July 21, 2014 / Careers, Leadership, News

Gender Differentiation Myths and Effective Salary Negotiations


The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

When the Equal Pay Act of 1963 went into effect, it was the first step in an uphill battle for women to be paid equitable wages to men in the same role. At that time, women earned on average 60 cents to every dollar men earned. Surprisingly, that rate remained constant for almost 20 years, only changing slightly in the 1980s.

Nearly 60 years later with even more skilled women in the workforce and in positions of power, women are still earning less than men – now at the rate of 77 cents to every dollar. But today’s discrepancy exists for a different reason; women do not do as good of a job negotiating their salary compared to men.

Highly-credentialed women from all different backgrounds underestimate their value and worth in the workplace and tend to not have the confidence to negotiate effectively, if at all. A study by Cornell psychologist David Dunning showed the discrepancy between men and women when it comes to self-perception and confidence – men rated their capabilities at 7.6 while women rated their capabilities at 6.5, even with their knowledge base statistically the same.

In other words, women consistently lacked the confidence and trust in their skills and capabilities when compared to their male peers. Without this confidence, women consistently under-negotiate their salary and worth and make more risk adverse decisions that negatively impact their long-term earning potential.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – and in fact, now is the time for you to change these statistics and learn how to gain the confidence needed to understand and negate the most common negotiation myths women fall victim to.

Understanding the Negotiation Myths and Negate Them

For whatever reason, women tend to use negotiation myths as a reason to not pursue a promotion, salary increase, or the job of their dreams. The common negotiation myths include:

  • “Men are better negotiators”

  • “My boss will pay you fairly; he/she is looking out for your best interests”

  • “I need to have 100% of the qualifications to even be considered”

  • “They are taking a risk with me, so I don’t want to rock the boat”

These are all myths for a reason – each example above, contains seeds of self-doubt that women allow to grow into “truths.” Instead, understanding why these myths are false is important to negate them going forward in your career.

1. Men are better negotiators

The belief that men are better negotiators is derived from the fact that more men negotiate in general. When an offer is available, men tend to ask for more regardless of the situation because they are confident in their capabilities or believe they deserve more.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that women can be more effective negotiators – but they have to speak up in order to start the conversation and be actively confident in the process. It’s critical to note that your negotiation approach will always matter greatly – negotiation does not equal rude, aggressive or abrasive.

How to negate this myth: Understand your true negotiating power – even if you have not yet found the confidence in your capabilities, start by determining your market value worth and qualifications. By taking a realistic view on your candidacy, you can start devising concrete negotiation points. These points aren’t subjective and therefore you will not able to fall back on this myth; creating absolute negotiating strength in yourself.

2.  Your boss will pay you fairly; he/she is looking out for your best interests

While in some instances your boss may have your best interests at heart during the promotion process, he/she also has to look out for the company – and saving money can be seen as a big “win” for any manager. More often than not, your first offer will be presented with the knowledge and intent of a negotiation process – simply not asking for more, will leave you at a lower number than even your boss anticipated.

In other words, your boss isn’t the enemy here, but they aren’t your financial compass and are expecting you to ask to be compensated for your worth. The higher up the executive ladder, the more this expectation is true. Part of being a leader is being able to take a stand, fight for the right things and speaking up. If you are unable to speak up for yourself, it can negatively impact your overall career trajectory.

How to negate this myth: Like the myth above, you need to understand your true worth and objective negotiation points. In addition, you have the added bonus of already being an internal employee and high performer. There is a premium placed on people in higher positions that are capable and drive results – the cost to replace you is extremely high, much higher than you could ever negotiate. Take these factors into consideration and incorporate them into your response.

3.  You need to have 100% of the qualifications to even be considered

Job postings, descriptions and openings are opportunities for the company to find “the perfect” candidate – throwing all of their wants, desires and hopes into one role; perhaps combining desired attributes and experiences that were missing from a previous candidate or filling a larger gap on the team. The beauty of this is that they do not expect candidates to match these descriptions 100% – in fact, that person probably doesn’t exist.

Men tend to apply for positions that they match at only 50% – they do so because they are confident that the skills they do have are more influential than the skills they do not have.

How to negate this myth: Start by shifting your mindset from only finding the missing skills in an opportunity, and reset it with the skills that you do have. Likely, they are skills that are hard to come by and would be valued in the role you are interested in. Next, create a baseline of matching skills that feels slightly uncomfortable for you – 70% is a great number to start with, especially if you have been waiting to match positions at 100%. If you meet about 70% of the position, you are more than qualified to throw your hat in the ring. Remember: “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

4.  They are taking a risk with me, so I don’t want to rock the boat

This myth is so ingrained in women, most men probably do not even understand this perspective. Here’s the truth: whenever a company hires or promotes any candidate, it is a risk. It does not make it more or less risky because you are woman, do not possess 100% of the desired skills/experience, or not quite at the level they are seeking. The risk value is the same regardless and honestly, it’s not your problem (it’s the company’s).

If you see yourself as a risky candidate or not the best fit, your employer will as well. But know this – they do not start out thinking you are a risk or rocking the boat by asking more. Those thoughts only become apparent if you put them there.

How to negate this myth: Asking for your worth or having confidence in what you, uniquely, bring to the table is NOT rocking the boat – it’s what is expected. This is a myth that is all about your approach and presentation, like most other negotiations. Consider all of your strengths and skills – without those, would the company be in more or less “risky” situation? Understand your true value and worth and if you haven’t yet worked up the confidence in it, consider your experience as adding value to the company – removing all concern about wanting or asking for more.

Overall, women add a significant value to the workforce and the executive table – you deserve to earn as much as your counterparts do, regardless of your gender. It’s time to take the negative connotation away from “negotiation” and change it into a positive skill set that you can easily practice and deliver to showcase your unique skills and worth.

Start small if confidence on a bigger scale still seems scary – understand your true value and worth to any company, research to see what the market says you are worth, then ask for a conversation. You can fake confidence to start, but your true worth and skills should never be in question.

Lisa Rangel, CEO of www.ChameleonResumes.com, a Forbes Top 100 Career Website, empowers executive job seekers to land their next-level position faster for more compensation. As a paid contributor to LinkedIn, contributor to Fast Company and a quoted Resume and LinkedIn Expert to BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Forbes, and many notable media outlets, Lisa is recognized for her experience as a 13-year recruiter-turned-job search consultant to rising and established executives who want the most effective job search strategy. She has authored 7 ebooks, including 99 Job Search Tips from An Executive Recruiter and the Do-It-Yourself Branded Resume Kit. Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lisarangel/