To say we live in the Age of Oversharing is a wild understatement. And yet, most of us still don't know how much money our closest friends make, let alone how they negotiated to get there.
But being armed with real, concrete information — both the hard numbers and the soft skill tactics — is critical to getting what you deserve. Here, we asked five women the hard questions.
Sharissa Jones, former private equity investment firm partner
Her Story: Before she was 30, Jones was one of the youngest fund managers on Wall Street —one of three individuals overseeing $3 billion in assets. But her success didn't mean she was immune to the wage gap.
"These are no fixed parameters around pay in the private equity or hedge fund business," she says. "Everything was up for negotiation, although it took me a while to figure that out."
Twice that she can recall, she discovered she was paid less than men with less responsibility. Each time she brought it up to her current supervisor; with the first, she successfully negotiated a raise. With the second, she didn't. "The difference lay in the ego of the person," she says.
Her Lessons: "Every boss is incentivised to make it appear as though pay scales are immutable and scientifically derived. We want to make it look like it’s beyond our control," she says, noting of course that in some areas (academia, government jobs), that is truer than others.
"Women will frequently accept such parameters, and men don’t." In short, you don't always have to take no for an answer. She also advises women not make empty threats about leaving — "you just make people mad" — and to thoroughly consider their audience. Some bosses care more about fairness, some only about the bottom line. Use that insight to make your case.
And remember, your boss is only human: "Salaries are long-term obligations so there’s a mismatch between your ask and whatever immediate pressures your boss might be dealing with in the moment. There’s never a perfect time to ask for a raise, but at least try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes to understand her pressures."
Her Story: In 2011, when she was still in college, Kuperman started Betches with her co-founders Samantha Fishbein and Jordana Abraham. In 2014, Kuperman developed Betches' e-commerce site, Shop Betches, which has seen year over year growth since its inception. Betches, which is based in New York City, now employs 13 people.
Her Lessons: Because she started her own company before she even left college, Kuperman has never had to officially ask for a raise. She is, however, in the rare position of being able to grant them, which she's often done. That's what makes her first bit of advice so interesting.
"Don't make your boss feel awkward. If that means practising with a friend or in the mirror, great. It's impressive and compelling when an employee seems confident," she says. "You want to make your boss feel like they aren't taking a risk on you by rewarding you."
She also has one more helpful guideline: By demonstrating that you're already performing the job of the person at the salary level you're requesting, it's easier for a manager to justify the promotion.
Caroline Ghosn, co-founder and CEO of Levo
Her Story: After meeting her business partner, Amanda Pouchot, at their first out-of-college jobs at McKinsey, the two realised immediately they had something in common: They'd accepted the very first financial offer that came their way. Soon Levo, a career network which now boasts over 10 millennials, was formed, along with their #Ask4More campaign.
Her Lessons: Ghosn has given a lot of raises: "When you run an #Ask4More campaign for six years running while managing a team of thoughtful and proactive humans, they get the hint," she laughs.
The cases she's found most compelling? "When someone comes to the table prepared with what they have accomplished over the last performance period and how much value it has added to the company," she says. Less compelling? My rent went up.
"You want to come from a place of contribution, not need," she says. And finally she encourages to remember negotiating is not an adversarial state. "You and your boss are on the same team before you walk into the negotiation and you will be on the same team when it's done," she says. It's called a negotiation — not a fight, falling out, or plea.
Fran Hauser, digital media executive, startup investor and author of The Myth of the Nice Girl
Her Story: When Hauser first joined People Digital as the general manager, she noticed her male counterpart at Sports Illustrated had a president title (and, presumably, a higher salary). When she brought this to her boss's attention, he asked her to revisit the conversation in a year once she'd proven her merits. That's exactly what she did — and she got the raise.
Her Lessons: "When you’re negotiating a salary, a promotion, or a title, you might not get what you want right away," she says. "But if you get the data and ask, it’s much more likely for you to end up on a path toward getting it."
She echoes Ghosn: "A successful negotiation is not a situation where you’ve bulldozed the other side into giving you what you want at their expense," she says. Studies have shown that women who negotiate communally, meaning with an eye toward what is best for the organisation, have a better chance of success.
Michele Martin, founder of The Bamboo Project
Her Story: As a career development instructor, Martin has worked for herself for more than 20 years, making asking for a raise slightly more nuanced.
"I have very personal relationships with my clients. I can't just send out a notice that I'm raising my rates," she says. In a recent situation, when a successful long-term client approached her about a new opportunity, she used the chance to highlight her previous achievements — and ask for a five percent increase.
"I knew their financial position and I actually mentioned that I'd taken this into account— that I was mindful of her situation, so was asking for an amount that I felt was fair," Martin says. "She was a little startled, but after a few minutes of conversation, agreed that it made sense."
Her Lessons: In the situation described above, Martin was prepared to walk away.
"I didn't have to pull that out, but I would have," she says. "The fact that the client really needed and wanted me to do the work definitely made her agree more quickly." Which is to say: Timing is a factor. Consider asking for an increase before embarking on a big new responsibility. Another smart option? Take on some work on the side.
"One big downside of a job is that you are basically being paid for your time, not for the value you're bringing," Martin explains. "When you do project work, you can do more value-based pricing. It gets you in the habit of really thinking about how you are benefitting other people and can also increase your confidence in asking for what you're really worth."
This story first appeared on ELLE.com.
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