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Salary negotiation. This process describes when one party (usually the potential employee) negotiates the amount of their pay, income, earnings, commission, salary, wages, or salary raise with their employer (Negotiation Experts 2017). For women, this can be tough. In fact, it has been proven that men are more likely to negotiate their salaries compared to women (Leibbrandt and List 2014). Furthermore, The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2019 identifies significant differences between men and women’s earnings. But what about salary negotiation is so difficult? Is the fact that we'll be less "likeable" if we argue our worth? Are we just trying to remain "nice"? Are we underestimating on our own professional contribution and value? Or are we really just socialized to believe that assertiveness is a negative thing? Today, we learn of one woman's story about her experience with salary negotiation and advice she has to offer. Welcome to Dialosophy, Mrs. Marilynn Simmons.
Q: Ms. Marilynn, welcome back! Thank you for participating and agreeing to share your own story and experience with salary negotiation. Before we get started…I just want to know how do you feel about the gender pay gap and its impact on women?
A: The gender pay gap is a serious issue and one that is often talked about during presidential campaigns but never resolved after the election. I don’t foresee any changes in the near future. The fact that women earn nearly 50 cents or less to every $1 a man is paid is a problem. It’s impact on women is significant, in my opinion, because women are child- bearers and caregivers to children/family, limiting their ability to focus on careers that are highly professional with equitable salary. Statistics show women are more likely to be the single head of households and to live five years or longer than men with a lower salary during their working years.
Q: So, because the gender pay gap exists, would you necessarily say women should ALWAYS ask for more?
A: It certainly does not hurt to always ask for more when it comes to pay and benefits. In the end, you may end up with something comparable to equal.
Q: Okay. We’re here for you…so please share your personal work experience and your career story regarding salary negotiation.
A: I was the worst regarding salary negotiation from the beginning to almost the end of my working years! It was a lot of working years approximately 40+, that I limited my salary to what someone else thought I should be making. In South Carolina, if you worked for a company, you were forbidden to discuss salary among other employees. You couldn’t form a union since this is a "right to work" state and salaries were not published for employees to see or know. Therefore, the salary you were offered is pretty much what you accepted. However, toward the end of my career...my salary was better...but I regret I never made six figures, which ironically was my dream salary!
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: Yes. My biggest is that I didn’t take more risks and ask for more. I wish I had relocated away from South Carolina, as I strongly feel this state’s mindset is to limit African Americans no matter what skills you bring to the table. Its systemic and everyone entering the job market needs to know that it exists.
Q: What would you advise to women regarding knowing their worth when it comes to their earning potential?
A: You have to know your worth and what you will bring to the organization so that you can demand the BEST salary. Now, I would even suggest asking a salary coach or negotiator. Find one and ask a male AND female before accepting a salary. Do research of the salary in other states near and far for a comparison. Be prepared to have listed the reasons you require more based on your worth to the company.
Q: According to a study published in 2016 (Article), “kind” or agreeable women, rather, are compensated less. It can be hard sometimes even for me, and I'm sure a number of other women, to be assertive in the workplace. Especially, when at work and society as a whole, when women trade their “kindness” for assertiveness…we are viewed as demanding or the popular term for black women-an “angry black woman”. So, how can women become more assertive?
A: I was that “kind” or agreeable woman and yes...I was compensated less. If I was the “angry black woman” would it have increased my salary? I don’t know. I remember one of my managers sent me to an assertive class, because she felt I needed to be more assertive with some of our agents. Did I learn how to be more assertive from this one class? I would say no. However, I did learn from her suggestion of this class and evaluation of me that I needed to change how others viewed me, therefore I made adjustments. I continue to this day to work on how I am seen by others in this area. I don’t want to be seen as weak, but I don’t want to be seen as angry.
Q: Knowing what you know now, if you could give women five tips to negotiate effectively, what would they be?
A: 1. Do a self-analysis and know yourself and know your worth (i.e education, skills, abilities).
2. Find a salary negotiator to coach you in your negotiation.
3. Know the salary ranges and what the lowest amount you are willing to accept.
4. Know what the salary ranges are for cities/states near you.
5. Know if you are willing to relocate. Be willing to decline the offer if necessary.