Why women don’t ask and what we can do about it…

After working with thousands of women during our Key Steps to Negotiate and Influence Your Way to Success training programme. I agree with the research out there and have seen first-hand. Women tend to shy away from asking for what they want and deserve, especially where money is concerned. Research by Economics Professor Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, co-author of Women Don’t Ask, shows that men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise. And when women do ask, we typically request 30% less than men do. In a study of 78 masters degree students, just 12.5% of women negotiated for their starting salary, versus 52% of men. That could equate to as much as $1.5 million in lost income over the course of the woman’s career based on the cumulative effect of ONE negotiation.

The gap is closing somewhat among younger women, who are more likely to ask for raises as the family’s primary breadwinner, but women are still far from on par when it comes to negotiating pay. An Australian study of 4,600 employees found that while women in some instances were as likely as men to ask for raises, they were 25% less likely to receive them. So, what can we learn from this and what Key Steps can we take to… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. Recognise your value. The research shows that women often don’t know the market value of their work. Women report salary expectations between 3% and 32% lower than those of men for the same job. Claudia Goldin, a labour economist at Harvard, found an especially steep gap for jobs requiring the most education. For example, female doctors and surgeons earn 71% of what their male colleagues make, while female financial specialists are paid just 66% as much as comparable men. In Silicon Valley, women earn 40% to 73% less than their male counterparts. This wouldn’t happen if we knew our worth and recognised our value.

    Of course, this value goes beyond money. Prof Babcock’s research shows that women typically do not recognise the great work that they do, let alone use it as important leverage to gain advances in their career. Be visible, put your hand-up for projects that showcase your talent and present yourself and your achievements with confidence. This need not be in a “braggy” way but rather by offering your skills to solve business problems. Aligning yourself with business outcomes helps you and others to see your value.
  2. Stop being satisfied with less than you deserve. Before you decide to negotiate, you must first be dissatisfied with what you have or decide you want something different. This is the catch; women tend to be satisfied with less. It might be an advantage in some ways as the less we expect, the happier we are with less. But it’s not good for equality as men are taught to expect more. Men challenge the status quo more while women, with typically lower expectations, are satisfied with what they get. My own coaching work tends to suggest that it might not be that they are satisfied by that they have become conditioned to thinking that there is nothing they can do to change their situation. This comes up again and again in the research and in my own practice working with talented successful women. This makes it very important for us to…
  3. Look for ways to improve your situation. Women tend to believe that life — especially work life — is fair and, if they work hard, then their efforts will be fairly rewarded. Sadly, this isn’t the case. This can lead to demotivation, especially because women are more inclined to think that their fate is sealed by external circumstances and leave it in the hands of others to decide their career trajectory. Women who fail to ask and lose motivation, tend to look elsewhere for reward. They will be more likely to consider outside offers than to ask for a raise. Before the demotivation kicks in, women need to actively determine what they want and ask for it. This means we must…
  4. Master confronting situations and dealing with conflict. Women often don’t ask because they are afraid of the conflict they perceive will follow. The limiting belief that asking for what I need will result in conflict that I can’t handle, is one I often help women overcome. This conditioning goes back to childhood where we establish patterns — sometimes unhealthy ones — for dealing with conflict. On the up-side, women can learn to ask for what they want constructively and artfully and, when they do, they are often pleasantly surprised by their success. It is very useful to learn about the five typical conflict management and negotiation styles — avoid, accommodate, compromise, compete and collaborate — to identify yours, your negotiating partner’s and how to best navigate the conversation as a result. By empowering yourself, you make it possible to handle challenging conversations that will inevitably come-up in all spheres of your life.
  5. Harness the power of negotiating like a woman not a man. The last thing women should do is become aggressive and dominating. Socially, we have been conditioned to be quite the opposite so when we take this stand, we do get a backlash. The research shows that we are labelled as being difficult to work with, rather than being a go-getter (the way a man showing the same behaviour might be perceived). The good news is that women are better at embracing negotiations that “grow-the-pie” and everybody can win. We are naturally better than men at scenarios that involves caring about inclusion, shared interests and long-term goals. So, we need to get strategic and align what we want with the company/departments goals and showcase how it enables us to tap into shared interests. Thankfully, this matches the current trend towards open innovation, flatter organisations and more inclusive corporate models. There is no better time for women to ask, together we can build a better world for ourselves and others, and we can really…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

Download our Women’s Day brochure

As we approach Women’s Day in South Africa, we have keynotes to inspire and empower your female employees.
Please contact Collette (collette@keysteps.co.za | +27 11 615 4244) to get more information and/or to discuss my availability to speak at your event.

Namaste,

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Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation.