Women are basically better qualified to negotiate than men

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Interview with Paulina Szczesniak for SonntagsZeitung / Tages-Anzeiger 16 October 2021, available via: https://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/frauen-sind-im-grunde-besser-qualifiziert-zum-verhandeln-als-maenner-495904392236

Google translation:

Let’s say I meet my boss for my annual performance review tomorrow. I want more money. What’s the biggest mistake to avoid?

There are two. One is: Not having prepared an outline of your achievements during the last months. Because: Bosses tend to be very busy. It’s easy for them to forget how awesome you are. Most people don’t even remember what they had for dinner last night, let alone, what happened six months ago. So it’s your job to remind them. 

And the other mistake?

 Not knowing what is the standard salary for someone with your level of responsibility, in your industry. Because that is what will rescue you from the standard situation which is having your little chat about how you did great and what is your goal for the next year, and in the end, you’ll get your extra two percent like everybody else. You must shift the focus of the conversation from how much you should get compared to last year to how much your work is worth in general. 

 You claim that women need more support in this area than men.  

Let me give you a couple of numbers. Recent studies by Robert Walters Headhunters have shown that 50% of women have never negotiated their salary. Ever! And a research done by Carnegie Mellon University VERLINKEN GESPRÄCH MIT Linda C. Babcock (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Rum1YRLDKs) asked graduates if they negotiated their first salary offer for a job after uni. 50% of the male graduates did, but only 7% of the female graduates. 

 So why do 93 percent not negotiate? 

Women find it difficult to promote their own value. From the day we are born, women are treated differently than men. Girls are raised to colour inside the lines, to play by the rules, to focus on the others. Back in caveman days, that was their role. Whereas men went out to hunt, they stayed in the cave and took care of the group. That’s how we raise our kids up to today. So general consensus and agreement is where we feel comfortable. Observe kids playing: Boys are constantly checking out the hierarchy among them. Girls try to avoid conflicts and are looking for similarities. So when a grown woman stands up and says “I want, I must, I should”, we are irritated. A guy who does that is seen as a confident leader. More than that, research shows that when women behave confidently, we penalize them for it. We don’t like working with them and we don’t give them what they want. So it is not surprising at all that when women hit the workforce they tend to first keep a low profile. please everybody. They think: First, I’ll prove how awesome I am, and then after a while I will get a reward.

But that doesn’t happen.

Of course not. Because the workforce is operated by men. Who have been working in that system for a really long time. That works like that: You got to tell people that you’re good at something. And that you want something, otherwise, you’re not gonna get it. So instead of playing nice in an environment that doesn’t reward you for doing so, women should learn to do what’s actually bringing them further. Because if they won’t, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Not negotiating throughout your career will cost you thousands. Bis zu 2 Millionen.

So acting out more masculine will make you richer?

It’s not about pretending to be a dude. It is just leveraging those skills that women naturally have in a more successful way. Because funny enough, women are mostly better negotiators. Good negotiation – in other words, coming to a win-win outcome – is based on great communication skills. On listening. On hearing what the other side needs. It’s based on antenna, on sensing, on empathy. On collaboration. That’s what we are great at, because we are raised like that. So women are perfectly equipped for negotiation. 

So where’s the problem?

We are really good at these things when we negotiate on behalf of others. For their company, for their boss, for their friends, for their kids. Because it’s nothing other than taking care of others. Problem is, doing the same thing for themselves requires them to go against what they have been trained in doing over their whole life. This is the reason why women feel uncomfortable doing it. And why they think they suck at it. In reality, the only thing they got to learn is to say I/me when negotiating.

Hasn’t anything changed since #MeToo? Haven’t women learned to speak up?

I sure hope so. What I like about #MeToo is that it has made things visible. And has turned individual problems into collective ones. Not feeling alone is a very powerful feeling – and the main reason why I’m coaching groups. Also, speaking up when something is not ok is the only way to change things. Can you imagine that before #MeToo, many men didn’t realize that there’s not a single woman out there who doesn’t know the awkward feeling when walking home in the dark? Well, the same is true for wage differentials. People just don’t realize it until someone tells them.

What if your boss is a woman?

Interestingly enough, it doesn’t make a difference. If you don’t think you’re worthy of a salary raise – why should your environment? If Bella works in the same job as Bob, but earns less because she didn’t negotiate, there is not only a financial disadvantage. Her boss – whether it’s a guy or a lady – doesn’t think, oh, Bella was raised with different social expectations, and that’s why she wasn’t comfortable negotiating. What the boss thinks is: She gets less money, so she’s less good. As a consequence, Bob will get the promotion. Bob will get the interesting project. 

And Bob will get the respect.

Exactly. Prize and value are connected. When you negotiate, you do not just change the number on your bank account. You also communicate the way you see yourself and thus how others see you, too. Correspondingly, salary is more than just money. It allows you to walk away from difficult situations or unhappy relationships. It allows you to choose yourself. 

Having a good salary means having freedom.

Not only that. Being paid enough has health repercussions. There is ample research that shows that women experience far greater stress levels when they work full time. And this stress is related to many unhappy things such as depression, diabetes, insomnia. Which also has to do with the fact that women go home from work where their second shift is waiting, namely ⅔ of the house work. Plus that emotional and social to-do-lists like checking in on our relatives and organizing meetings with friends…  

Sounds as if negotiating doesn’t stop at the office. But at the kitchen table, too…

If you don’t proactively negotiate in business and at the kitchen table, you will struggle to get the work-life balance you are wishing for. Negotiation is not just a professional skill. It’s a life skill. There is a measurable difference in joy, when you learn to communicate your needs. The funny thing is, that your employers profit from that, as well.

How so?

The cost of employees leaving a company because they do not feel appreciated is between 100 and 400 percent of that person’s annual salary to find a replacement. There is the recruitment of the new employee. It is the downtime between offboarding one and onboarding the other. It is the lost connections and productivity in the meantime. It’s the training of the new person. (9 out of 10 people leave their company because of the company’s culture, the lack of opportunity, the lack of role models, directly their manager, lack of recognition.) And there is more: Making your employees feel valued unleashes incredible energy. Who isn’t paying their employees right, misses out on that. So companies should do the math. And pay their people properly, because that saves them a lot of money. 

Your company is called Women in Negotiation. Do you also consult men?

I don’t. 90 percent of the books out there are written by guys for guys. Now it’s time for Bella to shape up. Who cares if she’s sitting at her computer and doing a great job, if Bob does a great job 80 % of the time and 20% he talks about it. That is what makes the difference.  

The only thing standing between you and a successful career is you taking responsibility for it. It’s not rocket science. But it can be hard work to change the way you see yourself and how you see the world. 

Book a call with my team for a free coaching session and let’s see what we can do for you!