by Huong “Theory” Van, Contributing Writer

I am on a quest to succeed and climb the corporate ladder. A part of it is because of my innate desire to achieve. Another reason is so I can say I lived a full life. Interwoven through all this is eventual financial security, should I succeed. And this will provide me with high self-esteem and happiness.

Financial security, self-esteem and happiness. Wouldn’t anybody want that? While my career path may be different than yours, there are some key elements that transcend specific job titles that can help you achieve your goals — not only at your job, but even in your personal life.

This article will focus on the art of negotiation as analyzed in the book, “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide” by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. In the eye-opening book, I gained an understanding of where women stand in the workplace as a result of perpetuating circumstances and expectations in our society. Although we do not have much control over our marginalization, the authors provide tools and techniques to overcome common, yet oft overlooked or unrealized obstacles to provide more parity in the workplace.

We acknowledge that there are obvious wage gaps between men and women. For every $1 a man earns, a woman makes $0.76 for equal work.

There are several complex reasons for this, social expectations and perceptions being one of them, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on how women can use negotiation to close the gap. Also, it is up to us to be conscious of how we are affected and what we can do to obtain the happiness, self-esteem and financial stability that we deserve.

For those of you who have already experienced a job offer, how did you accept that offer? Did you: A.) accept the offer salary at face value, or, B.) negotiate for a higher salary before you accepted the offer?

If you chose A, you, like me, never knew that salaries were negotiable. Well, salaries are absolutely negotiable and employers are even expecting you to negotiate for more.

However, if you chose B, you are one smart cookie. Studies show that your single decision would create a life time difference of $570,000. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers as seen in the book.

“Suppose that at age 22 an equally qualified man and woman receive job offers for $25,000 a year. The man negotiates and gets his offer raised to $30,000. The woman does not negotiate and accepts the job for $25,000. Even if each of them receives identical 3 percent raises every year throughout their careers (which is unlikely, given their different propensity to negotiate and other research showing that women’s achievements tend to be under-valued), by the time they reach age 60 the gap between their salaries will have widened to more than $15,000 a year, with the man earning $92,243 and the woman only $76,870. While that may not seem like an enormous spread, remember that the man will have been making more all along, with his extra earnings over the 38 years totaling $361,171. If the man had simply banked the difference every year in a savings account earning 3 percent interest, by age 60 he would have $568,834 more than the woman—enough to underwrite a comfortable retirement nest egg, purchase a second home, or pay for the college education of a few children.”

Again, this half-a-million dollar increase is based off one decision. Imagine if you continually asked for the raise that you deserve throughout your lifetime. Studies show that “a woman who routinely negotiates her salary increases will earn over one million dollars more by the time she retires than a woman who accepts what she’s offered every time without asking for more.”

One of the main problems identified in why inequity exists between men and women is that we don’t ask! We have been raised not to ask for things — that it’s not our place to ask. We may not even be aware that we can ask for more or that we are worth more.

“Because parents see infrequent tasks as ones that call for payment, they are not likely to pay a daughter, for example, for washing the dishes, but they will pay a son for washing the family car.”

“Children have reason to think that boys labor for payment, while girls labor ‘for love.’”

As a result of this early training, many women struggle when they must assign a value to their work.

Also, we are afraid for a lot of reasons since negotiating is unnatural for us. We don’t ask for more because we are afraid we will mess up a relationship with our boss. We don’t ask for what we deserve because we are afraid we will lose respect or credibility. Better yet, we hope our bosses do the right thing and recognized our hard work by giving us raises. This rarely happens.

The book recognizes that men are more successful using more direct approaches in negotiation while women are punished for imitating. Think of the tough, straight-talking, man. Now transfer those traits to a woman. He would be looked up to and admired as a boss and she would be looked down on and labeled as a b****.

To compensate for this, the book offers a socially acceptable tactic — use our strength of being collaborators to get us what we want. Rather than merely imitating men (which often doesn’t work), women can learn to ask as women. The book also offers some self-management techniques to overcome negotiating anxiety which will help provide you control of the negotiating process and will help you translate knowledge to action.

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Or just buy or check out the book!

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