How Strong Women Negotiate

 In Blog

When I became a manager in broadcasting, I noticed something surprising in my first contract negotiations with talent.

I would offer a contract to a man and they would ask for more –pay, vacation, bonus, perks — almost every time.

When I offered the same deal to a woman, many would sign immediately, no questions asked. I later learned that when it comes to salary, studies show that 20% of women never negotiate at all

Gender pay inequality happens in every industry, even with the rich and powerful. Movie star Jennifer Lawrence discovered that her pay was significantly less than her male co-stars and said, “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early….I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

Of course, part of the pay inequality problem originates with incompetent management.

I once came into coach a show and found that the #1 research-ranked woman host was paid half the salary of her not-nearly-as-popular male co-host. I am sorry to report that kind of management still exists in radio.

Recently, a talented but underpaid woman asked me to coach her on upcoming contract negotiations. Negotiations are different for women than for men and I was concerned that my experience and perspective would be of limited value.

I reached out to some powerful, successful women that I coach, work with, and admire and they were kind to share their wisdom:

Sky Kelley, Senior Director, Head of Digital Product Innovation, Nike

When it comes to women and negotiating job offers, we are our own worst enemies.  A lot of women don’t feel confident in their value so they undervalue themselves or are worried that if they ask for more, they won’t be hired.

Never negotiate against yourself meaning don’t keep the negotiation in your own mind and assume what the employer will say and then be afraid to ask.

Once someone is at the stage of making you an offer, they want you. It’s not about the ask that can turn a potential employer off, it’s about how you do it. If you ask for more respectfully and provide a reason why (i.e. I’ve looked at comparable positions in your company and the additional x dollars is in line with the pay range for this position), the worst a company can do is say no. But if you don’t ask, you surely won’t get more.

Dana Cortez, host The Dana Cortez Show

The number one reason women do not negotiate is fear. There are limited positions for women in our industry and the worry is, “If I don’t take the job, someone else will.”

It is OK to be scared. I am from humble beginnings. My determination to not go back there drives me forward. It is emotional. Put on your poker face and find the strength to get it done.

A lot of men still control the narrative and the positions and do not see a woman as a valued player. I learned to pull up your receipts and prove your worth with show ratings, revenue, social media, etc.

By doing that, you also see your own value. If you do not know your worth, no one else will. When you understand your contribution, how you make companies money and add value to the product it is easier to ask for what you want.

Be firm. “That’s not going to work for me” shifts the conversation. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Otherwise. it is not a negotiation.

Amy Eliza Wong, Executive leadership coach and Author of Living on Purpose

In working with women to improve their negotiation skills, I always invite them to adopt a mindset that almost anything is negotiable.

What stops women from being effective are sneaky limiting beliefs that silently run in the background. Asking a few discovery questions at the start of a negotiation can often dislodge those limiting beliefs and empower us to new possibilities.

Those questions can be, “When I have I been successful in a negotiation and ended up with what I wanted? What does that tell me about my skills?” “What would it take for them to say yes to my request?”

Being effective starts with leaning into negotiation with interest versus shying away from fear. Negotiation is simply a conversation, and we can choose that these conversations are fun.

Rachel Hartmann, Senior Director Washington University in St Louis

Women do not give themselves enough credit. We are taught to be quiet and accepting, unreasonably concerned the other party will rescind the offer. Women are worried that by asking for things they will be seen as being pushy. I have never had a negotiation go wrong in that way. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Women always feel so thankful, especially if it is more than their current salary, that they do not negotiate.

Negotiation phrases that work for me include, “What more can you do?” Their “best” offer often magically increases.

My friend recently said, “I was really hoping it would be higher” in a salary negotiation and they came back with a higher offer. She countered again and guess what? They gave it to her.

Be quiet. Don’t fill in the blanks. Let them stew on it. Tell them what you want – then sit silent. Let them respond even if it takes a minute, or two.

Finally, my personal philosophy is, “She who talks money first loses.”

Michelle Younkman, Executive Director Christian Music Broadcasters

Here are some things that I’ve seen:

  • Negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process. Some women have not been trained with negation skills. 
  • Most workplaces do not provide a culture that values transparency and fairness and can contribute to overcoming the barriers. 
  • Women underestimate their worth. There is a lack of confidence. 
  • I’ve found that sometimes employers want to see how much a person is willing to negotiate as a tactic. 
  • Women are more relational and may fear that negotiating could damage their relationship. 
  • This is a good opportunity for seasoned women to mentor younger women in the art of negotiating. 

One time I was offered a job, and I knew that my male counterpart at the company was making $10,000 more than what the company offered me.

I told them that I was a hard worker and they would get more than their money’s worth out of me, but I wouldn’t accept the job unless they paid me the same amount. That is the fair thing to do. I knew the work ethic of the gentleman who was already in this position, and my standard was much higher.

Radio Market Manager, prefers to be anonymous

No matter your age, gender, or background, if you are in a situation where you don’t feel like you are getting fair or equal opportunity for compensation based on merit, you should make a change.

No back-and-forth ball negotiation, realignment of hierarchy or duties, incremental bonus structure, or change in title will do anything to tilt an uneven playing field.

If it’s slanted it’s gonna stay slanted unless the actual structure changes. Be confident ask for what you want/deserve, and if you aren’t getting what you want find a situation that is better suited for YOU.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

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