Yep, we all cringe when thinking about it.  I don’t know many women who feel comfortable with this and if statistics are to be believed, men have much less of an issue negotiating a better salary, benefits, raises–you name it.

Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon has done research and written books about this.  According to the stats she gathered:

  • In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • When asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”
  • Women are more pessimistic about the how much is available when they do negotiate and so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.
  • 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.

Here is WHY this is a problem (from the same source):

  • By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.
  • In one study, eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries. The men who negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000. In the same study, men’s starting salaries were about $4,000 higher than the women’s on average, suggesting that the gender gap between men and women might have been closed if more of the women had negotiated their starting salaries.
  • Another study calculated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.

There’s the stats and the impact of our not negotiating.  It’s scary.  By not negotiating you stand to lose $1 million over a lifetime of working.  WTF?!

I’m a strong woman and I only started negotiating late in my humanitarian career (read one year ago).  I think back now and can’t imagine why I didn’t just go back and at the very least even ask:  Is there room for negotiation? It didn’t even cross my mind before till I started hearing about other women who would negotiate.  Two of my friends negotiated and were aghast that I wasn’t.  And it is expected that you will.  If not for salary, then for benefits.

I’ve compiled some videos and sources to help other women out there and below are “top tips” from the videos and from my own experiences.  Also, a GREAT read on how to ask for a raise can be found here. And I would read this piece for more great advice on negotiating a salary in the non profit sector.  And for those that like scientific articles, read this.

This first video is an HR lady talking about how to negotiate salary:

This second video is a bit smarmy for my taste but he’s got some great tips.

And here is a video interview of Linda Babcock herself discussing the findings from her research:

And here are the WiA top tips.  Please do add to these in the comments below as this is far from an exhaustive list.

Top Tip One:  NEGOTIATE. You just need to be comfortable doing this.  And it is expected that you will and it can’t hurt to ask.  Get your head around this and feel the fear but do it anyway.  The factor that people point to all the time to explain the gap between men and women in this matter is very simple:  Women Don’t Ask.  Do it–start asking.

Top Tip Two:  Know your own value (based on a market assessment).  You must do your homework and know not only what you are worth, but what the organization will pay and how it compares to what other organizations are paying.  This is a bit hard in our sector as there is such a range but one way to do this is  ask others for a range of what they get paid for a similar job to the one you are applying for.

Top Tip Three:  Never ever never never ever give a number yourself to start with.  The last time I negotiated though I was asked repeatedly for a number, I never actually gave one.  I very honestly said, I have no idea what people in the US make for these jobs and so, I was told what the range was and I said I would like to be in the higher part of the range and left it at that. Do ask for a range and though I’ve had the experience where HR didn’t give me a range (that’s really weird) they should come back with at least a range.  This hiring agency came back with a number but here’s where I made a mistake…

Top Tip Four:  Have a number in mind.  Figure out what your needs are and what you will work for.  I didn’t have a number and I was so enjoying not giving a number that I ended up losing out on probably 2-3K more a year.  I figured that out after I joined but I hadn’t really done my market research either and had no idea what people in the non profit sector in the US were making and had nothing to base my number on.  The general rule of thumb on this is to aim higher than your number as there is compromise and the hiring agency (if they really want you) will come back and meet you mid way.  So, if you are being offered $50,000 but you want $55,000, $say 60,000.  Simple math.

Top Tip Five: Be ready to walk away.  That’s a hard one since we all want jobs but down the line, you will get seriously annoyed at not being paid enough for your worth.  This will affect your work performance and it’s not something you want to think about while working.  You want to be focused on doing your best.  You need to be OK with walking away.

Top Tip Six: Negotiation starts after an offer has been made.  This is very true for salary requirements.  I’m on the fence if this is the same if you have other things you are negotiating such as working flexible hours, or from home part of the time or for an accompanied post etc.  That is a separate post coming later but for salary, my experience has shown that your strongest position is to get an offer, get a number from them and then go back and ask for more.

Top Tip Seven:  It’s not just about the money.  It can be about benefits as well.  A friend of mine negotiated better leave for himself.  Coming from a European background, American leave is a sad state of affairs and they knew this and he knew this and asked for that instead of a higher salary which he knew they would not be able to give him (he was going to be their Chief Financial Officer).  At the end of the day, you want to work in an organization that you feel recognizes your value and will work with you to find you the best deal for your own circumstances.

Top Tip Eight: Take your time.  If they’ve offered you a job, they want you.  Don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision or negotiating what you want and need.  We often feel rushed to accept as we are so grateful to be given a job but DO take your time.  Think about it and weigh the pros and cons.

