I recently finished a long, nerve racking negotiation discussion over a job offer. I was making an internal move in my current company and finally reached the end of the bargaining talks. Negotiations takes an emotional toll on most parties involved. At one point I nearly accepted defeat and convinced myself that maybe the industry’s market value of me was not consistent with what I believed I was worth. In the end my patience and perseverance paid off.
With some background and knowledge on negotiation theories and practices, I simply cannot not negotiate. I always felt negotiating should be everyone’s personal mandate, especially for work compensation.
I negotiated my salary since I was offered my first job. But my motivation extended beyond my personal gain. I always felt this is much bigger than me. It breaks my heart when my girlfriends tell me they have never negotiated and never felt the need to negotiate their salaries. Some attributed this decision to nerves, which I totally get. Believe me, I still get panic attacks thinking about how my own fight against systemic inequality takes precedence over me having a secure future for myself. Some say that it’s never really crossed their mind, or even if it did, they never felt motivated to do so. Some say they avoided it due to fear of losing the offer.
It especially bothers me having friends who have risen to the ranks in their organization and having never negotiated a dime in their salary. They have spent a decade working and never thought it was necessary. They believe that what they make now is sufficient.
Here’s the problem…
I had a friend who recently got promoted to a senior role. After a decade of working at the firm, she finally made it to the top, with a $15k bump to boot. She was very pleased about this. When I asked her if she asked for more, she said no. Not once in her entire career did she think to ask. She is appreciative of her current compensation and simply believes that what she earns now is fair. Her point is, why would she need more money if she’s living comfortably? I think she missed the memo on how to close the wage gap.
If she found out that men working in the same position earn x more than she does, I’m curious if she would still think it’s fair? If she learns that a woman peer earns $50k more than her, would she still think it’s fair? This is a big problem for women everywhere because the residual effects in their collective lack of assertiveness in negotiating salaries hurt other women who are fighting for their fair share.
The wage gap discussion aside, I find it personally baffling why would one turn down the opportunity to potentially earn more money. It’s New York City, honey – you can always use that money elsewhere.
At the end of the day, a discussion about fair compensation is more than just about ones own value as a skilled worker, but it’s simply about women’s worth in the workplace. And I wish all women felt this way. Your failure to express your needs to your prospective employer can result into resentment. You’ll end up feeling bitter and unappreciated at your job. However, if you start that conversation with your current or future employer now, not only are you opening doors for yourself, but you open opportunities for all women who follow your path. Think about it.
Originally published in December 2016.