Negotiating for Women


“Because I’m worth it.” This popular advertising slogan created in the last decade had women around the globe declaring their worth and celebrating it. And why not? We work long, hard hours balancing work-life and home-life, and doing a darn good job of it. That alone is worth noting. If we dig a bit deeper though, do we really know our worth when it comes to our careers? Are we in control of getting what we want? More importantly, do we know how to go out and get it?

Negotiating Your Career
Laurel Bellows, managing principal of The Bellows Law Group, P. C., who specializes in negotiating employment and separation contracts for senior level executives, offers sound advice when it comes to navigating your future. “First and foremost, Ms. Bellows explains, “you have to know what you want or you won’t know what to ask for.”

Negotiating isn’t just about the job offer; it involves what you’re worth and other variables we often don’t consider. The most obvious is salary, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Consider the big picture of employment negotiation:

Job What title is offered, what is your authority, to whom will you report to, career path opportunities, et cetera?

Salary Always compare. Your entry compensation package sets the level for your future with this employer and those to follow. What are your peers in the firm making? Talk to your recruiter, research salaries with other firms in the same industry. Ask what level you are in thesalary band?

Additional compensation Signing and annual bonuses and/or commission, target bonus expected increases with advancement, equity and investment rights.

Benefits Retirement plans, company contributions, telecommuting, tuition reimbursement, vacation, health benefits all figure into your compensation.

Exit strategy You probably will leave this job at some point; understand and negotiate separation benefits.

Seek counsel If the job or promotion is management level, consult with an attorney to be sure you understand the value of this position and your rights.
There really isn’t one gender that’s better qualified than the other when it comes to the negotiating process; however, women negotiate differently. Men, in general, look several steps ahead, because their mentality or ego allows them to envision being the next CEO.

“Men never question whether or not they’re valuable,” Ms. Bellows explains. “Women do. Men will push as far as they can go, whereas women are more concerned about being disliked and appearing greedy. Men love a good game of one-upmanship, but women typically don’t like confrontation.”

But that doesn’t mean that women aren’t perfectly suited for successful negotiating. “It’s about reaching an agreement through relationships, and women are better at developing relationships and listening, which is crucial.” Negotiating in full before you start the job is essential, because once you’ve accepted, your power to negotiate is gone.

Managing Your Value
“You can’t assume doing a good job is all it takes to get ahead,” says Cindy Lu, president/CEO and co-founder of The Novo Group. Ms. Lu encourages employees to take ownership of their careers. “The company wants to see the value they’ve invested in you, and clients will only continue doing business if there’s ongoing value,” she explains. “You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where the company feels you’re overpaid for what you bring to the table.”

The professionals agree: successful people take responsibility to make sure they’re getting paid what they’re worth. Ms. Lu offers this advice to highlight your value:

Be Visible Take initiative, volunteer for projects.

Toot Your Own Horn Own the work you produce.

Be Your Own Mentor Build value by branding yourself.

Take Risks Demonstrate your willingness to be bold.

In this tough market when unemployment is still at an all-time high, Ms. Lu suggests, “Look at the entire package and the learning potential, involved versus just seeing the salary.” However, she also cautions against decreasing your value based on economic times.

As for those early on in their careers, volunteering and interning are still viable paths to success. “It’s a great way to learn and bring value to an organization if you don’t have a lot of work experience under your belt,” Ms. Lu says.

Supporting Our Path
As the economy gets back on track, a large portion of the workforce will feel more comfortable seeking out new opportunities. Studies have shown that most employees don’t leave a job because of economics, but because they don’t see a clear pathway to their ultimate goal. Cheryle Jackson, vice president, Government Affairs and Corporate Development for AAR CORP, is passionate about helping corporations develop strategic Affinity Groups. “These types of groups and mentoring programs help women plan and implement a career strategy,” explained Ms. Jackson, who offers these suggestions:

Don’t be afraid to ask for projects that showcase your skills.

Create a career path or strategy.

Feel comfortable communicating your plan.

Visualize where you’d like to yourself.

Celebrate your accomplishments.

Believe that women are qualified for the c-suite.

Ms. Jackson also emphasizes the importance of mentorships. “As younger women enter the workforce, it’s up to those of us who are further along in our careers to be positive roles models, to create a road map for others to follow,” she says. “The more guidance and support a company offers, the more women will feel confident managing their careers and knowing what they’re worth.”


About Julie Monti

Julie Monti is vice president of The Larko Group – one of Chicago’s most highly regarded staffing firms – and has spent the past 15 years guiding candidates through the sometimes rocky terrain of a career transition. Her specialty is creating, refining and targeting resumes; building networking resources; and career counseling.