Earlier this month Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg released a new edition of Lean In, her 2013 best-selling book for working women, refocusing itfor college graduates entering the workforce. A central theme of the book is negotiation—in particular, negotiating salaries.
“It never even occurred to me to negotiate my first salary,” Sandberg writes in her book. “I waited for someone to tell me how much money I’d be earning so I could figure out where to live. I ended up supplementing my income by teaching aerobics classes on the weekend.”
Studies show that most women simply do not bother negotiating their salary. One study at Carnegie Mellon University found that “57 percent of male students negotiate but only 7 percent of females tried to negotiate for a higher offer,” according to Sandberg’s book.
Sandberg points to Professor Hannah Riley Bowles, who studies gender and negotiations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who believes that, in order to walk away from the negotiation table successfully, women have to “come across as being nice, concerned about others and ‘appropriately’ female.”
Be “relentlessly pleasant,” Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan says, according to Sandberg. Her advice:
Invoke common interest
Emphasize larger goals
Approach negotiation as problem-solving rather than a critical stand
Sandberg’s disclaimer: it’s not exactly ideal to have to succumb to female stereotypes in order to earn what we deserve. But, hey, pragmatically, we can change leadership mindset after we play the game and position ourselves as leaders. It’s a means to an end, she says.
On April 8, 2014, President Obama took two actions intended to promote pay equity for women and minorities. First, the President signed an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors with contracts exceeding $10,000 from prohibiting or retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation with one another. In issuing the Order, the President observed that as a policy, “pay secrecy fosters discrimination.” If women don’t know they are underpaid, they are less likely to ask for more money. The Executive Order aims to help them discover and expose pay discrimination.
Next, the President issued a Memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to issue regulations that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to report summary employee compensation data, including by race and sex. The DOL has been given 120 days to develop the regulations. The purpose of reporting information is “so pay discrimination can be spotted more easily” and corrected.
For both men and women in the business world, learning to aptly negotiate is a crucial aspect of long-term professional success. In today’s world, the ability to successfully negotiate is a necessity. These recent actions should help close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay.