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The key reasons why women don't negotiate their salary

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

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new study reveals that while most women don’t negotiate when it comes to a new job offer — those who try to get more money were generally successful.

In a study of 1,008 adult women produced for HuffPost, Yahoo, and CARE by Langer Research Associates, 64% said they did not try to negotiate their pay the last time they were hired.

But out of those who did negotiate, a whopping 71% said they were generally successful. “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran recently told Yahoo Finance, “As a boss, I can tell you, everybody’s got another $5,000, $10,000 in their pocket — trust me.”

So why don’t women negotiate more?

“I think part of the reason we see fewer women negotiate, [is due to] this fear associated to it,” Glassdoor’s community expert, Sarah Stoddard, told Yahoo Finance. “While there’s been a movement around salary transparency, there’s a taboo nature when talking about salary.”

This fear also stems from “seeming like you’re being selfish about what you’re earning,” added Stoddard. As a result, many women may be left in the dark about how much others in their position earn.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at an event to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act on Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

‘Thankful to get the job’

Another reason was that many women simply didn’t even know they were in a position to negotiate their salary.

Michelle, a nurse from Massachusetts who participated in the survey, told Yahoo Finance that negotiating “wasn’t even on my radar,” and that she “was more thankful to get the job.”

She added: “I don’t think I was ever prepped by anyone in my schooling and any sort of training to consider pay or contract negotiations as part of the interview process.”

Her experience may not be unique. “It’s relatively new that career centers include negotiating when teaching resume writing, and job interviewing,” Equal Pay Negotiations founder and pay equity expert Katie Donovan told Yahoo Finance. “Many have not known [that negotiating] is part of the hiring process.”

Education may also be a key factor when it comes to salary negotiation. The survey found that 48% of women with postgraduate degrees negotiate their salaries, compared to 37% for those with at least some college and 18% for those with a high school degree or less. Of course, salary negotiation may be more common in general for jobs that require higher levels of education.

The survey for HuffPost and CARE also found that based on the last job offer they had accepted, 50% of those who did not negotiate their salary reported that they were satisfied and hence didn’t feel the need to do so.

“Particularly early in their career, often times people who are just graduating high school or from undergraduate degrees, they feel like they don’t have the years of experience to negotiate for competitive pay,” Stoddard said.

‘Hard thing to approach’

But a significant portion — 22% of those who did not negotiate — said they weren’t given a chance to negotiate.

One respondent from Florida who works with a religious organization said that she felt uncomfortable raising the topic because “it’s a hard thing for me to approach.”

She added her inability to explain to her boss exactly why she deserved a raise was also a significant obstacle.

For her part, Donovan said employers may present a job offer “prefaced with language to diminish the likelihood of negotiating.” This could be through sentences like “‘I’m confident you will be thrilled with how generous an offer it is,’ — [but] it’s hype... it’s all a bluff,” said Donovan.

She added: “They did nothing special and they have more money at the ready should you negotiate.”

At $21.9 million, GM CEO Mary Barra was third highest-paid female CEO for 2017, as calculated by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm. (Photo credit: Carlos Osorio, File/AP Photo)

Glassdoor’s Stoddard also made the point that if you’re in the early stages of your career and you don’t negotiate, you could miss out on a whole lot more as your career progresses.

“If you are entering your career after graduating college and you don’t negotiate, that difference in pay from what you accepted on the first offer to ten, twenty, thirty years down the line,” Stoddard said. “That’s thousands and thousands of dollars you could have been earning.”

Leaning in

And that missed opportunity also worsens the overall pay gap between men and women suggested Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her 2013 book, “Lean In.

Encouraging women to be more assertive, Sandberg also acknowledged that it’s hard to work within the rules yet fight for better pay and promotions.

“No wonder women don't negotiate as often as men,” she wrote. “It's like trying to cross a minefield backward in high heels.”

Working women are estimated to miss out on $500 billion a year, according to a report last year from the American Association of University Women. Women are paid only 80 cents on average for a dollar paid to a man, according to the most recent Census data. (However, as Politifact has pointed out, that figure does not control for factors such as the number of hours women work or the degrees they’ve earned.)

Negotiation tips

So what’s the best way to negotiate? Stoddard said that in person or over the phone would be best.

But to Donovan, the means don’t matter.

“I had one client who was most comfortable texting,” Donovan said. “She texted her entire negotiation. And that’s the trick. Try to conduct the negotiation in the mode that is most comfortable to you. The elements are the same regardless.”

Source: Verizon Media

This HuffPost/Yahoo/CARE survey was conducted by telephone Jan. 21-30, 2019, among a random national sample of 1,008 adult women, with 71% reached on cell phones and 29% on landlines. Results have a 3.6 percentage point error margin for the full sample, including design effects due to weighting. The survey was produced by Langer Research Associates of New York. N.Y., with field work by Issues & Answers of Virginia Beach, Va.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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