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7/18/2014
01:05 PM
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Salary Negotiation For Women: Ask The Expert

InformationWeek salary survey data shows the gender pay gap remains alive and well in IT. One reason: Women walk a tricky tightrope during the negotiation process.

Do you fear you bring home less money than the guy in the office next door? If you're a female IT executive, you're probably right. In our 2014 InformationWeek US IT salary survey, the difference for male and female IT executives spoke for itself: Median total compensation for male IT executives is $25,000 higher than for female execs, according to our data. Male VPs of IT -- a crucial "lieutenant" role on the career path to CIO -- report earning a median base salary of $139,000 -- while females in that role report a median of $125,000.

What are we doing wrong, ladies?

As my mother loves to say, "If you don't ask for it, you won't get it." But the act of asking for more in itself is fraught with complications for women, says Joan C. Williams, distinguished professor and founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California's Hastings College of the Law, and author of eight books, including What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Every Woman Should Know (NYU Press, 2014).

"If I hear once more that the reason for the wage gap is that women don't negotiate, I may just blow a gasket," she wrote, in an eye-opening column on salary strategies.

"Women don't negotiate because they're not idiots," she wrote.

Williams will be my guest on InformationWeek Radio to share her knowledge -- and take your questions. Join us for Salary Negotiation For Women: Get What You Deserve, Tuesday, July 22 at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT). Register now.

Williams' point about women not being idiots: Some of those times you kept your mouth shut, at annual review/raise time, or as you accepted a new job, you were right. You used your emotional IQ, your intellect, your research, and your knowledge of the personalities involved to decide that asking for more would likely backfire.

You were up against what Williams calls the "tightrope" of masculinity and femininity. Be perceived as too masculine, and you're bitchy. Be perceived as too feminine, and you're not aggressive and effective enough.

There's no perfect mix of masculine and feminine. Every boss and coworker you have may think a different balance of the two is "normal."

(image: Brechti)
(image: Brechti)

Sounding familiar? Women walk this tightrope in all sorts of professional situations -- from speaking up in meetings to tooting your own horn up the chain of command.

I wrote about it with regard to a high-profile project I led. I wrestled with what degree of worry I could show. Too much, and I'm branded a Nervous Nellie. Not enough, and I'm branded incompetent. I finally embraced the fact that no one would think I was Chicken Little for having legitimate worries about project issues. After all, the men did, too.

This tightrope dynamic especially factors into hiring and salary negotiations, Williams says. Studies show women get penalized more often than men do when asking for more money. But you can use strategies to try and stay in balance. So let's take how you handle negotiations to the next level.

In our online broadcast July 22, Williams and I will discuss classic mistakes to avoid in negotiations, whether women wait too long to try for the next promotion -- and how to be assertive at work without being labeled the dreaded word that rhymes with witch. Bring your experience and your problems.

With regard to walking the tightrope, I see reason for optimism for women in IT. In the past year, I have met a growing number of female CIOs and IT leaders who simply will not downplay being women. I listened to Dell CIO Adriana Karaboutis declare: "Get out of your own way" and advise women to reach sooner for that next career step.

I watched the day vanish when all professional IT women wore boxy grey or brown suits. When I moderate panels on female IT leadership these days, the participants wear bright blue, brilliant yellow -- even pink.

I just ran a column by Daria Hutchinson, a woman in a leadership role at big data company Platfora, that proved a hit with our readers: How To Explain Big Data To A Fifth Grader. One of the cool things to me about the article: She included a photo of her with her daughter. When I reported on the microprocessor and PC industry in the 1990s, I was lucky to meet female execs at all. And if I did, they never even hinted at being moms. That would be leaning too far on the feminine side of the tightrope.

I see women inside and outside IT leading by example, walking the tightrope with bravery and grace.

Let's keep sharing what we learn on that walk. Register now to join me for the Salary Negotiation radio show with Joan C. Williams.

