Want A Raise? Talk To A Dude!

The New York Times today provides women with detailed advice for asking for a raise. It also hints at a negotiation secret you might not have heard before. Male friends have a whole new use!

The Times article should be printed out and read regularly, along with Doree Shafrir's Jezebel post about learning to negotiate — a must-read. But this was the part of the Times piece that really jumped out at me:

"Part of your preparation may also include talking to peers. But remember that women tend to be less connected to male networks in the workplace and are more likely to compare themselves to people they think are similar, Ms. Riley Bowles said. That means they may be comparing their salaries with other women.

"If a woman asks her girlfriends how much they are paid and a guy asks his guy friends, Jane and Jim will come up with different numbers," Ms. Riley Bowles added."

It's interesting that the article doesn't come out and say this, but the implied directive here is basically: Prepare for a negotiation by talking to your male colleagues and friends in addition to your female ones. This is excellent advice. While your female colleagues can certainly help and should be consulted (particularly the ones who are natural negotiators themselves), your male ones will probably bring to your negotiation issue the same sense of entitlement that they brought to their own. (Generalizing wildly here, of course.)

I've experienced this effect directly: in the heady days of 2007, I got a job offer to co-edit a new website, that included a contract stipulating salary, stock options and other benefits, and stuff like vacation and sick days. My first instinct was to read over the contract and fax it back with my signature. My knee-jerk reaction, even though I was leaving a pretty good job to take this riskier one, was "Wow, they want to hire little old me! Thank you for the job!" But I happened to mention it to a friend who was a TV news producer who had navigated his way from intern to Senior Producer at a major network in (literally) record time, and he immediately said "Send me that contract."

By the time this friend had looked it over and I'd done rounds of negotiation with the company with his advice, it was a completely different document. The final contract listed a salary $10k higher than the first offer, with bonuses for reaching certain traffic milestones (my friend's idea) totaling another $10k. We doubled the vacation and sick days (even though blog editors don't, in actual practice, get vacation or sick days), and, in a detail that would become important later, stipulated that the company had to give me a month's notice before cutting me loose. Though the parent company hit hard times when the economy collapsed and I was laid off in 2009, I got both of those traffic bonuses (and realized that I should have thrown in a lot more), and the month's notice stipulation and extra vacation days meant that I got a decent enough severance package not to totally freak out. The next time I have a negotiation ahead of me, I'll be consulting with the same male friend. I may not have done much in the way of developing my own sense of entitlement (though I'm a little better now), but I can always borrow it from a dude!

Asking for a raise is another story — I've actually never done that, and in fact, speaking with a female colleague about it at one job actually discouraged me from doing so. After taking on enormous management responsibilities with measurably fantastic results for over a year, she asked her boss for a raise and promotion, laying out all of the reasons her responsibilities were an exact match for the job one level above where she was at the time. This is how the male boss, who was not even an asshole, responded: "Are you and [your husband] having financial problems at home?"

Seriously. This is what we're dealing with, here. (She did eventually get a huge promotion, though.)

Another thing that jumped out from the New York Times piece was this:

"When a woman negotiates persuasively for higher compensation, she clears the path for other women to follow."

That's right: by hanging onto the attitude that our hard work (and results) will be noticed and automatically rewarded, we're not just hurting ourselves. We're hurting each others' careers, too. This week, think about how your job has changed since you started doing it (or since your last promotion/raise.) Don't think of it in terms of time or even in terms of how hard you work (everyone thinks they work the hardest), think of it in terms of results you've gotten for the company. Put yourself in your boss's position, and in the company's position, and if you think you deserve a raise, pick up the phone and call the most successful male friend you have. Chances are, he'll jump at the chance to be a little part of your success.


A Toolkit for Women Seeking a Raise
[NYT]
Why There's Still A Wage Gap (With Apologies To Peggy Olson) By Doree Shafrir [Jezebel]