It would be nice if we lived in a world where we could just do a good job and bosses would pay everyone what they’re really worth, and close the gender pay gap. Alas, we’re not there. In this world, as CEO and co-founder of Ellevest Sallie Krawcheck explains in her Big Think Edge video, you just have to strengthen your negotiating skills. “I wish I didn’t have to give you this advice,” she says. “But I do.” Her video is called, “Getting Equality with Men: Plant the Seeds to Secure Your Financial Future.”
Losing a zero-sum game
Krawcheck lays out a painful bit of math to prove her point. Men more consistently seek, and get, raises, and that can actually lower women’s compensation. Let’s say a department has budgeted 10 — an arbitrary number Krawcheck uses by way of an example — to increase the compensation for two employees, Mary and Jim, by 5 each. Jim goes in and asserts he deserves 10. While the initial response to his nerviness is amusement, in the end it’s not unlikely that he’ll get something like 7 as a compromise down from the 10 he demanded. Still, the department’s budget of 10 hasn’t magically expanded. So Mary’s 5 drops to 3 to make up for Jim’s bump of 2.
Winning the zero-sum game
Krawcheck says that the way out of this losing cycle is with facts, facts you deploy before the time of year when raises and bonuses are scheduled.
Begin by finding out what you should be making. Krawcheck recommends visiting salary-search websites to see what your skills and experience may be worth to an employer. She suggests it’s also a good idea to get together with friends and discuss salaries.
Once you’ve got an amount in mind, have a chat with your boss – again, ahead of raise and promotion time. See if you can get specific metrics that would, to your boss, make you worthy of the additional money. You want to learn the measure of success sufficient to merit your proposed increase in compensation. With that information in hand, there’s no further need for negotiating later on — a deal has essentially already been struck by the time raises, bonuses, etc. roll around.
Krawcheck offers an additional strategy as well. “Never have one ask and take no for an answer.” A better idea, she says, is to come in not with one request, but lots of them. A dozen or more. Compensation goes beyond money, after all, so ask for other benefits. Company-paid classes, mentoring, overseas assignments — the list is endless. “Typically,” says Krawcheck, “your boss is going to say yes to something.” She adds, “And if he or she says no to all 20, I think you’ve gotten a pretty clear message there as well.”
Winning the long game
While there’s lots of career guidance available, says Krawcheck, “The best career advice that you are not getting is to invest.”
First off, Krawcheck says, the often-reported retirement saving crisis in the U.S. is actually a women’s issue, and it’s up to each woman to plan for it.
- Women retire with only 2/3 the money of men.
- Women live 6-8 years longer.
- 80% of nursing home residents are women.
Investing in advance for retirement at the same level as men can mean having hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars more.
That’s the second reason to consider investing: Having more money allows you to “play looser.” Having the financial independence to walk away, if need be, frees you to be more fearless as you advocate for yourself professionally, and even to take a bet on yourself in ways you couldn’t otherwise even consider: Start your own business, for example.
“Ladies,” sums up Krawcheck, “we will not be equal with men until we are financially equal with men.”