Friday, November 02, 2007

Ask For What You Want

The results cited here teach a useful lesson for life in the writing business and other art commerce, and for men as well as women.

"According to one university study, male assertiveness may be the real reason why men are paid higher salaries. That same study shows that when women are assertive, especially when negotiating starting salaries, her wages earned fall more in line with her male counterparts – definitely a positive characteristic. Linda Babcock, economics professor and former acting dean at Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, found that of the nearly 900 CMU master’s degree graduates they surveyed, the average salary difference between males and females was about $4,000. Of those questioned, 57 percent of the men had negotiated for a higher starting salary when interviewing for their first job, compared to only 7 percent of the women. When the women negotiated for higher pay, ironically their average salaries came to about $4,000 a year more then their initial offer."

The article quoted is at from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. See Babcock and Sara Laschever's Women Don't Ask for more encouragement and info. The same day I saw this piece online I raced to my nearest independent bookstore and bought a copy of this book. I'm halfway through it. It's terrifically useful and eye-opening. (And I'd thought my eyes were already open.) More on this to come.


billie said...

I'm not surprised at all - although personally I think I have a male streak that serves me well in things like this.

When my husband went from private contractor to permanent employee 6 years ago he was asked to put together on paper what he wanted salary-wise, etc. I was shocked at how modest his version was, and did a major edit on the numbers - salary, weeks vacation per year, work schedule, etc.

He was slightly mortified but submitted it. Of course they met all his requests. He's a tremendous asset to them and they knew it.

I suspect one reason women don't generally "ask for what they want' is that they are less comfortable hearing "no" as an answer. Men seem more to have an easier time with that, imo.

And, bottom line, if you can't bear hearing no, better not to ask.

Sounds like a fascinating book!

Peggy said...

Nice work on your husband's numbers, Billie.

Another reason given in this book for women's reluctance to ask is fear of damaging relationships by seeming "not nice."

billie said...

I was thinking back over the professional jobs I've held since college, and I don't think I've accepted the offered salary in any of them - I always negotiated for more than what they said they would pay. And got it.

M. and I have switched abilities in this area. He absolutely doesn't want to be perceived as "demanding" or "not nice," whereas I see it as asking for what I want and feel I deserve.

I've counseled a number of women clients who were promoted into higher positions (several levels higher, not just one) without a single salary increase - nothing was said about money and they didn't ask! I can't imagine many men going for that.

Peggy said...

That's impressive.

Do you have any hesitations about asking for higher money, Billie? And if not, how did you get that way?

billie said...

No, Peggy, I don't recall reservations about asking. I generally had back-up plans and other options in mind wrt work stuff, and mostly I think I trusted that there would be something better down the pike if what I wanted/what they were willing to pay didn't match.

I don't know how I got that way - I was very shy as a child so it wasn't a trait I came in with. I do seem to have a very stubborn core that activates when I need it.

I've been self-employed now for nearly 15 years so it hasn't been an issue for awhile. Although I think one could liken this to my agent situation - slightly different context but the basic underlying dynamic is very similar.

Peggy said...

I've been self-employed for 35 years and I still wrestle with the issue of underpricing.

Maybe there's a chromosome for this kind of toughness. I know there's one for the ability to tie scarves.