Thursday, April 23, 2009

Negotiating Strategies for Women Leaders

On Wednesday, I attended an informal conversation led by UCLA Professor Amy Zegart on women salary negotiation strategies. Recent studies suggest that women are much more likely to negotiate on behalf of others than for themselves. Many women, like myself, feel hesitant about negotiating salaries for fear of being perceived as too pushy.

According to Women Don’t Ask, by not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary. Kathleen L. McGinn, a professor in the Negotiations, Organizations and Markets (NOM) group and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School, has studied the differences between men and women in salary negotiation techniques and claims that this may explain, at least partly, the gender salary gap.

Professor Zegart identified two main reasons why women don’t negotiate: 1) they compare themselves to other women and 2) they are fearful of being considered too aggressive. Women are much more likely to compare themselves to other women, a group that makes on average less money than men. Academic research attributes lower expectations amongst women to the entitlement effect. According to the research, if you bring men and women into a lab and say either one of two things: "Work until you think you've earned the $10 we just gave you," or "Work and then tell us how much you think you deserve," the women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay, and pay themselves less for comparable work. But if there's a standard [that men and women know], then this result goes away.

Professor Zegart answered questions about when to negotiate, what to say and how. Some of her great tips are:

• Don’t be afraid to wear your wedding ring to an interview. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

• Don’t talk about salaries in a first interview. Wait until you have an offer to begin negotiations.

• Do your research on the company and the industry to get a sense of what they would pay for your position.

• Don’t expect that female supervisors will have your back. Sometimes you have to fight for a deserving salary with female supervisors as much, or more, than with male supervisors.

• When you’re asked an “illegal question” (your marital status, when you expect to get pregnant, etc), you can use humor to change the subject.

• Don’t be afraid to talk with supervisors if you are accumulating more responsibilities than expected to discuss a salary change and/ or title change that appropriately reflects your workload.

• Learn how to say “no” when you have too much on your plate.

• It’s all in your tone. Asking for a raise or bonus doesn’t have to appear too aggressive if you talk in a polite but firm way.

• Keep a running list of all of your projects and duties in a position so you can always present the information should you need to defend your accomplishments in the office.

• Understand that you sometimes have to “manage” the managers by asking them for quarterly or biannual reviews. This provides a forum for you to articulate concerns and find out how you can improve on a regular basis.

• If you know that the company is facing severe budget cuts, ask if there are non-monetary (vacation, office with a door, etc) benefits that can be put on the table and/ or ask the company to increase your salary by 20% (or some other percentage) after 6 months, when the budgetary outlook is more promising.

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