As we are all approaching graduation and beginning the (super fun and not-at-all stressful) process of finding jobs, I thought it was appropriate to discuss salary negotiations. According to economists and authors of the book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change, “men ask for what they want twice as often as women do and initiate negotiation four times more.” This ultimately means that over the course of a woman’s career, she may sacrifice over half a million dollars worth of earnings. Because she didn’t ask.
Now, I want to take a moment to recognize that this language is a bit victim-blaming. The title of the book “Women Don’t Ask” seems to be saying that women are not doing something that they should do; they are not doing something that men do. In our society, being a man is the norm, the standard to which everything else is compared. While I do not at all agree that this is the way our society should be, it would be foolish to argue that it’s not. So I am in support of ways to “level the playing field” as it were.
This book is one way. It speaks about how women can become more comfortable negotiating, and it offers strategies for women to ask for what they want without coming across as aggressive. (Don’t forget, it’s “aggressive” when women ask; it’s “confident” when men do…).
Ellen Pao, has another way. As the interim CEO of Reddit, she proposed getting rid of negotiations all together. She stated that “There’s no way [for women] to win,” in reference to the well-documented fact that even when women do negotiate, they experience negative consequences. In one 2006 study (linked to in the above article), the average evaluator’s willingness to work with an individual who negotiated went down 5.5 times more when the negotiator was a woman.
Getting rid of negotiations during the interview process could certainly help reduce the disparity between men and women’s starting salaries. And it has the added perk of not shaming or blaming women for behaving exactly how our sexist culture has socialized us to behave. Ellen Pao, I think you’re awesome.