As a motivational speaker who teaches negotiation, I’m always surprised that some of the best female negotiators still find it challenging to negotiate on behalf of themselves. For example, female attorneys I’ve interviewed who think nothing of arguing million dollar cases for their clients, still hesitate asking for a pay raise, promotion, or even time off for themselves. Those that take the risk to ask mentioned they still find it awkward and uncomfortable. And those I spoke with weren’t right out of law school either. These were high-achieving women who were both senior in-house counsel for major corporations and partners in major firms.
I get it. For the most part, women aren’t socialized to go to bat for themselves and are often judged when they do. Yet, no one is going to give us what we need to go get for ourselves. So, what should we do? Shift our thinking beyond ourselves.
Realize you’re representing others, and you’re more likely to negotiate assertively. For example, if seeking a raise, recognize that you’re negotiating on behalf of your family. Or if you’re closing a sale, then you’re negotiating on behalf of your company. Even if you’re entrepreneurial, you can negotiate on behalf of your assistant or vendor who will have greater security and income when you’re more successful.
When it’s more than your own welfare at stake, it will be easier to be both fair and firm. Perhaps if all women practiced this technique we could not only close the pay gap faster, but the gap that makes us hesitate in the first place.