Every time I see another story about women and negotiation I wonder if it isn't overkill. I've done several of these pieces myself. As the years go by and there's more and more coverage of how women are less apt to negotiate than men, and how they're judged when they do, I think, surely this topic is covered now - women and men know about this. We don't need to keep talking about it.
But we do.
Last week I attended a conference put on by the Negotiation Institute - its entire focus was women and negotiation. There was a vast, freezing hotel ballroom full of women keen to hear more. Then last night I watched a great panel discussion at CUNY Journalism School - it was about women, pay and parity in journalism. Again the topic of negotiation came up as a major reason why female journalists are paid less than their male counterparts. Each woman on the panel had experience herself of either a) asking for less than she could have or b) accepting an offer immediately instead of negotiating. They added that along with this negotiation gap comes a confidence gap. Men generally barrel in describing in robust terms how they'll attack the job. Women are much more self-deprecating, using the conditional tense, i.e. 'I think I could do it' - a far cry from the self-assured guy.
Confidence is a whole topic to itself, but it's part of what you may need to fake to negotiate. Women are often perceived differently (less positively) than men when they ask for more - especially if they push hard. But just because that's the case, it doesn't mean they shouldn't bother. I've said this before but if you buy a copy of Ask For It by Sara Laschever and Linda Babcock, it could change your life. Seriously. It's written for women but would be an excellent read for anyone who finds this tough.
One panelist talked about going for a huge job - the firm really wanted her - and she was asked what salary she required. She called her sister for advice, and the sister said she must ask for the same salary as the guy she was replacing. The candidate balked at that. How could she? He had so much more experience, years at the company, and so on. Her sister stuck to her guns: "Don't you dare undercut yourself - you'll be doing his job." She asked for his number and got it.
The panelists pointed out that while so many women think, "I can't ask for that - it's too much," the company may end up hiring a more expensive person because they think he or she is superior. We equate 'expensive' with 'good'.
That said, as Sara Laschever said when moderating, you need to aim high and ask for a number that makes you slightly nauseous but doesn't make you giggle. But whatever you ask for, argue for it in terms of what you bring to the table. Keep things focused on what you've achieved for the company.
And finally, they mentioned the importance of persistence. In their experience, women are far more likely than men to take 'no' as no. I am living proof of this - one rejection and I scurry off. Men are more inclined to take that initial rejection as just that, then try again.