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A collection of articles about "why women don't negotiate" has been making the rounds. Here are a few of the links:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/dont-just-ask-why-women-dont-negotiate/249368/

http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/12/ask-more

and the related reddit thread. (I can't tell if this spawned the series of articles.)

http://www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes/comments/hvv2m/i_work_for_a_large_multinational_tech_company_i/

Ok, so women are caught in a catch-22: don't ask, and you won't get more money. Ask, and people won't (like you/want to hire you/want to work with you/...).

So why are so many of these articles just telling women to learn how to negotiate? Ok, sure, that's good advice, for all of us who aren't strong negotiators, including both women and men. After all, men who aren't strong negotiators are also penalized financially for a lack of negotiating skills.

But none of these articles are discussing how to solve the problem that women who negotiate are perceived negatively (& presumably treated worse). I feel like I'm in an alternate universe, Joseph Heller's in fact, where apparently intelligent people seem to think it makes sense to tell someone to work harder to escape a catch-22.

How about, especially for those in director level positions or higher - expose (even anonymously, on reddit), your company's bizarre wage negotiation rules, that reward negotiating skills even when that skill is not otherwise related to the job. Coach everyone who works for you, and anyone else that you have any sort of mentoring relationship with, so they understand what they should be asking for. Women and men both. Argue for transparency in wages at your company. Promote tight coupling of wages to job title plus experience, or whatever formula makes sense in your business, as long as it's well-publicized within the company, so that everyone who gets hired or promoted into an equivalent position actually gets an equivalent wage. Go to your HR department and ask them to do an analysis of wages within your company, and see if there are any imbalances that don't make sense (both when you do and don't factor in years of experience & education), whether it's gender, race, age, national origin, or some other factor. If there are imbalances, start a conversation with the leaders of the company (again, director level and above), discussing whether this is actually how you want to run your business.

I'm not an expert on these matters, and I'm sure there are problems with all of those ideas, that people will call out in the comments, if many people read this. But that kind of misses my point - we should at least be discussing ways to get past this, not just telling women "negotiate!"

And those ideas don't even touch on the deeper feminist question of how we can get the world we live in to respect and value strong women who ask for what they deserve.

A related question ... how many people (who are strong negotiators) are reading these articles and thinking "Yes! I love imbalances, I can game them to my advantage!" There are a lot of these people, I'm sure, and none of these articles mention them, either. These are the people who are going to resist openness about salaries, and any kind of company wide efforts to correct imbalances, whether they're associated with gender, race, age, or something else irrelevant.

(It's possible that both of these points eventually came up in the reddit comments, but not in the ones I read, and I read more than a few.)
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Johanna Neaderhouser's profile photoAllen Knutson's profile photoLisa Gates's profile photo
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Just to add another depressing complicating factor into the mix, rather than point to any solution: I bet that people in companies with open salaries are, by and large, less happy than ones in companies with secret salaries. Thanks monkey brain.

You'd have to work really hard at avoiding the appearance of zero-sumness if you didn't want people to resent (and sabotage) their neighbor's productivity.
 
+Johanna Neaderhouser you're asking great questions and you have the right answers IMO. Yes, we can be telling women to negotiate, but really we're asking for a culture shift. When we started training women to negotiate in our courses, it became very clear very quickly that unless we got in the door in their orgs and corporations and worked from the top down, the road to leadership and pay parity would take another century, if then.

When you factor in that most diversity initiatives in orgs are UNFUNDED, you see that it's all window dressing and posturing. The key to affecting culture shifts is to help leadership understand how the promotion and advancement and mentoring of women AND men in their orgs (including negotiation training, rain making, influencing the influencers, etc.) will have a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Equate the shift to retention and dollars.

We have to work from the top down.
 
+Allen Knutson I'm pretty sure it's already a zero sum game. I'm not sure how many people know this. For instance, in some (many?) companies, a manager gets a pool of money and has to decide how to split it among their employees. This means that groups that are above average aren't properly rewarded. Some companies try to combat this by having larger units compare and rate employees. This seems to merely kick the reward-for-negotiating-ability debate up a level - now you're being rewarded based on your manager's negotiating ability, not your actual performance.

I haven't witnessed engineers deliberately sabotaging other individual's productivity. But I have witnessed engineers & engineering managers sabatoging other individuals' and groups' reputations, by attempting to shift blame for code issues and schedule delays.

To actually be related to job performance, I think compensation needs to be based on metrics somehow, well-chosen ones. See, for instance, the recent study about wikipedia, that said that men edit more, but when they looked more carefully, they found that women's edits were more extensive, even though they were fewer in number. (I didn't actually read the study so I might have the details wrong there.)

Metrics of performance are tough in software. Lines of code and number of bugs found/fixed are both flawed.

Why do you think open salaries would make people unhappier? Because the people with lower salaries would feel worse if everyone knew?
 
No, because they would know. My boss says he's glad I'm here, but he's obviously not that glad I'm here; apparently he's $10/day gladder that Aloysius is here. That suck-up.
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