Though there is some truth to the argument that women get paid less because they don’t negotiate their salaries, there is another reason they don’t: because they’re not idiots, asserts Joan Williams. Women sense that if they try to negotiate salary at their initial entry into a company, they sense that it could hurt them—and that it probably will.
Women do negotiate their salaries, but when they do, research suggests that neither other men or women want to work with them. “Women who negotiated faced a penalty 5.5 times that faced by men,” says Williams. And it isn’t necessarily that people actively want to pay women less than men, but when a woman goes against ingrained gender mandates—like that men are expected to get what they want while women are supposed to be nice and accommodating—it can often hurt the woman’s work standing.
When women negotiate for more money, it isn’t always as easy as just speaking up. They are going against entrenched gender roles that people still respond to, however unwittingly. But women are great negotiators for other people, and are often better at that than they are at negotiating for themselves, one study suggests. Women are more confident and comfortable negotiating people, but simply aren’t as self-assured speaking up for themselves.
“Women get a nervous feeling about negotiating for higher pay because they are intuiting—correctly—that self-advocating for higher pay would present a socially difficult situation for them—more so than for men,” says The Harvard Business Review. The article suggests that there are a few things women can do to avoid being perceived as “too feminine” or “too masculine” in the office and in negotiation, which includes a “think personally, act communally” strategy.
Firstly, the article specifies, explain to your negotiating counterpart why you’re negotiating. What do you bring to the table? Do they need to see you as being a good dealmaker? Secondly, emphasize that you care about building office relationships. Sheryl Sandberg offers this piece of advice as a jumping-off phrase: “I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate, but I’m hopeful that you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I can bring to the job.”
The important thing is to remember what you are worth as an employee and to place the appropriate value on your skills and experiences. What you can provide to a job is unique to you, and a good company will see that you’re worth paying.