Today, I’m writing a post largely directed toward women executives, though I am a strong believer that everyone needs to negotiate the terms of their employment in order to have the best working experience possible.
However, you’ve probably heard the troubling statistics that show that as few as 7% of women executives negotiate their salaries. That number needs to change.
Effectively negotiating our salaries is not only critical to the career trajectories of women executives, but it also gets us significant gains now and over the long haul– and not just financial ones.
Here’s five reasons why you should always negotiate your salary, whether you’re at the start of your career or a seasoned executive.
#1: Your current salary will follow you to your next job.
In today’s job market, one of the first questions we’re often asked on a job application concerns salary history. By not negotiating your current salary, you’re lowering the number that you’ll get to show your next employer to evaluate your prospective pay in that job, and so on down the road.
Over time, those numbers add up. Linda Babcock, the author of the seminal book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, points out that executives who negotiated their first salaries out of college stood to make over $500,000 more over their working lives than those who did not.
#2: Negotiating your salary gets you a lot more income both now and over the long haul.
Negotiating your salary before accepting a job is consistently shown to increase the amount you earn at that job and in the future. Gracefully taking the first offer as exactly that– a first offer– has long-term benefits over the course of your career.
Babcock’s research showed that men who negotiated their initial salaries were able to raise those salaries by an average of 7.4%. Moreover, Babcock also notes that women who consistently negotiate their salaries earn at least $1 million more over their lifetimes on average than those who do not.
These are not small numbers. Negotiate now, and reap the benefits in the future.
#3: Negotiating your salary helps to close the pay gap.
While we can all agree that equal pay is a critical issue to working women everywhere, not all of us have the time to advocate for pay equity on a national level. Negotiating your own salary is one way to make a difference close to home to your own benefit and the benefit of others in your company.
In an interview I conducted last week with Lisa Maatz, the top policy advisor for the American Association of University Women and one of the nation’s foremost advocates for equal pay, Maatz noted the importance of salary negotiation to closing the pay gap. As she discussed, when women negotiate salary, the pay gap shrinks– not completely, but significantly, and enough to make a major difference for many of us.
The pay gap is both a political and a personal issue. As more women become the primary breadwinners for their families, we benefit not just ourselves but those we support and the economy as a whole when we learn to effectively negotiate for more money.
#4: Negotiating your salary shows an employer that you know your value.
When we look at those women who are role models for success and earning power– women like Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey, Melissa Mayer– we see confident, competent women who know their worth. No one would describe any of these women as a doormat.
Rather, the women we emulate have demonstrated time and time again that they know what they bring to the table and they know their worth, and they are compensated accordingly.
Negotiating your salary shows your employer that you are capable, confident and comfortable with what you have to offer. Those skills are the same skills that your employer will value when it comes to increasing your level of responsibility, trusting you with key clients, and promoting you into leadership positions.
As the old saying goes, no one will know your worth unless you do.
#5: You’ll never get what you want unless you ask for it.
This one is as true in life as it is in business: unless you ask for what you want– whether that’s money, perks, benefits or responsibilities on the job– you’re unlikely to get it.
A particularly pointed example of this comes from my experience coaching a senior female executive at a major Wall Street bank. Several years ago, she was on the verge of leaving a job where she was universally admired but unhappy in several respects, including pay. In a last ditch effort to keep her, her supervisors asked her to come to a meeting prepared to negotiate for terms that might induce her stay.
Feeling like she had nothing to lose, my client decided to make a list of everything that she would need and want to remain in the position. Her list included some pie-in-the-sky demands like doubling her salary, restructuring her team, and getting an immediate three month sabbatical to take a break from the demands of her high-pressure job.
So ambitious was this list that neither she nor I expected an exactly warm reception, although we worked together to make sure that her negotiation strategy was as gracious as possible.
We were both pleasantly surprised at her supervisors’ reactions. Not only did her company agree to every single item on her list– including doubling her salary– but they also gave her a sizeable signing bonus for agreeing to stay.
Lesson learned: you never know what you might get unless you ask. And several years later, when my client finally did decide to move on to another job, she was able to leverage that doubled salary into an even higher starting salary at her next job.
Negotiating your salary benefits your current career positioning, your future career trajectory, the women you work with and mentor, and the pay gap as a whole. And while the money matters to be sure, the benefits of successfully negotiating your value are also priceless to your self-esteem. Learn to negotiate your salary, and your entire career will be better for it.
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