“ I don’t think they will want to invest in me.”

 “If I ask for flexible working hours, they will think I am not serious about my job.”

 “ I have done most of the work but my colleague gets the credit. I am not sure how to negotiate greater visibility.”

 “If I ask for what I think I am worth, they will think I am being greedy and I may not get the job.”

 “I would like to be included as a member of that internal Executive or Board meeting but am not sure how to negotiate this.”

Do you recognise any of these statements?

Women in Negotiations

I have been running Women’s programmes and coaching Executive women for over 10 years now. Apart from helping women own their voices, take their space, and bring their credible and authentic self to the forefront, the one thing I have noticed women still struggle with is how to confidently negotiate. Yes, it is asking for that promotion, pay rise, seat at the table, development opportunity, or receiving recognition of your worth.

Over the last 8 months, as we navigated through the challenges COVID -19 has brought, I have seen a lack of self -confidence and self–worth present itself even more acutely when women needed professional development. I can cite three examples of very capable and competent Executive Women who did not know how to negotiate with their HR or Line Manager for coaching sessions that would benefit them because they did not know how to position their value and developmental needs within the larger business context. “Jane” had a fear of presenting to large virtual groups,  “Rebecca” had to learn how to hold her authority as the only female Board member in meetings, and “Fatima” knew that the one thing that was holding her back was her self –consciousness around her soft voice and strong accent. This resulted in her not speaking up and having less impact with senior leaders and stakeholders. When talking to these women, they all recognised what they wanted to address. However, they did not know how to justify their business propositions. This surprised me, as so many women are great advocates, sponsors, mentors, and ambassadors for other people but clearly not for themselves. What I helped them to recognise is their unique value and contribution to the company. All three ended up getting a ‘Yes’ from their HR and Line managers for their professional development. As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” or as I like to put it, “if you don’t believe in your value, no one else will.”

In her book “Women Don’t Ask”, Professor Linda Babcock noted that when women MBAs got an offer, only 7% of them would attempt to negotiate as opposed to 57% of men. Research also shows that when women do negotiate they tend to negotiate 30% less than men.

I was puzzled as to why many women do not embrace their worth and put themselves forward. I see three main reasons for this:

1. Women tend not to prepare a strategic business case before a negotiation. They do not fully think through their value and offerings in alignment with the business objective.

2. Women have lower expectations of their personal and financial worth. Because expectations drive behaviour, it inevitably affects how you show up and your outcome.

3. Women are concerned about the reputational risks of negotiating. Four studies done by Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the director of Harvard’s Women and Power program and researchers from Carnegie Mellon Research have shown that women do get penalised more for “Asking” compared to their male counterparts. Women have shared how they have been described as “bossy”, “aggressive” or “not knowing their place” when they negotiate. The common feedback is that “You should be lucky or grateful you have got that job or that promotion.”

Whilst I appreciate that there are many companies who are forward-thinking and who are looking to bridge the gender pay gap and increase women’s visibility, there is still a long way to go here.

I decided that I wanted to create a programme that would help women acknowledge their worth, develop their Presence and provide them with tangible negotiation skills to confidently navigate their way to a win/ win outcome.

So, I approached a colleague of mine, Adrian Evans. Adrian and I have known each other for 10 years now. He is an executive career coach and previously spent two decades as a headhunter – successfully closing thousands of salary and business negotiations. Interestingly enough, Adrian came to me as a client looking for presentation skills coaching and I ended seeking his help on negotiation skills.

Recognising that we both had specialised skills that could enable women to thrive in this area, we decided to put a programme together called “Impactful negotiations for women – how to confidently negotiate your value. ”

I asked Adrian what his top 3 tips on helping women become more skilful negotiators are. This is what he said:

  1. Unfortunately, it is a truism that ‘You do not get paid what you are worth, you get paid what you negotiate’, so know your value and meticulously prepare.
  2. Calculate the value you add to your organisation as an individual and your wider contribution. Your ask will be more palatable.
  3. Ask with conviction, as if representing your best friend whose interests you want to best represent. Have three outcomes for your asks: acceptable, unacceptable and stellar – naturally aim between acceptable and stellar.

JF Kennedy described negotiation very aptly when he said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

If you want to learn how to negotiate with confidence, do get in touch to find out more about this course.