Tired of Being Underpaid?
Women often ask why men tend to get paid more than women. We'll talk about that, but more importantly...what are you going to do about being underpaid, whatever your sex? The discussion in this article is mainly aimed at women, but many men have the same issues.
First, let's talk about why women are underpaid
Years ago, people thought women who worked for pay were taking jobs from men with families to support. If women were hired at all, it was usually at a much lower rate. They thought that women Don't need to work. Old thinking dies hard. Some of that mindset is still around today.
More importantly, women are often less assertive in salary negotiations. It goes against your upbringing, doesn't it? you're taught to be "nice." You were admonished to "avoid confrontation." Heaven help you if someone saw you as "pushy" or 'aggressive."
Now, consider this: some research shows women and men often got the same initial salary offer, but the men got paid more because THEY ASKED FOR MORE. THE WOMEN didn't. Of course, a lot of you men didn't ask for more either.
Not learning the game of negotiations can be devastating to our incomes. we're not just talking about a lower initial salary either. Since raises are often based on a percentage of current earnings, the negative impact of poorly negotiating starting pay gets magnified over the years. One study estimated that a 22-year-old who accepts a $25,000 starting salary instead of negotiating for $30,000 could lose over $500,000 by the time he/she reaches 60. Besides the obvious financial disaster, this can also have devastating impacts on a person's self-esteem, attitude, and future promotions.
Here's What Happened To Cindy
A client we'll call Cindy was a superstar in her department. For five years, she'd gotten the tough assignments, and masterfully completed them. She loved her job--and they loved her. All was well until the day a co-worker passed around a list showing the salaries of everyone in the department. Cindy was stunned to see that a man recently hired at her level was earning $10,000 more than she was. Cindy knew this man was doing much less work and wasn't nearly as capable.
Cindy said, "That day, I lost all motivation for the job. After that, I just went through the motions." She was no longer the office superstar, and became a prime candidate for a layoff and career downfall. Fortunately, a friend suggested that she get career coaching, and she started working on a job move before she suffered the consequences of her declining performance.
We spent quite a bit of time with Cindy to overcome her reluctance to ask for more. We told her that by developing skill in negotiations, women not only get more money, but they also tend to get more respect. Often, their work is valued more than when they just accept whatever is offered.
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Here's what we recommended to Cindy
1) Realize that being a skillful negotiator is different than being "pushy" and "obnoxious." Employers expect applicants to negotiate.
2) Do your homework to find out what people are getting paid for the kind of work you want. Good sources include web sites like salary.com, professional associations, peers, and watching postings that list salaries.
3) Study the rules of salary negotiations (Jack Chapman's book, "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute" is nationally recognized as a "bible" for job hunters). Develop your responses to employer salary questions.
Cindy went through considerable angst when preparing for negotiations with her next employer. She was sure she was being "ungrateful" for negotiating with them, and feared they would get angry and rescind the offer. She was delighted to see that none of that happened.
Based in part on Cindy's research, we suggested that she push hard for more money and certain benefits and perks. She was floored when they agreed to initial pay of $10,000 over their initial offer PLUS give her a number of benefits and perks, including tuition reimbursement for her MBA program.
Like many women--and men--who haven't negotiated well in the past, Cindy found that she can win the salary negotiations game. You can too.
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