Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, has given women in tech (and beyond) a gift, with his ill-advised comment at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing - and has left my mind spinning with ideas around how women can move forward from this moment. Negotiation tactics are the perfect next step. Here's why:
It's the "how" that's troubling us
"Yes, we know we should ask," you can almost hear women everywhere affirming. "But we're uncomfortable doing it. That's why we were seeking additional advice in the first place."
It might seem puzzling, this need for more. The Nike-esque directive, "Just ask" covers it, doesn't it?
"Karma alone, as Nadella suggests, isn't going to break through the Glass Ceiling. Equal pay protections are needed for women; and leaders must also be trained to recognize their own biases. One of those biases is that studies show when women ask for raises, it can backfire, with women seen as overly aggressive whereas men are seen as being fiscally responsible."
Women HAVE "just asked." And it hasn't gone well. This is yet another reason why they're frustrated. But has this caused us to back so far off that we're now not asking enough?
Look, we already know we equal men in education, and we work twice as hard sometimes, and we DON'T make as much money, BUT... we actually don't ask for raises even half as often as they do - so what does that say?
Yes, there is the fear of backlash, but the only way out is through. The only way to make it okay for women to advocate for themselves and get more is to keep pushing for more until both the asking and the receiving are not even a thought in anyone's mind. Because if we asked as often and as confidently as men do, we'd get more than we are currently getting, for sure.
Ready for the 'how'?
So that's the vague of it. Now I want to offer some practical advice, because it IS uncomfortable to ask - even in the best-case scenarios. Being prepared can give you the confidence you need to present yourself well, deal with hesitations, and offer alternatives when you don't get exactly what you want. The tips below work for both new job interviews and for negotiating a pay increase.
1. Do your research. Especially when negotiating salary for a new position, know ahead of time what the going wage for your position is, so you can confidently ask for what you're worth. If asking for a raise for a current position, it helps to know if you're undercompensated compared to the industry standard in your field. In either case, you're not just blindly throwing out numbers.
2. Always present a counter-offer. Make this a rule. Remember that by the time an employer is ready to make an offer, they've already invested a lot of time and resources into vetting you and deciding you're the best fit for the job. They won't walk away frivolously, so don't just settle on the first offer they make.
3. Practice! You're bound to be nervous in any negotiation scenario, so work out the kinks with family and friends ahead of time. Figure out what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and get comfortable.
4. Be prepared for push-backs. Employers - even that boss you've loved working with for ten years - are prepared to negotiate too, and they may counter your request with any number of hesitations. Have thoughtful answers at the ready and you just may prevail.
5. Don't take no for an answer. Instead, change the question. People don't like to keep saying no, so offer alternatives if negotiations fall short of your expectations.
For example: They offer $90K, you counter with a request of $120K and they come in at $95K. If the compensation is non-negotiable, push for additional benefits to make up the difference - i.e., an extra week of vacation time, flexible hours or more stock offerings.
Or shoot for things that help propel your career forward in other ways, like a senior title or educational investments (courses or certifications). Use LinkedIn or friends to research what you could potentially ask for so you don't forget in the moment.
6. Track your accomplishments. Throughout each year, make note of all major achievements in your work so you can reference them when it's time to ask for a raise. Put modesty aside, because you are the strongest advocate you've got.
Write your own glowing, yet honest, review in advance of your company's annual review and be ready to mention anything that gets left out on their end. Many organizations have self-assessments, be sure to advocate for yourself. Approach it from a big picture perspective versus areas of development only, and speak in terms of projects that have helped your employer meet their bottom line or advance their agenda.
7. Find mentors inside the company. They say it's "who you know," so get to know some people in a position to help you grow, as well as advise you - or even put in a good word - when you're ready to talk about a salary increase. Allow yourself to be a learner and to be challenged and groomed for bigger and better things.
8. Create a network of allies and co-workers for mutual support. If anything goes wrong, or to extremes, there can be safety in numbers when approaching higher ups, or even HR, about any issues that arise as a result of negotiations gone wrong.
9. Get yourself out there in your field, not just at your place of employ. Mentoring someone yourself could be as important as finding a mentor of your own (we learn a lot by teaching).
Develop strong relationships on social media by maintaining an active presence. Take it to the next step by blogging and developing thought leadership that will gain you recognition and make you that much more valuable a presence at your company.
These tips aren't only valuable for women in tech, though that is certainly my field - they'll work for women in all fields. Is it scary to negotiate at first? Of course. But the more we advocate for ourselves and ask for what we know we deserve, the better we'll get at it, and the more we'll actually get what we ask for.
We aren't in control of the outcome, but we have to do our part if we want things to change.
We work just as hard if not harder than men, we invest time and resources in education but compared to men, we are still very significantly behind in negotiating for a raise. Let's employ the suggestions above and more and equal men in asking as frequently and confidently as they do.
Have you negotiated successfully (or unsuccessfully)? I would love to hear about your experiences and any tips others could benefit f