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"I know HOW to negotiate-- but I suck at it!"

Why Women Need Negotiating Skills in the Workplace

by Jen Creer  |  11413 views  |  7 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Several years ago, I was in the mail room of the university at which I taught; I was looking for work for the new year, because the state budget dried had up money for instructors. I remarked within hearing distance of several faculty members, “I just want to get a job that puts a roof over my head and food on my table."

One of my colleagues looked up from papers she had been stapling, looked me straight in the eye and said, “If that is all you want, then that is all you will get.”

I have never forgotten that. I think about that now when I am setting goals for my medical editing business. However, I am not a business woman in many ways: When I negotiate with clients, I usually err on the side of a) getting the project and b) keeping the client. I have been told by people close to me that perhaps I don’t always do the best job negotiating on my own behalf. It’s true. I am a much stronger advocate for other people.

However, I don’t think I am the only woman who has trouble with negotiations—particularly salary negotiations. I was talking to my friend who writes the blog Cursing Mama about this piece, and she emailed me,

“Negotiating pay? I stink at that.”

I wrote back, “I’m scratching you off the list.”

But she returned with something very compelling: “It isn't that I don't know how to do it – it’s that I lack the cajones to be down and dirty with it. In fact, I think there are a large number of women who undervalue their contributions to the companies they work for. That is one of the factors of the glass ceiling-- our unwillingness or inability to see what we're really worth.

“Still scratching me off your list?”

No, Cursing Mama, I am not. Especially in light of the fact that my friend Arwen, who writes the blog Anthropologists for Corporate America, wrote to me on the same day: “Women still make 67 cents on the dollar, not because corporate America tries to short change us, but because WE DON'T ASK.”

My friend Amy is a photographer in business with her partner, Kim. I actually learned a lot about self-respect and how to negotiate fees when I hired them to take photographs for my medical editing marketing materials. She sent me an excerpt of an email she recently sent to some new, potential clients:

"The good news is that we don't cut corners -- and that results in images that thrill our clients.

The less-than-good-news: both our time-on-task and the fees we need to charge to make projects fiscally worth the time & resources required tend to reflect that no-corner-cutting approach."

About the Author

Jen Creer is a medical editor who has successfully run her own company, Edit Rx, LLC, for more than two years.

Read more by Jen Creer

7 comments so far...

  • Hi all, whew, the business comes across as a bit more professional & on-top-of-things in the above article than perhaps it is. [Evidence: I've yet to shower and it's now 3PM & instead of breakfast and or lunch, brought the 2-liter of Diet Coke into the office while trying to catch up to the point where I'm only three solid days behind...]
    but, eh...
    am excited to learn from all of you; esp on the issue of Balance. If going to yoga for 1.5 hours means you'll have 1.5 hours less of potential productive work time, how do you make yourself grab your mat?
    Oh, clearly, I am off topic (promise to search archives soon) but wanted to say hello.
    What a neat community! Thanks for the heads up, Jen.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by a.enderle on 20th June 2007

  • It will be interesting to see how my daughter fares in 20 years with this issue. More women are making more than men these days (in different professions), enough so that more men stay home with children than 20 years ago. I hope in 20 years more women have a balanced pay for the same work.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 20th June 2007

  • Great article Jen - I'm waiting for the rest as I'm in the market for a better salary and some more freelance work if I can find it.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by CursingMama on 19th June 2007

  • Victoria-- that is a horrible story! I think we all have some of those in our back pockets though...

    Heather, I'm so glad you're here! Please check back often!


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jen Creer on 19th June 2007

  • Great article and good advice. I think everybody experienced this before. Not just women but men as well. Men are just better at asking for more then us. I had a similar situation at my previous job. I brought in a friend (female) for an interview with my group. They hired her and I told her my comp. It took me 3 weeks to negotiate it with my boss. She was reporting to a different boss within our group. He made her an offer that was quite better then mine from the get go. I was stunned. By then I've learned that my boss was the cheapest guy on earth! I was pissed and went to him asking about comp discrepancy between my friend and me. He lied straight into my face and said that HR was blocking him from offering me more at the time. I was so appalled by his lying that I walked out. I had a good relationship with my friend's boss and he came up to me afterwards and said that the took care of my comp and he rolled his eyes about my boss. After that incident I lost all respect for my boss because he was simply dishonest.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Victoria on 19th June 2007

  • Jen, thanks for a great article and Heather, I agree with you - I think you can only negotiate well if you start from an emotional position of strength (i.e. I deserve what I am asking for). Two years ago I found out that someone at the firm where I worked, who was at the same level as me but had more experience, was given a higher salary. We had the same job, same responsibilities and I was at the firm longer. So I went and asked for my salary to match his. I believed I deserved this even though I could also play devil's advocate and argue that his experience was worth more money. I was nervous, but I think the fact that I felt that I deserved this helped me negotiate successfully.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 19th June 2007

  • Finding self-worth, as in independent, working woman, is something I struggle with. I am looking forward to the next two articles and any comments readers might have on this subject.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Heather C. on 19th June 2007