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Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio
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MDMConsult14
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MDMConsult14,
User Rank: Moderator
7/23/2014 | 6:55:29 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
These type of cases also make sense when women in the workforce find themselves in situations where they may have to negotiate time off due to labor delivery. A lot of firms today have incorporated programs for this and time of to leave for these reasons. Being a strong negotiator will have an advantage to negotiating these aspects to a woman's career.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 1:11:44 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
@Kimberly, thanks for sharing your experience. I agree with you on culture -- a great salary in a culture you can't live with is not going to be a win in the long run. In the interviews I have had since becoming a parent, I didn't want it to be a state secret that I was a parent. So I let it be known at the very end of the process. Some experts advise the opposite, but I needed to know the culture fit.
KimberlyC025
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KimberlyC025,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2014 | 12:58:49 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
I have been both a tightrope walker and a trailblazer. For me- having flex time is of the utmost importance because I have children and do not care that anyone knows this. I am more circumspect about my age- which seems to be more of an issue than the fact I have progeny. That said- since I have long experience in my field (Nework Security) and I have less patience with b.s. as I get older- I have more candor. That candor for me has been a good thing. I respect the fact sometimes you have to hold your tongue- but overall I speak my mind. I am polite but I am firm and I make myself very clear. Sometimes I get the eyerolls but overall I get where I am trying to get to- even if it takes time. I have a rule of thumb that works for me. I research what the average salary is at an organization and ask for about 10% higher. It is a great starting point- if you do not get the higher salary get the flex time : ) Another thing to do is to be willing to walk away. Seriously. It may be one thing to accept something because you desparately need a job- but the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. I have never stopped looking- and if I interview I am polite, but candid and very firm about what I want. I am willing to negotiate to a point, but if I discern sexism (or in my case ageism) I walk away. Money is a grand place to start- but corporate culture will speak volumes about how far you get in that organization. Cheers!
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 2:49:00 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
Good question Lorna. Many job interview processes begin with a recruiter or HR pro asking you for a range you are seeking. You have to name at least a range first. This is why research is crucial. Let's see if there's more specific advice we can share here.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 1:46:44 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
Question: I was always told that in any negotiation, the first person to name a figure loses. However, recently I've seen a few experts question that conventional wisdom. What's her take?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 7:26:11 AM
Re: Tightrope walkers
One thing I would be interested to hear more about in the call is whether the approach women take in negotiatiations, and their success with it, varies much by industry.  
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
7/19/2014 | 10:53:23 AM
Re: Tightrope walkers
Unfortunately I have seen my fair share of male chauvinists at the C-level which has led to this amongst my female peers.  It's aweful, and I can't help but feel that we're a geneartion behind where that will really cease to be an issue.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/19/2014 | 8:47:48 AM
Re: Tightrope walkers
Daria, thanks for chiming in here. The example you raise is a good one. The mix of men and women on the team can really matter in situations like this, too. Also, are you hanging out there on your own asking for the change in situation, or have others asked? Men may be seen as trailblazers making these requests -- I'm guessing your colleague was -- while women may seem "pushy." It's a classic tightrope situation.
TechWriterDaria
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TechWriterDaria,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2014 | 7:09:30 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
I find that salary is easier to negotiate than things like a flexible schedule, special working arrangements, or time off. Several years ago I was at a company where a male engineer negotiated an arrangement where he worked remotely 3 out of 4 weeks a month. He was divorced and wanted to be near his young daughter who lived out-of-state with his ex-wife. He was accomodated and praised for being such a 'dedicated father'. If a woman asked for a similar arrangement, would people praise her for being a 'dedicated mother' or would she be viewed as 'not committed to her career'?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/18/2014 | 5:43:49 PM
Re: Tightrope walkers
This NPR article points to a study that suggests women do better negotiating for others than themselves when it comes to salary. Perhaps we'd all be better served by an advocate in dealings with management. It's said a lawyer representing himself or herself has a fool for a client. It seems reasonable to assume that holds true in negotiations that don't involve attorneys or courtrooms.
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2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
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