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Why Women Must Negotiate to Succeed

The final post in a five-part blog series on women in leadership

By Priti Shah

There has been much conversation and buzz in recent months about Academy-Award winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence. Her essay, Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars? has heightened awareness of the gender pay gap and the importance of negotiation. When salary information was leaked by Sony Lawrence discovered that she was making far less than her male counterparts. She states: “I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.”[1] Lawrence owns responsibility for walking away from the opportunity to negotiate. She goes on to write:

“But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’”[1]

Research shows that women do not like to negotiate. 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.[2] The effects of not negotiating are astounding. “By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.”[3] Women across all career fields are making less and losing more than male counterparts because they are not taking advantage of the positive outcomes that come from negotiating.

As a women in the workforce – how do you learn to negotiate when so few women are versed and experienced in negotiating? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, offers a framework for negotiating on her website, LeanIn.org. The framework approaches negotiating as a problem- solving process, rather than confrontation or conflict resolution.

Her framework consists of four steps:

  1. Assess: Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
  2. Prepare: What are my interests? What are your interests?
  3. Ask: Engage and share unique information
  4. Package: Bundle alternative proposals

This framework provides both a starting point as well as a path to success as you prepare to negotiate.

There is so much to be gained by negotiating. Even celebrities earning multi-millions of dollars, like Jennifer Lawrence, admit to leaving money behind when it comes to negotiating at work. Think about your own career path and what you stand to gain by negotiating. How can your success increase through approaching negotiating as a problem-solving process?

Leave a comment below to share how you’re applying what you learned in today’s post. Subscribe to receive new blog post notifications. Submit your email address via the form on the right.

This is the final installment of our five-part blog series on women in leadership. To read the previous posts visit http://ow.ly/YEQsf.

Priti Shah is Vice President, Leadership Product Strategy and Corporate Development

[1] Lawrence, Jennifer Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars? Lenny, 2015.

[1] Ibid

[2] Babcock, Linda and Laschever, Sara “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide”

[3] Ibid

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