Karina Collis

4 Enemies you
must kill to win
Women and Salary Negotiations

By Karina Collis, April 2021

In my previous articles we discussed that women have a harder time initiating and obtaining their desired outcomes in salary negotiations. Thanks to broader societal expectations of how women should act in the workplace, fewer women than men ask for salary negotiations, and, as a result, receive a much lower salary than their male counterparts.

The most shocking data is that the gender pay gap is the largest among top executives. The pay gap widens as women progress in their career, with women at the executive level making a shocking $0.69 to every dollar a man makes (source: payscale.com).The World Economic Forum reported that it will take 202 years to close the gender pay gap if no action is taken.
Can you wait another 202 years to be paid what you deserve?
Therefore, how can women succeed in a salary negotiation? The answer lies in killing the inner-enemies most women have lurking inside them. These enemies include not knowing one's worth, fear of rejection, the dreaded 'imposter syndrome,' and approaching negotiations in a negative light. Luckily, there are ways all women can 'kill' these enemies and receive the salary they deserve.
Two overlapping circles, one with blue colour, the second one showing a women who is boxing

1. Not Knowing One’s Worth

To fully understand this first enemy, take a look at the story of Lena, a woman who had no idea just how much she was missing out on:
women working on her laptop
Lena had recently moved to Spain from London during the lockdown situation in The United Kingdom. Her company had approved of her working remotely in a new location, and she enjoyed the flexibility she was given. One day, she was approached by a recruiter on LinkedIn and decided to take the interview offered to her, as it was just a simple Zoom call. During the interview, she asked the recruiter about the level of compensation this new job would provide, and the answer she was given nearly made her scream. The recruiter had given her a price range that was twice what she was currently making. Lena could not accept the job on LinkedIn but decided that when she moves back to London, she would talk to her employer and ask for a higher salary. If she was denied a pay raise, she was planning on looking for a new job that would pay her what she is worth.

It took taking part in this interview for Lena to figure out she was being underpaid and undervalued. While she initially felt like she had let herself down, she quickly turned this defeatist feeling into motivation to put her in a position where she is truly valued.

2. Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is a common emotion felt by most individuals at some point or another in their lives. When it comes to salary negotiations, women's fear of rejection may be more amplified than men's, as women are taught to be more amiable and accepting of what they are given than men are. Once a woman knows her worth, she can use her newfound motivation and confidence to approach salary negotiations with the same valor as her male colleagues.
A good way for women to prepare for an upcoming salary negotiation is to gather all the necessary information available that will prove their worth to their employer. A woman can set out to do this by approaching recruiters and industry colleagues, asking them to objectively give an idea of what their salary should be, based on their level of expertise, skillsets, and overall experience. Once they have received a number that demonstrates their worth, they can then enter the negotiation with evidence to back up their negotiation.
icon of a light bulb
When it comes to the actual negotiation, women should approach the number they are looking for with evidence. For example: "My compensation last year was $160k plus a bonus. Talking to [industry colleagues/a few recruiters], I understand that I should be getting a base salary of at least $200k." Using this phrase or something similar demonstrates knowledge and confidence, two key factors all women should have during a salary negotiation.

3. Imposter Syndrome

These days, it seems imposter syndrome is more common than ever before, especially among women. Imposter syndrome at work comes from a feeling that you haven't really achieved anything because you aren't truly good at your job and you are not worthy of your success. As such, women who suffer from imposter syndrome often don't try to go after what they really want, as, deep down, they do not believe that they deserve it.

In her legendary book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg points out, that if you "ask a man to explain his success he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she 'worked really hard', or 'got lucky', or 'had help from others'". A study addressed in Lean In found that "in situations where a man and a woman each receive negative feedback, the woman's self-confidence and self-esteem drop to a much greater degree."

Statistics prove that, when a man sees a job posting, if he feels he can perform 60% of the requirements in the job description, he will apply. Conversely, women will only apply to jobs if they believe they meet at least 90% of the job requirements. Even if a woman can meet nearly every single job requirement, she will often not believe that she is worthy of even applying for the job.

If you recognise imposter syndrome in yourself, admit it to yourself first. Talk to some other women, to know that you are not alone and that many women suffer from the feeling of self-doubt. It is important to talk about it, analyse your skills and achievements critically and prove to yourself, that your achievements are not a matter of luck, but a result of your hard work.

4. Approaching Negotiations with Anger

Studies have confirmed that women suffer a higher level of stress and anxiety as compared to men as many women have to successfully balance a career, a family and a continuous feeling of self-doubt. As a result, stress, most often in the form of heart disease, is the number one killer of women in the Western world.

Approaching a salary negotiation with any kind of negative mindset most often leads to negative results. Nowadays, we know that women deserve more, and, as a result, societal expectations around women in the workplace are shifting. Women are beginning to be respected for their ambitions, confidence and individualistic characteristics. Now is the time to approach negotiations in a positive light, knowing that change is finally here for women.
Killing these enemies is the first step to receiving a successful salary negotiation. Now, more than ever before, the dialogue around women in the workplace is changing. It's time to change with it. Practice, prepare and negotiate!

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