I went to a fantastic Latina blogger summit last weekend and there was a ton of great lessons and activities, but what I really appreciated was the mission to empower and encourage other Latinas pursuing careers in a still somewhat novel and alternative industry.
During one of the breakout sessions on negotiation,the instructor–a dynamic Latina with a background in business–mentioned how the fear of the female penalty often holds us back when we try to advocate for ourselves.
The penalty being that women are often labeled as too aggressive when we participate in salary negotiations; or give ourselves strong self-evaluations; or hell, just while leading, in general. So instead we may demure because we don’t want to be dinged with that penalty.
But this speaker acknowledged that yes, the penalty can happen–you can be labeled as too aggressive, too this, too that, but what is the cost if you don’t advocate for yourself?
That comment really hit me so suddenly because we often encourage women to be cautious, be careful, to learn to walk the line so that we’re not labeled certain ways, but we risk so much when we’re not our best and fiercest advocates.
And so what do you lose when you worry about the penalty? You risk losing your self-respect, the respect of others, and you definitely lose out on the economic gains that you get when you actually do participate in assertive negotiations.
So, to honor International Women’s Day, let’s revisit some ways to ensure that we are fighting for parity and gaining as much economic capital as possible:
One. Educate yourself. If you’re still in school or are part of a women’s professional group, consider bringing in WAGE or similar associations. Being taught basic tools in negotiating salaries helped me feel confident in assessing my offer when I started my first job, and WAGE’s website became a resource for me to compare offers with other similar positions to make sure I was being treated fairly. On top of that, I’d also recommend reading Lean In, and other articles that teach how to negotiate salaries as a woman (and that distinction is very important).
Two. Get over the discomfort. It’s hard to negotiate because it’s awkward to talk about money; we are trained to not seem rude and ask for more than what’s offered; and if we really want the job, we don’t want to blow it. All reasonable feelings to have, but it’s important to get over the discomfort and feel secure in advocating for yourself. Perhaps as lawyers, we should feel like we have an advantage in negotiating compared to other professions; we should take advantage of that. Practice giving your counter-offer and be prepared to explain why you’re asking for that amount so that you are cool and calm when negotiating.
Three. Always ask for more time. Meaning, no matter how good the deal; no matter how much of a “dream” job this offer is–never accept the first offer as soon as it is offered. Be gracious and ask for some time to review what’s being offered. No one should be offended by this. You have a right to review salaries, benefits, insurance, etc. and you need time to review. The problem is that many are so eager to accept the job offer (and I don’t blame you, especially if you’ve survived the post-recession economy), that we don’t take the time to really assess if we’re being given something fair–that doesn’t benefit you. Instead, take a moment to at least feel confident in accepting (and understanding) the terms being offered.