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Sherri Richards, Published October 18 2012

Negotiating wage increases key to future wealth for women

FARGO - In 2003, Carnegie Mellon University economist Linda Babcock released the book “Women Don’t Ask,” which explored the gender divide when it comes to negotiating.

The bullet points on Babcock’s website, www.womendontask.com, illustrate her thesis.

Two and half times more women than men say they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.

Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.

By not negotiating a first salary, an individual loses more than half a million dollars by age 60.

“The Reader’s Digest version is that women aren’t socialized to negotiate. Our society sees men who negotiate as ambitious and assertive, but women as pushy and aggressive,” Babcock says in a Carnegie Mellon article. “Women see the feedback and come to believe that negotiation involves more cost than gain.”

Nearly a decade later, Babcock and writer Sara Laschever’s findings are echoed by new research and analysis. A report released this summer found that women physician-scientists earned average yearly salaries $12,000 lower than men’s, even after contributing factors such as time off and choice of medical specialty were taken into account.

Two prominent medical researchers responded to the results by saying men tend to be more aggressive at asking for raises and self-promotion.

“Male faculty members are willing to negotiate more aggressively. It may be social and cultural. It seems to be fairly deep-rooted,” Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said in an Associated Press article.

Women in general are paid less than men – 77 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity – so a woman’s reticence to ask for raises may further the gap as those raises compound.

“There is a financial impact on overall wealth that they create in their career,” says Clark Hodges, a personal finance expert with Hodges Capital, an investment advisory firm based in Dallas.

Hodges says he’s experienced this with his own employees. Some wait for rewards to come to them rather than driving those conversations. The consequence? “They don’t’ get their just due.”

“You never know when the boss is thinking he should give you one, but it’s put on a back burner,” Hodges says. “If it were to be brought to his forefront, it could be done two to three years earlier.”

Cindy Burns, with the National Association of Professional Women, understands personally women’s apprehension. She’s been in the position, not wanting to rock the boat or make others think she’s unappreciative.

But traveling the country talking to NAPW members as its national director for local chapters, she sees a brighter view on women and negotiating.

“They’re not as afraid as they used to be,” Burns says. “They realize it could go one of two ways. Either they get the raise, or they’re told not at this time.”

Finding an all-win

So how can you go about negotiating a higher wage?

Tamara Anderson, vice president and co-owner of the Dale Carnegie Business Group of North Dakota, says when employees feel the need to negotiate, they should approach the conversation as collaboration rather than a demand.

Effective negotiations include a willingness to listen to others’ ideas, honesty and transparency, she says.

Not knowing how to go about asking for what they want – not having a framework for the conversation – may keep people from negotiating.

“If we lack confidence going in, that may impact the potential outcome,” she says.

Anderson advises a four-stage process to reach an all-win situation, “applying some good solid principals of human relations and communications to set the stage.” Being aware of body language during the negotiation is also important, Anderson says, including maintaining eye contact and a good tone of voice.

• First, she says, pinpoint (identify) the issues to be discussed and set a time and place to meet with all stakeholders.

• Prepare by gathering information from your perspective as well as the point of view of others. Consider what you’re willing to give and take, and what your minimum requirements are. Know at what point you’d feel you have to walk away.

• Present your negotiation in the spirit of collaboration.

• Make a pact, with all parties committing to the all-win situation.

“It’s not just something we need to engage in professionally,” Anderson says. “We have opportunities throughout our life.”

Other considerations

Hodges suggests a subtle approach to negotiation. By being a team player and doing more than what’s asked, a time will come when the employee is called upon to do some extraordinary. That’s when he or she can communicate their expectation for more compensation going forward.

“You let them know without you it wouldn’t have been done,” Hodges says. “Don’t throw the cards on the table all at once and don’t say ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ ”

He says it’s important to understand the bigger picture, including the financial situation of the company. Even if a raise isn’t in the cards at that moment, letting such desires be known can plant the seed so when the financial situation changes, you are the first employee who comes to mind, Hodges says.

Burns also says it’s important to judge correctly when the time is right to ask. “How long have you been in that position? Has it been discussed that there would be a review?”

She also recommends writing down the points to be made, and outlining your work responsibilities. If you’ve taken on more than originally assigned, that may warrant an increase.

Burns says it’s not a good idea to mention obvious things that your employer would observe on his or her own, such as coming in early or staying late. Less is more, she says, in finding the fine line between self-praise and boasting.

She also stresses that employees do their due diligence, researching what the average pay is for the position and annual raises in the area. Understand how a certain percent raise would translate in dollars, she says, so you know what any potential offer means when it’s presented.

“Know what the average is … go for that higher standard,” Burns says. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to shoot high, they’ll shoot low and you can meet somewhere in the middle.”

Online

Cindy Burns with the National Association of Professional Women says it’s important when asking for a raise to be knowledgeable about average salaries and raises specific to your field. She recommends these sites:

www.salary.com

www.payscale.com/salary-calculator

www.salaryexpert.com


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556