Kate is a 48-year-old mother of two. She’s worked for her employer for 10 years. She works long hours and gets great results. She’s loyal and well liked. She’s also underpaid — and she knows it. She’s been aware of it for years and done nothing about it. She’s afraid that by asking for a raise, she’ll offend her employer, who has become a friend. But she knows she’s selling herself short and that it’s hurting her and her family.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because many of us share Kate’s struggle to have our value recognized in the workplace. The biggest challenge facing working women is not seeing our own worth but negotiating effectively for it. This is actually great news for women, though, because we’re better at negotiation than we’ve been led to believe.
Women negotiate successfully every day in 100 different ways. Maybe you negotiated with your partner about who was going to take your child to football practice or with your teenager about cleaning her room or with your boss to leave work early. All of those conversations were negotiations. And some of them might have even been successful!
Women have everything it takes to be effective negotiators, but we haven’t been using our talents. A meager 7 percent of us attempt to negotiate our salary compared to 57 percent of men. We ask for, on average, 30 percent — or $7,000 — less than men. This has real consequences. We’re not asking for what we’re worth, which only exacerbates the gender pay gap. Women in Missouri are paid 78 cents for $1 paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $9,281 between men and women who work full time. It’s time to turn this around, friends.
Women excel in the workplace because of many distinguishing talents. Several of these talents make us uniquely qualified to be good negotiators:
No. 1: Women are relational. We create close relationships by talking, and that’s what negotiation is. Maybe you’ve been afraid to jeopardize your workplace relationships by asking for more money or opportunities, but your rapport with your co-workers will enable you to negotiate successfully for the compensation you deserve.
No. 2: Women are caretakers. We are aware of others’ needs and work to meet them. In a negotiation, you need to be able to see and acknowledge the other party’s needs. You’ve got that part down. Now, identify what you need from the negotiation, and advocate for it as forcefully as you do the needs of others.
No. 3: Women are collaborative. Studies show we see common goals where men often see conflicting goals. Remember, negotiation isn’t a battle. When women see negotiations as shared problems to be collaboratively solved, we get better results. If you know your boss will say she can’t afford to give you a raise, brainstorm ways your organization can cut costs or raise revenue to make it possible.
I know negotiating for yourself is hard. Like many of you, I am more comfortable advocating for others than I am for myself; it’s why I became a trial lawyer and why I’m now a coach. But I’m working to change that for myself — and for all of us.
When we speak up to negotiate our worth, we transform our self-esteem, regardless of the outcome for our bank accounts and careers. We do right by our families, who depend on our salaries. We model empowerment for our daughters and all the girls who look to us to learn how to use their voices on their own behalf. We all benefit when we each take that first step – together. So let’s get moving!
- Get the facts. The old adage “knowledge is power” is true in negotiations, especially for women. When women get the facts about what they’re worth, they are better able to negotiate for themselves. So what are you waiting for? Go find out using salary.com, payscale.com and guidestar.com.
- Know what you want. Once you’ve researched what you’re worth, decide what you want to ask for. Promotion? Change in compensation regarding salary? Flex time? Professional development? Factor in your accomplishments and how difficult it would be for your employer to replace you. Identify the goal of your negotiations as well as what you’ll do if you don’t get what you ask for.
- Try a family-friendly frame. Empower yourself by framing your negotiation around what your family needs. As you gather the courage to ask, think about doing it for your child’s college fund or to enable the next family vacation.
- Practice, practice, practice. It takes more than summoning your courage to get great negotiation results. Effective negotiation requires building your skills, and that takes time and practice. Before you go for the big ask, practice on smaller negotiations.
Carolyn’s challenge: Carolyn and New Chapter Coaching are working to close the gender pay gap! In October, Carolyn will provide a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to any woman looking to approach her employer for a raise. Join her, and take the challenge by contacting her at [email protected] and referencing this column.