Women Just Don't Negotiate: Here's why that's a problem
Date: June 29th 2020
Most women get nervous about the prospect of negotiating. In fact, far fewer of them will attempt to negotiate pay, time off, or better working conditions across the board when compared with male counterparts.
Research shows that as many as 20% of women won’t negotiate at all- when they are presented with an offer for a position, a promotion, or a different role, one in five is likely to accept that offer as is.
The Scope of the Negotiation ProblemWomen’s negotiating habits often pick up as soon as they graduate from their education. This begins a problematic cycle where women never negotiate their first paycheck and then are falling further and further behind as they advance in their careers. The average loss of paycheck from a first position is $7,000 for a woman who doesn’t negotiate at all, according to research shared in the Harvard Business Review.
Over the course of a 45-year career, all those missed opportunities really add up. To the tune of $1 million. And that doesn’t take into account company retirement contributions, either, that are based on salary.
Given that women often live longer and take more time out of the workplace for childcare or aging parent care, women are often behind the curve when it comes to saving for retirement to begin with and could, therefore, benefit from all that extra money.
What is the Social Cost of Negotiating?
There’s an obvious financial benefit to negotiating, but more studies have spent time diving into the why behind women’s lack of negotiation comfort recently. While some might initially think it’s a lack of confidence underpinning the trends, it’s also due to the perception of what it means for an employee to negotiate, which is then compounded by one’s gender.
For example, one study looked at how employers perceived those workers who did negotiate with them. The social cost of negotiating, defined as potential negative perceptions as a result of the willingness to negotiate at all, were not significant for men, but were significant for women. Women have a reasonable fear that even opening the conversation around negotiation could be dangerous for them. This can stunt their career growth and ability to command higher pay or earn promotions, too.
How to Negotiate More Confidently
Negotiation is a process. The more that women can approach it in this way and know what to expect at different stages, the more likely they’ll be to navigate the entire process more confidently.
Do your research first. Coming in with numbers and reasons for the negotiation will amplify your case and highlight why the company should consider this request. Check out other websites with salaries and even some sample job openings for roles similar to yours. This will provide you with some basic information about where you should be with regard to your pay so that you can speak with conviction when making your request.
The next phase of negotiation starts with knowing that the other party is not obligated to say “yes” to the first request made on your end. In fact, there’s a good chance they might say no. Knowing this before you open with your offer means that you know where you’ll need to hit in the initial request to allow for some room to adjust down. What this means is that no woman should enter a negotiation with a modest or meager offer that is likely to be adjusted down based on the other side’s response.
Open the conversation with the party on the other side of the table with a realistic reason as to why you’re negotiating. Where possible, based on this measurable data or direct explanations of how much your role has changed and grown since you started in that position. You might even make a comment that hints that your ability to negotiate will be meaningful for you in your role, such as when you hire or manage others or have to work out deals for your company with vendors. The important thing to note here is that you can explain negotiation skills as a benefit for you to flip the concept of the social cost on its head.
This is known as relational negotiating. By making it clear that you’re already a part of or will become a part of a team where you’ll go to bat for the company’s interest the same way you did your own can help to diffuse some of the tension around negotiating. Studies have also shown that women who use relational negotiation in this way are more likely to get their request, too. A win-win.
At SheSyndicate, we have a mission to tackle the most pressing economic empowerment issues for women. Negotiation is one of them. Interested in becoming a member of one of our working groups to contribute your own ideas and projects about economic empowerment for women? Contact us today.