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What women need to know on negotiating the pay they deserve

Karenthia A. Barber, CEO and founder of Professional Development Associates LLC

Moms have always been our unsung superheroes, and the pandemic only brought to light just how hard they work.

Whether getting a promotion, coming on board at a new company or just wanting compensation for the increased value you bring to your current position, women need to know how to negotiate the pay they deserve.

Karenthia A. Barber, CEO/Founder of Professional Development Associates LLC, said negotiating pay is important for women because it can impact their lifetime earning potential. “The gender pay gap still exists and gender differences in negotiation outcomes may be one of the largest contributors,” she said.

Women, however, sometimes are afraid to ask for additional compensation due to several factors including a fear of conflict. “Some women believe that hard work is enough and they will be rewarded accordingly,” Barber said. “We know that is not the case and historically women have earned less than men in the workplace.”

She also notes that while women often advocate for others, many will not do so for themselves. “Deeply ingrained societal gender roles lie at the root of the gender gap in negotiated outcomes,” she said.

“In many cultures, girls are encouraged and expected to be concerned with the welfare of others and relationship-oriented from an early age. These goals clash with the more assertive behaviors considered to be essential for negotiation success which is more in line with societal expectations that boys and men be competitive and assertive. As a result, women may be uncomfortable negotiating.”

According to a 2020 report from the staffing firm Randstad US, 60% of women had never negotiated pay with an employer and 72% stated they left a job to get a salary bump. The report queried 1,200 working adults in the United States.

When beginning the negotiation process, Barber notes preparation is key. “Start with the mindset that you are simply asking for what you deserve,” she said. “Then conduct a self-assessment of your value proposition including your education, relevant certifications and licenses, skills, professional accomplishments and years/levels of experience.”

Research is also a critical negotiating tactic. She notes women should identify the national, regional and local salary comparisons for the same position as well as assess the current demand for the skills and expertise that you bring to the position.

Mindset is also key, according to Barber. “Don’t think of negotiating as fighting but rather as advocating for yourself. If you think of negotiating as adversarial, readjust your thinking to recognize that negotiating is a communication process by which two parties work together to (problem) solve.”

Barber has seen women make mistakes during the negotiation process including not being prepared, a lack of self awareness and not rehearsing what they are going to say. “Many times, the salary conversation comes up and we are so happy to get the job and/or promotion that we allow our emotions to overshadow our thinking,” she said. “Recognizing talking about salary may not be the most comfortable experience, it is essential to be proactive with a well thought out plan that is developed from a foundation of confidence, facts and information that reflects your professional experience, expertise and accomplishments.”

When people think of position negotiations, many focus on the monetary aspect of the job but this could also include working remotely, additional vacation time, flexible schedule and reimbursement for expenses like childcare, transportation and tuition.

“Women should be open minded and flexible during negotiations and recognize the value of all currency including paid time off, remote or flexible work schedules, tuition reimbursement, bonuses, professional development. Stock options, etc.,” Barber said.