Top Tip Nine: Get it in writing.  A rookie mistake I’ve made.  How many times do you hear it…get it in writing.  I took a job on the understanding that I would be able to travel and work remotely once a month to see my partner and I trusted that my manager would make it happen as this was discussed with him before I took the job and it was a make or break deal for me.  A week into the job, he was like, ummm, so we should talk about it.  6 months down the line, I left the job because I had nothing in writing and not being with my partner was not an option. It was really sad since me and the org really fit with each other and loved each other but there you go. Lesson learned–get it in writing IN your contract or some other legal binding document.

Top Tip Ten:  Learn from others and share with others.  We want to hear your experiences and please add to the top tips list.  There is so much out there and it would be good to hear from others on what they’ve experienced and how they negotiate negotiating!


About Zehra

Zehra is a livelihoods and cash transfer specialist working in humanitarian contexts. She has also been a health and lifestyle coach for humanitarian aid workers. Loves food, bollywood and tweeting (@zehrarizvi).
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10 Responses to Negotiation

  1. Zehra says:

    Must be the day to talk about salaries! Another post, this time from a PhD student in Nairobi. GOOD point on not having a round number (which is what I gave in my example)

    (HT/Jennifer Lentfer @intldogooder)

    • rero says:

      Quite an interesting post. As pointed out in other comments, I aften find myself in similar circumstances and feel terrible at my negotiation skills. However, its a question I always throw back at recruiters by simply asking about the organizations salary scale and structure, and directly discussing my previous packages in the process.
      Any comments on my apprach?

      • Zehra says:

        Thanks for reading and your comment rero. I’ve done the same thing. Because sometimes, I can’t find a salary scale and don’t know! And I’ve had mixed reactions to it from HR. One agency was very forthcoming about it and we had a good discussion, including an honest conversation on how I would be taking less but getting more out of the experience. And one agency would just not answer my question which was very frustrating! How was your experience when you tried it out?

  2. This is so timely as I was just in a training on negotiations last week. I was so lucky to have met Linda Babcock in grad school, so her voice has in the back of my head in my career, though sometimes I don’t know that I’ve always used all I learned in each negotiation. But the great thing I’ll remember from my training last week, is that most people don’t think they’re any good at negotiations but are much better than self-perception allows. In a great negotiation, both walk away feeling they didn’t succeed because they didn’t get what they wanted. In other words, don’t judge yourself by the goal you had in mind.

    Another note on tip #3. This trainer I had last week said that the research plays out that the final number often ends up near the first one offered, so it’s actually to people’s advantage to begin the negotiations. When you shouldn’t do so, is if you’re in negotiations where you have little information to begin.

    • Zehra says:

      Thanks for that–esp tip number 3. I can honestly never tell what I am supposed to say or not say. I end up just confessing this to the HR person at the end and say, look—I know I have to do this and you know I should. Let’s make this painless. Hah.

  3. A daily rate for a short term gig is not the same as a salary, but… I was recently negotiating with a large international development agency about a daily rate to do some writing and editing. I did a little research into the typical rate for such work, and gave a daily rate based on the very lowest end of the hourly rates I arrived at. (I’d researched hourly rates, they wanted a daily rate. So I just calculated one based on 8 hours a day.) It was less than I thought I should ask for (another interesting question, why am I so afraid of people thinking I’m trying to rip them off), but that’s the number I gave anyway. The person I was talking to actually suggested I raise my offer, as I had put forward a number that was below what the agency was allowed to pay based on international standards. Don’t know what can be learned from this, exactly, except maybe… listen to your intuition as well as doing your research. And be confident.

  4. CC says:

    Thanks for the great post. Just asking is a 80% of the task. I’ve had to cajole friends into negotiating, and once they’ve done it they’ve often been shocked at how easy it is to get more simply by asking for it.

    And great comment from Carol about needing both general market research and to dig into the particular organization you’re negotiating with. I’ve found these these ways of researching a particular employer you’re negotiating with to be helpful:

    — Can you use your networks to find someone who has worked at the organization and will talk to you as a friend of a friend? If so, what can you find out about the organization’s salary structure? And its negotiation style: if they give a number, how far have people been able to push them upwards? At this employer, who are you really negotiating with? Is HR calling the shots on the salary or is it your prospective supervisor or someone else you interviewed with? What do they value most when setting a salary (education, or experience, or other things)? Etc.

    — Check out any public annual returns and other financial documents. Always good to know the financial state of the organization. Depending on the filing/disclosure requirements of the country, the documents might state compensation info for key or highly-paid personnel, which may be helpful if you’re going for a higher-level role (and interesting even if you’re not). E.g. in the US:

    — Ask the organization directly what the salary range is for people with your title or similar, either currently or in the past. I’ve found many places to be quite frank about saying that “people with title X here have been paid between $Y and $X depending on how long they’ve been in the role and performance.”

    — Ask for the usual or potential salary progression for the role: what’s the range of increase you might expect after your first salary review (and subsequent reviews), and how often are salary reviews? A seemingly good starting offer might not sound so great if you’re unlikely to get anything more than inflation for the foreseeable future, even with stellar performance.

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