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Opinion: Tips for salary negotiation for women


By Katherine Harrington | Director of Innovation, Business Publications Corp.

When was the last time you negotiated a salary or raise? It’s a fact: Women are viewed differently than men at the negotiation table. Gender bias enters the room as soon as you do.

According to the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the average college-educated woman earns $713,000 less over the course of her working life than her male counterpart. A Society for Human Resource Management study highlights that in 2018, 68% of men and 45% of women negotiated their salaries. And why is that?

I recently moderated a panel for the West Des Moines Chamber and learned so much from expert panelists including Rowena Crosbie, president and CEO at Tero International; Siobhan Harman, real estate development manager at Kum & Go; Rosemary Parson, senior vice president at EquiTrust; and Therese Wielage, vice president marketing at Merchants Bonding.

There is a double standard when it comes to salary negotiation. As Sheryl Sandburg discusses in her book “Lean In,” “adhering to biased rules and expectations is still the clearest path to advancement for most women for the time being.”

Below are some tools and resources to equip you with knowledge to help you close the deal on your next job or salary negotiation. And guess what  these same principles apply if you are negotiating for a new car or your next vacation.

  1. Do your homework. Research compensation for your position and industry and see if what you are getting paid is in line with others in your industry. Arm yourself with information. A great resource is Payscale.com.
  2. Understand how others perceive you. What is your communication style? How do you come off? Here is a great exercise to find out from Harvard Business Review.
  3. Gender bias and the “backlash effect”: A McKinsey & Co. 2016 survey of more than 30,000 employees found that women who negotiated for promotions were 30% more likely than men to be labelled intimidating, bossy or aggressive. You can overcome this by positioning yourself as helping the team, company and organization. Harvard Law School has many resources to help.
  4. Think personally, act communally. During the negotiation, use “we” versus “I” in the conversation. Position the discussion as good for the organization and team. Sheryl Sandburg’s book “Lean In” is a must-read.
  5. Highlight your successes with data. Provide concrete examples of how you are moving the organization forward with specific company goals.
  6. Focus on power and status. Studies show that when women think of specific examples where they felt powerful and successful before going into the salary negotiation conversation, they perform better during the discussion. Click here for more information regarding this research.
  7. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Don’t wing it. Practice the negotiation conversation verbally and role-play with friends and family so you know what you are going to say and you are prepared for anything.
  8. Nonverbal cues are just as important as verbal. Fifty-five percent of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Here are 10 great tips to consider.
  9. Soft skills are key. Eighty-five percent of career success depends on soft skills. It all matters. Read “Your Invisible Toolbox” to gain an edge.
  10. Know your BATNA. Understand what the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is. Stay open and review options for your next career move.
  11. Look at the entire picture. Salary is just one topic to discuss. Think of additional negotiation details such as PTO, VTO, flexible work schedule, day care reimbursement and more. Here are 33 things you can negotiate.
  12. Look to the future. If you don’t get the raise you were hoping for, ask for specific goals that you need to accomplish to help take you to the next level at your company.

How can your organization also help to close the gender pay gap? Leanin.org is filled with many ways you can be a part of the solution. As Sheryl Sandberg writes, “It’s indisputable that there’s a real pay gap. People can argue about how big, but that’s almost beside the point. Every woman, every girl, deserves to get paid what they’re worth.”

Katherine Harrington is director of innovation at the Business Record and has a vast career in leadership, sales and marketing. She has held management roles with organizations including Zenith Data Systems, Crain’s Chicago Business, San Diego Business Journal, and her own media startup, The T Sector San Diego. She has led nonprofits including president of the board for Ballet Des Moines, board chair of the South Central Region of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and more. Katherine and Craig Walter host the BackYardBash community event and they are especially proud of the young leaders in their family, Allie, Nick and Kaitlyn. You can learn more about Katherine on her Linkedin profile or at www.katherineharrington.net.

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