Workplace worth

 Della Reese was a jazz and gospel singer, songwriter, actress, and ordained minister whose career spanned seven decades. [Photo: Kingkongphoto and]

BY KEISHA BELL | Visionary Brief

Imagine working on a job and learning that all of your co-workers are performing the same tasks as you are getting paid significantly more. Although everyone’s role is essential, without you, the show truly does not go on.

Meet Delloreese Patricia Early, also known as Della Reese. She was a singer, dancer and ordained minister. Born in 1931, Reese died in November 2007. Her career lasted seven decades.

Reese’s career started as a singer. She was discovered by the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Reese received Grammy nominations for three of her albums: Della (1960), Della Reese and Brilliance (1991), and My Soul Feels Better Right Now (1999).

Expanding her repertoire, she transitioned into acting. She appeared in several movies, miniseries and numerous guest television appearance roles. All of this led to the television role of “Tess” from the television show “Touched by an Angel.” There, she was a fan favorite. Many believed she was the reason for the show’s success.

“Touched by an Angel” premiered on September 21, 1994. It did not start off well and was soon canceled. After a huge letter-writing campaign, the show found new life. It was given another chance and quickly became a hit show for the next seven seasons.

In 1997, Reese threatened to leave the show because she discovered that she was making less money than her co-stars. In the end, CBS decided to raise her salary.

It takes courage to threaten to leave a job – especially one that you love — because you are being paid less than your co-workers for doing the same job. Reese, however, was prepared to do just that. The brave action she took illustrates that she knew her specific value to the job.

Have you positioned yourself in a unique way where your absence would be missed in the place where you are employed?

Have you heard it said that “everyone can be replaced” in workplaces? If this is true, what is not true is that everyone will be missed.

If you were to leave your job, would you be missed? That answer may lead you to understand your worth in the workplace.

Reese understood her value, so she knew she could challenge the documented practice that pays women, and more specifically women who are minorities, less than their counterparts. Unfortunately, this practice is all too common.

Reese demanded a pay increase. There was some pushback, but she got it.

Should she have had to demand it? Well, that is worth a workplace discussion.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant.

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