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: