Women could actually receive a competitive salary...if they only asked for it.
Over all, women’s weekly full-time earnings were 17.8 percent lower than their male counterparts in 2011. The good news is that figure marks the smallest pay gap in history; bad news is the narrowing in wage equality was primarily due to a drop in men’s wages, rather than a raise for women.
Do you believe your work is 17.8 percent less valuable than a male colleague? Definitely not. But underselling one’s self is a hard habit to break. And it just may be more challenging for women than men.
Through my experience working with small business owners and entrepreneurs, generally speaking, I’ve found women more reluctant to negotiate and discuss compensation. Too often, women believe they can put their head down and work hard – and all this hard work will be recognized and rewarded later.
How to Get Paid What You're Worth
1. Negotiate your salary upfront
According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, 57 percent of men entering the workforce negotiate their salaries, while only 7 percent of women do. That’s a shocking disparity. And before anyone starts to think that one’s very first job isn’t the right time to negotiate, let’s look at the implications.
According to the authors of Women Don’t Ask, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, by not negotiating her first job offer, a woman sacrifices more than half a million dollars over the course of her career. They write: “This is a massive loss for a one-time negotiation—for avoiding what is usually no more than five minutes of discomfort—and it's an unnecessary loss, because most employers expect people to negotiate and therefore offer less than they're prepared to pay.”
Before entering a negotiation, get a sense of salaries for someone in your position and geographical area. Search online to find average salaries. Don’t be afraid to ask for more than you think you can get. This is the time to be your own advocate. Chances are even if your requested amount is flat-out denied, the initial offer will still be there. And it’s better to ask and not receive, than just settle for less than you deserve by never asking in the first place.
2. Don’t undervalue yourself: the entitlement effect
A Harvard Business School article discussed some of the reasons why women walk into negotiations with lower expectations than men. Hannah Riley Bowles, an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discussed the entitlement effect, where men have been conditioned to believe they are entitled and consequently negotiate better conditions for themselves.
According to Bowles, “… if you bring men and women into the lab and you say either one of two things: ‘Work until you think you've earned the $10 we just gave you,’ or ‘Work and then tell us how much you think you deserve,’ the women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay, and pay themselves less for comparable work. But if there's a standard [that men and women know], then this result goes away.”
3. Be your own advocate throughout your career
Outside of the negotiating room, women need to stay visible, pursuing raises, opportunities, and assignments that they think they deserve. Nurtured to be modest and humble, women often downplay their accomplishments, while men can be more comfortable highlighting their achievements in order to advance.
With humility, you can keep your accomplishments and skills front and center. If there’s an opportunity that sounds perfect for you, don’t wait to be recognized, ask for that prestigious assignment.
Lessons for the entrepreneur
These same messages apply to the entrepreneur and business owner just as much as the full-time employee. Many entrepreneurs charge the least amount possible out of fear that clients won’t pay more. Then they worry what will happen if they ask to raise their prices.
Remember that at its most basic level, a business is all about earning the money that’s deserved for whatever value you bring to customers. By undercharging clients, you send the message that your services and talents are worth less. You undermine the unique value you bring to the table and open the door to resentment down the road. And you end up attracting clients who are pure bargain shoppers, the ones who are looking to get a lot for a little. If you run your own business, don’t be afraid to ask for more upfront. And don’t be afraid to raise your prices. It will make for a more successful, more sustainable business in the long run.
At the end of the day, whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur, you need to be your own advocate throughout your entire career. If you don’t promote your own achievements or ask for what you deserve, you can be sure that no one else will do it for you either.
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