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  • Margo & Jelyse Dawson

How Women Negotiate Salaries Like Super Heroes

Updated: Mar 16, 2019


How long have women been negotiating their value since the beginning of time.


I can recall my first negotiation experience.. I paid weekly dues to join my cousin's non-existent club  You see, my dad gave me money to buy an after school snack which consisted of a juicy polish sausage, fries, and a shake at Chili Willies, the best greasy spoon in Chicago on 79th Street.   The cousins were smart in laying out the terms to pay dues and not tell anyone. I negotiated access to their games and chanangins. A win win for everyone.


Mom, I can’t believe your story.  Today, we want “in” but on terms with full disclosures and room for negotiating.  As a former product marketer and diversity recruiter at John Deere and current marketing manager in global communications at Cisco, I see the need for strategies and coaching. I sat down with Bev Porter, Director of Jenkins Programs, Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.



Jelyse: Research suggests that 20% of women never negotiate at all.  Can women make up the difference?


Bev:  I think those stats are even conservative by the way. And yes I do think women can make up the difference but not in the job that they just recently secured. I think they’ll have to do probably three things:

  1. Number one they’ve already accepted that job so get as much information as you can in that job.

  2. Keep your network fresh. Let them know how you’re saving the world in that company you now have become a member of.

  3. Once you have lived there for about 18 months to two years which is about how long you need to stay at an organization, then you need to start looking outside of that organization and not commit the same sin twice. Negotiate your value and worth the second time.


Jelyse: What strategies are used to help early in career and career changers regarding effective negotiation.


Bev: I think the first thing that we help our students do, is identify their superpowers early, and then (here’s the hard part) you need to believe them yourself. Really you have to start embracing it, it needs to be in your blood stream and you’ve got to believe it yourself. When I see you I should see your superpowers in the way that you walk, the way that you talk, you’re standing erect, that’s when you know that youre breathing your superpowers. And secondly, I think for women we need to get rid of this “I haven’t done it yet mentality” which keeps some of us from pursuing those coveted positions that our man counterparts will go after without any question. We have a tendency to think “ I haven’t had that experience so I don’t think that I’m qualified” that’s not the right way to do it. Go for it! Let’s not have this fear of failure. What’s the worst thing that can happen: you’re just not going to get it. Just Go! I think the other thing is your negotiation starts at the time you meet your prospective employer.


Jelyse: Are you seeing that women are asking for more (pay, scholarships, internships, vacation, schedule, etc.)? Share your experience.


Bev: I’ll have to compartmentalize that answer: Women in general and then I have to talk about Jenkins MBA women—our think and do powerful leaders. I think women in general tend to hesitate to ask for what they want. Its and assertiveness skill, we tend to hesitate. I don’t think we are there yet, but the reality is that we are saving the world. We are making a difference in our institutions so we need to correct that. On the Jenkins MBA side I’m happy to say that our women are turning the tables. They are positioning themselves from a position of power. They are able through the training that we do in this office to articulate what they bring to the table so that’s number one. They understand the importance of them articulating their value to authority. Secondly, they don’t go into this conversation ill informed. They walk in from a position of power, they know what the market will bear by way of salary, the national average for an MBA coming out of a prestigious program like Jenkins MBA, they understand what the average salary is even for your program, they understand what their BATNA is – the ability to know if the negation is not going the way it needs to go, BATNA says “Ive got to come up with an alternative negotiating position”. SO they go in knowing they have a plan A and a plan B. They are equip through the training that we offer. We are getting the higher salaries. We are getting the positions we deserve, no one is giving us anything. This is our right, this is what we’ve been positioned to do. So YES, I am happy to say that the Jenkins MBA women are doing what we want them to do and we are celebrating that.

Jelyse: Based on the diverse population you serve, are there any trends in how women negotiate based on culture, ethnicity, age, and industry?


Bev: Having served in this capacity at NC State and also at another institution here’s what I am seeing: I think our students from Eastern countries seem to be more hesitant to ask for what they want. Assertiveness is not necessarily something that they can embrace. We are changing that but that tends to be from my experience an area of concern. Those of us that have been Westernized we are able to embrace positions of power a bit more. Outside of this institution I think that we are struggling. We think that we can’t compete because we “haven’t done THAT yet”. So we aren’t comfortable extrapolating the experience we have had to the new experience that we are aiming for, that is going to harm us financially.


Jelyse: What is your secret for negotiating?


Bev: Can I give you my secret for negotiating? There are three components of negotiating. When you are privileged to have an offer extended to you:

  1. Spend time thanking them for the offer, let them know how pleased you are to receive this offer.

  2. Let them know the value that you will bring into the organization because of your superpowers.

  3. Thirdly, if the offer is not what you are expecting, having done the first two steps ask if there is any opportunity for a salary package that is commiserate with what you are bringing to the organization—i.e. your 5 years’ experience, data analytic skills, strong interpersonal skills. Any opportunity for them to consider a different package that would be more reflective of what you are bringing to the table. After that third point there’s no talking after that, there’s no rambling you just stop and take it in and let them think about what you have just asked.


Jelyse: How do women and men negotiate differently?


Bev: There are some inherent difference between how men negotiate than women. Men seem to extrapolate their past experiences a little bit better and differently than women. They will say “Hey listen yes I have worked in a marketing position before” although this Is for a product management role, and they will be able to take their past experiences and apply it in the interview tighter than a woman. A woman will likely say, ”Well I haven’t ever been a project manager so I’m not sure if I should even apply”. That’s what I meant earlier when I said that we need to get rid of this “I haven’t done THAT yet” statement. Men do it well, they can extrapolate very well. So not always the best person gets the job, it’s the person that sells the best.


Jelyse: Is pay inequality going away?


Bev: Pay inequity for women is real. We can pretend that it isn’t but it is real. I say let’s keep hope alive. I think it requires education—which is what were doing here and I so appreciate this—I think we have to teach each other that it is okay to be assertive. Not aggressive, but assertive. It’s okay to identify what you’re good at and market yourself as such. So the docile woman, that’s nice and you can do that in the confines of your home, but when we’re talking about saving the world docile doesn’t cut it. We have to go from a position of strength. It’s not enough to say “these are my super powers” you have to wear it, it has to be in your blood stream. We’re animals so we’re going to smell that scent. We can tell if you are not confident, and why would I put you in a position of power if you are not confident? I’m buying someone that can change the way we do things.


We hope these strategies have inspired you to get the facts, identify your superpowers, put them into action, and articulate your worth.  Despite a history of gender pay-gaps women are receiving coaching on how to negotiate.  Share your story with us and join the conversation on our social media platforms.  Look an upcoming fitness video to decrease anxiety and improve wellness.

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