Your gender shouldn’t have anything to do with how much you get paid. It also shouldn’t have anything to do with how much you’re able to negotiate for. However, we unfortunately live in a world where discrimination happens and that discrimination can even lead to long-term financial impact.
The gender pay gap shows that women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Additionally, transgender women earn 60 cents, and transgender men and non-binary folks earn 70 cents for every dollar a cisgender man earns, according to the Human Rights Campaign. These can lead to thousands and even millions of dollars less earned over the lifetime of their careers.
Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford, did an interesting analysis that shows that not negotiating is equivalent to working an additional 8 years. This shows that negotiating salary is absolutely important for not only your financial well-being, but also your professional success in your career trajectory.
Negotiations themselves can’t solve the gender pay gap and wealth gap in America, but they are still important. No matter your gender, you should have that skill in your back pocket ready to go at any time.
This is why we spoke with Kathryn Valentine, the CEO of Worthmore Strategies, a consulting firm focused on advancing women in the workplace, to dig into negotiating regardless of your gender.
- There are gender stereotypes that play into negotiations.
- A collaborative mindset combined with effective language during negotiations can increase your chances of success.
- It isn’t your fault that a company is discriminating against you in negotiations based on gender. It’s the company’s fault.
Is there a gender gap in salary negotiations?
No, there is actually not a gap between which gender negotiates more. That happens to be a myth. But there is a gap between how different genders are treated in certain situations due to gender stereotypes.
Kathryn dug into research from Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, on the topic that sheds some light into the progress of negotiations over time. “Back in the early 2000s, men were negotiating about 7 times as often as women. The good news is there has been a lot of media attention and education on that in the past 20 years and recent research by Lee and Kray showed that men and women are negotiating at equal rates, but women are only successful half as often.”
A big factor that holds people back from successful negotiations is the fear of backlash. “New research by Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at Harvard, shows that the risk of backlash is highest in gender non-congruent negotiations, for example, when men negotiate flexibility or women negotiate pay.” Fears of backlash can even lead to workers thinking that they could possibly lose a job offer by negotiating salary.
Knowing how to get around those fears, manage risks, and find strategies that work the best for you is key for a successful negotiation.
Strategies for a Successful Negotiation
Thanks to pay transparency laws spreading across the country, several companies now list salary ranges on job postings. These numbers can help immensely to set expectations when talking about pay.
Before diving into any negotiation, first determine what your market salary would be. Use our free Market Research Guide to help with that.
Once you have that number, determine the absolute lowest you’re willing to accept a job for and the highest you can go based on your market rate. This will help you determine an estimated salary range when negotiating.
During any negotiation, it’s important to know what you can and can’t negotiate for. Things like salary, signing bonus, and commissions are all acceptable things to negotiate for. Benefits like flexibility, remote work, additional training, retirement savings and even vacation days are all negotiable benefits.
When thinking of what you want to negotiate for, Kathryn recommends asking yourself what it is you truly want, “Ask yourself: what can I ask for that will help me be more successful? Less stressed? Happier?”. Once you know exactly what it is you want, ask for these relationally.
Examples of Effective Language
Kathryn gives a great example salary negotiation script for some effective language to use when negotiating, “For example, ‘As you know, last year I delivered 10% over my annual target. I think I can hit 15% this year, but to fully focus. I recently came across this benchmarking study and was surprised to see the average in my role is 10% higher than my current pay, even though I’m a top performer. How can we close that gap?’”.
Another strategy that Kathryn recommends is to approach negotiations with a collaborative mindset. “Instead of approaching a negotiation as me vs. you, go in with an ‘us vs. the problem’ mindset. The problem is anything that prevents you from delivering the highest impact at the lowest stress level. Those things are a problem for the employee and the employer.”
“Approaching the negotiation as something we can solve together increases chances of success and reduces the risk of backlash. For example, in a job offer negotiation you could say something like, ‘Given my background, I can deliver in this role. However, I do have another offer for a 20% higher salary. I've really enjoyed getting to know you and this company and I want to be here. Can you help me close that gap so I can join your team and start contributing here?’”
Things That Are Out of Your Control
As we know with every negotiation, there are things out of your control and toxicity in company culture that you should be aware of. If something doesn’t feel right to you during any negotiation, know when to walk away.
Kathryn shares what she would do in a situation where it isn’t a good fit. “We know that combative (or assertive) negotiations is a gender-stacked situation in which women are set up to fail because it triggers societal gender norms that result in backlash. So whenever I'm negotiating with someone who refuses to discuss these topics collaboratively, I get wary. Is this someone I really want to work with?”
I echo what Kathryn said but would add that transgender and gender nonconforming folks may feel this backlash as well.
It’s Not You, It’s Them.
Negotiating salary is one of the most important skills you need in your career, regardless of your gender. It’s always in your best interest to do so and if a company ever makes you feel like your gender is the problem in those negotiations, it’s not you – it’s them. Know when to walk away.
Kathryn Valentine is the CEO of Worthmore Strategies, a consulting firm focused on advancing women in the workplace. She has spoken at Harvard, Wharton, and Darden business schools, and her work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes and Business Insider. You can download her free list of 75 Things Women Can Negotiate.
That wraps it up for this week. Until then, stay awesome, stay strong, and keep advocating for yourself no matter what! I’m Daniella, a writer, engineer, and creator of I Like to Dabble and Remote Work Bestie - my blog and podcast for leveling up your money, career, and side hustles. I’m extremely passionate about workers' rights and financial freedom, so it’s a pleasure to be able to bring you this type of content through the Salary Transparent Street blog (thank you for the opportunity, Hannah!) You can also follow me on Instagram, TikTok, Linkedin, and Twitter. Chat soon!
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