Why I Don’t Teach Women How To Negotiate Their Salaries
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
- Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
- Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
Women Don’t Need More Advice On Salary Negotiations
What are your tips for women to negotiate better salaries? I’m preparing to leave my current job once I have a new opportunity lined up (should be soon) and I’m hoping for a salary more commensurate with my experience and level of education.
Thank you for your thoughtful question and congratulations on what sounds like a brave decision to upgrade your career.
I’ve shared previously about my experience of fighting to be paid equitably (twice) and winning. Long story short:
- I realized I had been receiving inequitable compensation
- I researched my rights & found the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
- I presented my research to HR
- I received back-pay & a salary bump
I share this experience openly because a.) we can’t fix inequity if we keep it hidden, and b.) the experience catalyzed my journey to launch Pipeline. That said, I don’t teach women (or anyone) to fight for pay equity or to negotiate for better salaries. Here’s why.
Salary Negotiation Are Part Of The Inequity Web
We shouldn’t have to negotiate for our worth. Instead of asking the subjects of inequity to conform to a broken system, we need to fix the system.
I imagine an economy where people earn the wages they deserve…
- Without having to seek out tangential training to improve their negotiation skills
- Without having to navigate a convoluted maze of tacit compensation “rules”
- Without having to file a claim with HR or go to court with their employer
- Without having to be suspicious about their colleagues’ wages
- Without having to question their worth
This stands in contrast with how many compensation systems function — of which salary negotiations are a subset.
Salary Negotiations Disadvantage Women
As it stands, salary negotiations disadvantage women. When women enter salary negotiations and behave “assertively,” they are viewed as breaking from the gender status quo. This dissonance leads women to underperform men during negotiations, which in turn leads to lower compensation packages.
So, for instance, even though women ask for raises as frequently as men, they are less likely to receive them. Again, that’s a reflection of bias in the system more so than women’s “innate” lack of confidence and negotiation capability.
Besides, performing well in a salary discussion is a function of someone’s ability to negotiate, not necessarily someone’s ability to return value to the company.
One last note for the people managers out there: this question hints at a peculiar trend in the labor market. In April, four million people quit their jobs. This marked the highest level of US workers leaving jobs (2.7%) in more than two decades. On top of that, 41% of employees are considering switching jobs this year.
You can interpret the Great Resignation as either a threat or an opportunity. It’s a threat if you don’t embed equity and inclusion into your employee lifecycle. On the flip side, it’s an opportunity if you do.