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Get What You Want: The Woman's Guide To Negotiation

23 Nov 2021 1:09 PM | Women of Martech Content (Administrator)

Shelley Zalis, Forbes Women |

The wage gap is real: On average, women make just 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, and the gap widens for minorities.

One contributing factor frequently given for the wage gap is that women are less likely than men to advocate for themselves: 31% of women say they’re uncomfortable negotiating their salary (compared to just 23% of men). There are systemic issues and other external factors that also play a big part in the wage gap.  Unconscious bias is often named as a culprit, but I think it’s more the result of conscious bias and stereotypes.

While I don’t believe that the responsibility should be on women to close the wage gap—I believe that is the company’s responsibility—I do believe that learning to be a better negotiator can greatly benefit us all. After all, if you don’t ask for you what you want, you most likely won’t get it.

I didn’t think about the wage gap when I was rising the ranks, because I was working in a man’s world. I’m probably owed a lot of money today! Later in my career when I was joining a new company, the hiring manager asked me for my salary requirements. I said I expected to get the same compensation as others at my level. She gave me the best of everyone’s package in terms of salary, equity and vacation because I held her accountable. Ask your company to pay you what others are paid at your level.

Here are some key things to remember about negotiating, along with tips to help you ask for—and increase your odds of getting—what you want:

Do the math. Even small raises make a big difference over the course of your lifetime. “Imagine two people are given a job offer of $50,000, which is close to the average for a new college graduate,” said Megan Karsh, who teaches negotiation at Stanford Law School. “One negotiates an initial $5,000 bump and a 5% raise every three years, but the other accepts the offer and a company-standard 1% pay increase each year without negotiating. After a 45-year career, the difference in their lifetime earnings is $1,062,739.19.”

Have an equality mindset. 

So what’s holding us back from asking for what we deserve? "Women may be conditioned to be accommodating and likable at the cost of advocating for themselves, and may fear the backlash they see assertive women suffer,” said Karsh. “This can lead to misbeliefs about their right to ask for promotions and raises, and a tendency to work harder for less."

While studies have long backed this up, some new research from Australia finds that women may now be asking for raises as often as men, but are less likely to get them. This further suggests that women who are trying to advocate for their own advancement may be received differently than their male counterparts.

“I’ve tried to think about [the backlash] more broadly, that women are told in so many ways to be smaller, take up less space, deprive themselves. Don’t eat this, don’t take credit for that, don’t cause a scene no matter how uncomfortable someone else made you,” said Karsh. “We’ve linked it to how women should act. What are your internal narratives about size and taking up space, and what do you metaphorically tell yourself about what you have a right to?”

Karsh says that she sees the wage gap taking an emotional toll on many of the women she works with, and it spills over into other areas of their lives. The idea that working harder than others in the same job doesn’t necessarily translate into equal pay may be part of the reason many women ‘opt out.’ “We’re all geared towards equity, and, over time, you may give up if you feel a sense of unfairness,” said Karsh. (Even monkeys feel the emotional toll of pay inequality — watch this video to see one’s intense reaction to getting paid cucumbers instead of more-valued grapes for equal work.)

Intersectionality impacts negotiations.  

“As we know from the research, there are often salary gaps between women and underrepresented groups and their counterparts in the workplace,” said Lisa Coleman, SVP, Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation and Chief Diversity Officer at New York University. “These disparities are often exacerbated as one moves up through the senior ranks of an organization. As a result, women and members of underrepresented groups have to be aware of how to negotiate strategically from the very beginning of their negotiation processes.”

Karsh agrees. “Negotiation stressors and challenges, such as tensions between assertiveness and gender biases and expectations, are often even greater for women of color.”

Be collaborative in your ask.

Have concrete data and reasons to show why you deserve to get what you’re asking for, and think about how you can frame it as a benefit to the company. “Factor potential gender biases—be it explicit or unconscious—into your preparation and approach,” says Karsh. “For example, women may be seen as needing to be collaborative and ‘nice.’ One way to overcome this is to be assertive in what you’re asking for, while putting it in terms of benefits to your team and the company.” Try saying,  ‘If I were offered a new leadership role, I could do X, Y and Z in terms of growth of the organization.’ This way you’re coming across as collaborative and community oriented, which—right or wrong—is more in line with traditional gender roles.”

Remember that you’re a natural-born negotiator.  “I hear women all the time saying they’re not good negotiators, but that is patently false,” said Karsh. A large part of negotiation is thinking about what the other side wants and how you can help fulfill it. “It’s about empathy and listening to others’ needs, which women tend to be good at,” said Karsh. “The muscle women need to flex is putting yourself in the equation, because many women find it easier to negotiate on behalf of others.”  It’s a skill you can improve with practice. For more insights, take this quick quiz to discover your negotiation IQ.

Compensation isn’t just about money. 

There are a lot of elements that constitute compensation, and it’s not just monetary (to which I say there are three parts: salary, equity and bonuses). Don’t just negotiate for salary, negotiate for what you need so that you stay. If you know your company and it’s not in their budget to give you a raise, you can also negotiate level, job responsibilities, etc.

“When teaching negotiation, I explain to women and others—who are often unaware—that they can negotiate other perks besides their salary,” said Coleman. “For example, what may be just as important to some people as salary is work-life balance—including more flexible hours, the ability to work off site, etc. The research suggests that this is often key for millennials and generation Z, as well as women in the messy middle who may not have the same resources as those in senior/executive roles.”

Ask for what you’re worth on behalf of women everywhere. 

“Not only do you have a right to ask for what you’re worth, you have a social responsibility,” says Karsh. “More financial power equals more political power that can change organizations—and change the game. I work with a lot of women who are very mission or community driven. They worry that asking for more is selfish. Asking to be compensated for the value you add is not selfish—you’re doing it on behalf of women, and it's the only way we are going to drive equality.”

You can talk about money and power and still be ‘nice.’ In general, women don’t like to talk about money and power. You’ll never get ahead if you don’t own your worth. Know your value and be your greatest champion. If you don’t feel like you’re worth it, no one else will.


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