hold more weight than mine, even though this piece was the product of my love and labor. 

Although I was early in my career (this was my first full-time, salaried position), I knew that I was an excellent writer and had much research experience under my belt, so I stood my ground and finally got my article published with me as the first author (rightly so!). 

That moment felt euphoric, but it also made me reflect on all of the energy it took for me to ask for what I deserved. The onus was on me to force my work to be visible instead of my coworkers understanding that I was rightfully deserving of my place as first author. 

This is the reality for many young adults working in spaces that often take advantage of their work, time, and craft. 

This is a given, but it seems like folks in leadership need to hear: all professionals, regardless of age, should be recognized for their work and compensated fairly! 

Not being transparent about salaries, not having benefits clearly stated, overworking your employees, and not having clear instructions on salary negotiations are all gatekeeping techniques to keep folks from asking for raises, being promoted, or asking for the benefits they deserve.

To the young adults who may be realizing that they are in toxic workplaces, know that systems have been implemented to keep you from having fair, equitable, and deserving pay wages. 

If you’re doubting whether or not to negotiate a job offer, whether or not to ask for a raise in compensation, or whether or not you should ask for the time off you have already earned, do it. Ask for better wages, take your vacation or sick time, don’t answer emails on your days off, and make healthy boundaries.

Don’t be afraid to say something if you feel safe enough to bring up a concern with your supervisors. You are much more capable than others think, and it’s time that you get the compensation and recognition you work so hard for.

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