Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why it is time for women to learn to negotiate. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
"More men ask. The women just don't ask." That’s what American economist and professor Linda Babcock was told when she asked her Dean at Carnegie Mellon University why far more male graduate students were teaching their own courses while their female counterparts were working as assistants. Linda went on to write a book about the phenomenon, entitled Women Don’t Ask, first published in 2003. During the research for her book, Linda found that male MBAs were being paid 7.6 per cent more than female MBAs. When she delved deeper, she found that only 7 per cent of women attempted to negotiate their salaries, while 57 per cent of men did. Those that did negotiate successfully increased their salary by over 7 per cent. Negotiating comes easily to some, but others can still learn how to successfully negotiate, using the three Ps.
We negotiate on a daily basis when we are doing everything from getting three-year-olds to eat their vegetables to closing a large deal in the office, but we don’t even realise we're doing it. Practise your negotiating skills in the day-to-day conversations - haggle with your mechanic for a cheaper deal, debate with the kids over their allocated screen time. Notice what works and what doesn’t, and hone your skills.
After negotiating with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, you will be more confident when the time comes for a workplace negotiation. However, it is still essential to prepare all the facts. If you are looking for a raise or a better salary in a new job, have all the data to hand about your experience, your key performance indicators, and so on.
It is estimated that by not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 over the course of their life by age 60. Men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary. It is easy to receive that first job offer and take whatever they offer you, especially as you are green in the working world. But it is important to start as you mean to go on. That being said, it is never too late. You might be in the workforce 10, 20, 30 or 40 years and have never negotiated a salary. That does not mean you will never manage it. Now is the best time to start.
Of course, you might not be successful, but that does not mean you should throw in the towel. The Harvard Business Review found in a study that women who asked obtained a raise 15 per cent of the time. Keep asking at times when it is appropriate to do so. For example: during performance appraisals, during a promotion process, or when changing jobs and eventually, you’ll be in the 15 per cent.
Unfortunately, men and women are treated differently when they do negotiate. That same study found that men who ask are successful in obtaining raises 20 per cent of the time (everything just has to be that bit harder for us, eh?)
The answer might be no the first time, the second time, the fifth time. But eventually, it will be yes. Now, start asking.