From time to time you hear about differences between men and women salary levels. Usually the organizations are blamed for this problem as they don’t fight with sexism and discrimination.

From my experience…

Of course I don’t deny there is sexism and discrimination in many spheres of our lives and we should definitely fight against them. Still I remember when management of one company which I cooperated with in a consulting project, decided to check how it looked like in terms of the salary levels of men and women in their organization.
After checking they realized there were observable differences in some groups of positions.
For sure the company was not consciously discriminating women, the boss was very sensitive about the issue and very active in promoting the idea of empowering women and equal treatment of genders. So the question occurred: how could it happen?

The answer to it we’ll easily find in the book by Linda Babcock „Why women don’t ask”. Before she wrote the book she carried out some research in which she asked the same question to men and women: Do you negotiate when you get a job offer? She found that about 7% of women attempted to negotiate, while 57% of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7%.

The conclusion out of it is that if women applied men approach in situations when they receive job offers – so if women and men negotiated in similar proportions, the difference between our salary levels would be significantly lower.
Why don’t we do this?

First because by rule we have lower expectations. That is why when we receive a job offer we accept the initial amount that has been proposed to us. Secondly, when we get a promotion we begin to experience so called imposter syndrome – which is that we rather feel this is now us who should demonstrate we deserved the promotion and we concentrate on efforts to prove ourselves. We forget that we also have right to expect receiving a proper financial compensation together with the promotion.

Is it worthy to negotiate?

Yet, as we read in some studies if the difference between my salary and the salary of my male colleague is just 7% – for the benefit of the colleague – this means for me that I would need to work 8 years longer to achieve the same financial status when I retire as my colleague will enjoy after his retirement. So we may think it is not so worthy to fight for 7% of a salary increase but we should remember the amount will accumulate during all years of our professional life. At the end making some efforts to have nicer 8 years of life sounds like a right idea! Especially if we take into account that still most of us, women have two jobs – at regular work place and at home…

So can we better negotiate?

When at Carnegie-Mellon University men and women were asked to choose from a list of metaphors to describe how they feel about the prospect of negotiating, the men’s top pick was “winning a ball game.” The women’s: “Going to the dentist”!

Now a short test for you:
Scenario 1: imagine you are just about to meet your boss and negotiate a salary increase for yourself. How are you feeling?
And scenario 2: you invited your boss to a meeting because you want to negotiate a salary increase for one of your team members.

If you feel better in the second situation, if you are more self-confident, more convinced of the rightness of your action, more ready to fight – you are among the majority of women.
Most of us are worse negotiators than men when we negotiate for ourselves – due to the above described reasons of lower expectations and impostor syndrome – the good news is that we outperform men in negotiations when we represent someone else.

And here we go – read the three simple tips that can help you next time when you encounter an occasion to negotiate. You will learn about them in part 2.

All the best!

Read part 2