Salary negotiations: it?s about more than just the green

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


There are three things I was taught not to bring up in polite conversation ? religion, politics and money. But as I venture further into adulthood these topics seem to continually creep into casual conversation, and maybe that?s not such a bad thing.

In recent months, several of my friends have begun looking for new career opportunities and with this as a focus in their lives, we?ve been talking more and more about money. Specifically about how and when to negotiate a salary or raise.

Take my friend for example; we?ll call her Z. She?s currently looking to advance in her field. Z has been working in nonprofits for about two years now and is looking for a step up. For her, that means more responsibilities within a new position as well as a higher salary. Before going to an interview, she reached out to two longtime friends ? one a man who works within the STEM field and the other a woman who works in the humanities ? about when to discuss her prospective salary. And their answers were quite different.

Z?s female friend told her to wait for a call back, a second interview, before discussing salary. ?You don?t want to lose the job even before you have it,? Z recounted to me.

Her male friend, however, said she should absolutely talk wages during the first interview. His reasoning, ?you don?t want to waste your time or theirs if they won?t pay what you want, need or deserve.?

Why such a difference in salary philosophy? Did their answers vary so much based on their profession or gender? My guess is it?s probably a bit of both.

An NPR article, ?Ask for a raise? Most women hesitate? stated women simply don?t ask for more money. Within the article, Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, said typically women don?t think to negotiate for a higher salary. And if they do, they can be seen as too aggressive.

In an experiment, Babcock showed a group of people a video of both men and women asking for a raise. The two genders followed the same script, but more often than not, the group felt the man was more deserving of a raise.

?People found that to be way too aggressive,? Babcock said in the article. ?She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman?s career.?

The article states both men and women felt this way about the woman.

In an article by Gina Belli, of Payscale, ?Millennials and women don?t negotiate salary: here?s why that?s important?, Belli also suggested women don?t negotiate because they find it ?uncomfortable.?

?Many millennials started their careers during the Recession, when any job was better than none. Feeling grateful for the opportunity might lead them to feel uncomfortable trying to leverage for better compensation right out of the gate.?

The article also discusses the societal response to women who negotiate. In a 2006 Bowles study, women who negotiated their salaries were seen as too aggressive and unlikeable. ?Both men and women are less likely to want to work or hire them. This effect was 5.5 times that faced by men who negotiated.?

Seems like Z?s friends? advice falls right in line with the research and societal trends.

Belli?s article also touched on another aspect ? there isn?t enough awareness of the problem. I think in the last several years, the conversation about the gender wage gap has been lurking on the edge of ?polite conversation.?

The topic was front page news when Hollywood actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Emmy Rossum had open discussions about being paid significantly less than their male counterparts. But the news cycle is 24/7 and pretty soon there was something else trending.

How do we close the wage gap and make women feel more comfortable and confident talking about their salary and negotiating a better one? This. Talking about it.

When I first started my professional career, I was your typical millennial, I was just grateful to have a job so I took the salary I was offered. But it?s more than that. I had no idea how to even begin discussing my salary and benefits, I waited for the interviewer to bring that up.

How did that change? I practiced. Before any big interview, I call one of my best friends. He?s an engineer and though he knows nothing about journalism, we do mock interviews to prep me for the real thing. One of his biggest sticking points was that I needed to talk about my salary, ask questions and even negotiate ? I have to be my own hype man, cheerleader and advocate in an interview. After six years of mock interviews, I walk into the conference room with the confidence of a privileged white male.

My point to the young women reading this, is you are worth every cent a man is. You should not have to fear that by asking to be paid what you deserve you are diminishing your chances of advancement or even getting the job at all.

Be persistent. Start talking. Start negotiating. The only way you can make something less taboo is to start the conversation and keep it going.