I have good news and bad news. First, the bad. Recent college grads who are women are far less likely to negotiate on salary than their male counterparts. Here’s the graphic:
The graphic is taken from this article. It depicts the “percentage of graduating professional students who attempted to negotiate their pay.” In 2017.
We all know about wage inequality. Women are typically paid less than men. This is not fake news; it’s a fact. Younger women start out being paid approximately equal to men (which is why younger people think there’s no pay gap), and then as they get older the gap widens. This failure to negotiate–on the salary they earn, the purchases they make, or the services they sell if they own a business–compounds throughout their lives until they end up poor compared to older men.
And this happens even to the smartest women.
In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg says that when Mark Zuckerberg hired her to be his second-in-command at Facebook, she was prepared to accept the salary he offered. She went home and told her husband about it. Their exchange went kind of like this:
David: You can’t just accept his first offer.
Sheryl: But it’s a lot of money! And the money isn’t everything—it’s the chance of a lifetime!
David: Because if you do, he’ll / they’ll never respect you, and from then on, you’ll always get less. That’s how men work. It’s not personal. It’s just real life.
So Sheryl went back and asked Zucks for more money, and she got it. Good for her. Good for her sweet husband, may he rest in peace. But if this can happen to a woman with the brains and education of a Sheryl Sandberg, what hope is there for us?
Here’s the good news. There’s a simple fix. We just need to start doing one little thing:
Women are not taught, or not in the habit of, or not comfortable with negotiation. For one thing, we hate the word, since it conjures adversarial arm-twisting and all that conflict-based nastiness, so let’s rename it.
Let’s not call it negotiating. Let’s just call it “asking.”
Still, we don’t ask. Why is that?
Because, according to the book, we have this little voice inside of us, clucking and frowning. But we need to ignore that voice because it’s not even OURS!
The little voice inside telling you not to do it (don’t rock the boat, don’t get pushy, why can’t you be happy with what you have?) isn’t your voice. It’s the voice of a society that’s still trying to tell women how to behave. It’s a voice whose message is conveyed, often unwittingly, by our parents, teachers, colleagues, and friends – and then repeated and amplified by the media and popular culture. – Babcock and Laschever
Doesn’t that resonate?
And if we don’t ask, the damage is greater than just wages (“just”?! Like that’s not the whole basis for our lives.) We get cheated when we buy things, when we pay for services, when we sell things–it never ends.
But it could. If only we ask.
I once saved myself fifty bucks by deploying seven words. In SEVEN words, I “earned” fifty dollars. Here are the words:
“Do you have any flexibility on that?”
Okay, so it’s not that much money, but I felt like I’d found a fifty on the sidewalk. And I walked out of the store energized and pissed off. Because I should have been doing this all my life, but this happened when I was sixty. AND the only reason I even thought to try was because I had read the above book.
So, obviously, I never taught my kid to negotiate, either.
Which is why this story delighted me:
Last week my son went to buy furniture. He asked that question because he’s a guy. The sales person said no, looked around, and in a quiet voice told son and DIL which furniture store they could visit to buy exactly the same product, where they DID have flexibility. So son and DIL did. And they saved 25% of the cost, which was thousands.
When he told me the story, I asked him, what made you think to ask the first salesperson for a price break? He just shrugged, as if I had asked why he thought to breathe.
I have no idea how he learned this. I can only assume it’s from Growing Up Male.
Ladies, wake up!!! You are paying too much and selling too cheaply. This is not a measure of your virtue. It’s a measure of foolishness. Sacrifice where it matters; not here.
For more on this topic, you can see these three posts, which, sadly, date back to 2012, but since we’re still not asking, are still incredibly helpful (if I do say so myself). And please report back and tell me you followed through and saved yourself some cash! Happy Asking!
One last thought: I’d like to ask that you check out my two novels and one collection of short stories about midlife and beyond. If you’ve already read them, I hope you loved the experience. Would you mind writing a review? Here’s the link: http://www.Amazon.com/author/lynnespreen