Asking for a promotion, higher compensation or even partnership in an organization is a highly marketable skill. Negotiating is often viewed as a key leadership strategy. Yet it is a well-known fact that there is a huge gap in pay and representation between women and men in senior positions. There are a variety of factors that may contribute to this gap, but one potential answer is that women don't negotiate as hard, or as often, as men.
That’s not the whole story. The real question is: why don't women negotiate more? It isn't because of a predisposed preference for demure compliance. It's that women can be punished severely when they are perceived as being pushy and self-centered, while men are celebrated for the same hard-charging traits. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to be successful at negotiating and maintain your reputation.
Negotiating is an art form. It is a binary skill of asking for consideration and aligning value to your contribution. Here at Gild, we take to heart Michelle Obama’s words of advice to female negotiators and young women, “Know your worth and negotiate hard.” The following is a list of ways you can win the next time you approach the negotiating table.
Don’t assume it will just happen
In an ideal world, your boss would notice your accomplishments and immediately give you a raise (along with nap breaks, unlimited meals and snacks, and free fitness classes). But that is not how the real world works. Starting the conversation is key to getting what you want. However, research shows that 20 percent of women in the workplace have never negotiated their compensation agreements. There is complexity in the simplicity of this step. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Take the first step: Find your voice and walk up to the negotiating table.
Know the value of your contributions
Do the research and measure the comparable value for your professional level. As you grow and acquire new leadership skills, it is important to assess the value of your growth. With continuous upgrades to your skill set, don’t forget to increase your value. Learning never ends; therefore, your value will continue to grow.
Establish a strong network
Network with other women who have excelled in their career as a result of negotiating. Surround yourself with advocates and proven mentors in your corner and work together. Create mock scenarios based on their past experiences and role play. This level of accountability and practice will increase your confidence.
Consider the “communal” ask
It is a proven fact that women advocate much more strongly for others than themselves. Research also shows that simply stating you deserve something will backfire on women. Therefore, Sheryl Sandberg (begrudgingly) advises women to frame their requests to serve the greater good. Think along the lines of “This is important for my performance,” “This will make me a more effective team member…”
If at first you don’t succeed…
Before heading to the negotiating table, have a clear understanding that your request may be refused. If an agreement cannot be reached at the first meeting, leave the door open to future negotiations. Try to schedule a future meeting without the concern of appearing overly anxious. In fact, you will come across as though you sincerely believe that a deal can be worked out and you are willing to work to make that happen.
Women are an incredible asset to the work force and have numerous resources that continue to remain under-utilized. You can do your part to eliminate the stigma of asking. Take your seat at the head of the table and win at the art of negotiating by focusing on the long-term benefits of your contribution. Don’t be afraid to ask!
To learn more about how to be a successful leader read, “4 Skills Successful Leaders Have.”