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Negotiating For Women

This week's blog features a Q & A on the topic of negotiating for women.

Women face unique challenges when it comes to negotiating and it's an important topic that needs to be discussed more. Negotiating is a skill that we use all the time, and knowing how to do it effectively can help you make the most of opportunities that come your way. For example, negotiating for $10,000 more on your starting salary can lead to millions of dollars if you put that into your investment account.

Fotini - you were the first person I ever heard say that there was a gender aspect to negotiating. Why do women need to negotiate differently from men?

Frankly, they’re treated differently in negotiation than men are treated. Studies show us that gender bias in negotiation shows up even when women are negotiating with other women. We have different expectations of women and as a result, women have to navigate around them in order to be successful. Should they have to? Absolutely not. But until society and their expectations catch up to where they should be I’m not willing to wait around and suffer the consequences or advise others to do so.

How should women negotiate?

When it comes to women and negotiation, one of the first things that they need to keep in mind is that the process doesn’t have to feel like a battle. It can be a polite conversation between two people and still be fruitful. Polite doesn’t mean conciliatory. And assertive doesn’t mean aggressive. When they negotiate one of the easiest ways to make it feel like a fruitful conversation is to consider the perspective of the other party and build that into the conversation so they feel acknowledged and more engaged in the process.

One thing that I’ve read that happens when women negotiate, is that they break societal norms, and somehow women sense this. These women justifiably fear that they will then face retaliation or be seen as difficult, offensive, or threatening. How do women navigate that?

The fear that women can face retaliation is a valid one. Every woman knows someone with a story of it happening to them if it’s not their own story. But there are ways to mitigate that and reduce the likelihood of it happening. You can advocate for yourself and still be considered a team player. You can get what you want without being seen as greedy.

One of the simplest ways to do so is to ask “what’s in it for them?” When you consider some benefit they can get out of giving you what you want you can navigate some of the gender traps. Maybe it’s lower turnover, a more productive employee, future referrals. Consider things from the other party’s perspective and frame it up that way for them and they’ll perceive you as cooperative instead of greedy.

What else do women need to know about negotiating that they are usually not told?

You don’t have to wait until everything is perfect or you have all the power. Perception of power is just as important. Walk in there like you deserve what you’re asking for. Present yourself as someone who is worthy of their attention and respect. Talk about why they should want to appease you instead of the reasons why you don’t have the power. I see far too many women waiting until they hit every mark on the job description saying “I’m not ready yet” and, the fact is, if you were, you’d be overqualified! Men rarely suffer the same perfectionism when they go after what they want.

Are there any negotiating techniques that tend to backfire when women try to use them?

I don’t find that being aggressive and demanding bodes well for most people with few exceptions. Women are not those exceptions. If you go in there cold and arrogant it probably will just trigger the other person’s ego. That doesn’t mean you go in there prepared to hug it out and give them what they want. There is a middle ground of civility and diplomacy even in the tensest exchanges.

On Salary Negotiation: Why is it important to negotiate your starting salary?

One single negotiation can impact your ability to retire for years to come. There are studies that show us that after being compounded over the course of a career a few hundred dollars a year can set you back significantly. It also affects your perception of what you deserve when you move from one job to the next. If you’re constantly being paid slightly below your value I worry that your subconscious will begin to believe that’s what you’re worth.

The reality is that most companies hold a little something back because they expect the employee to ask for more. If you don’t, that’s a bonus for them. If you do, then they’ll likely be prepared to give you a bit more. And if you stay with that company long enough and it’s time for that salary increase or bonus and it’s usually a percentage of your base salary. The lower the base the lower the increase or bonus. So now that one single negotiation when you entered the company has a ripple effect on countless other compensation opportunities. It’s a slippery slope.

What are your top tips for a woman who wants to negotiate her salary? Is there a difference between a starting salary and a raise?

Do your homework. Come prepared with information on your value out on the market. Whether it’s a new salary or a raise, coming to the table with objective information (not opinion) on what someone like you should be worth to the company makes you far more credible and makes it a lot harder for them to credibly turn you down. And when you’re doing that research ask yourself, “am I average?” If you’re up for a new job or a raise you’re probably not. So don’t settle on average market information. Put yourself where you deserve to be on the spectrum of people who fit your profile.

If you handle it with a cooperative and considerate tone the risk of it backfiring is very low so what have you got to lose?

About the author:

Fotini Iconomopoulos is a keynote speaker, trainer, negotiation advisor, and author of Say Less, Get More: Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want. Through her work, Fotini teaches negotiation and communication skills to help people get what they want.

You can learn more about negotiating and Fotini herself at the website, and you can follow over on Instagram.

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