By Barbara Frankel and Eve Tahmincioglu
When the World Economic Forum released its 2015 gender pay report late last year the headline was quite clever, albeit sad:
“It’s Back to the Future as Women’s Pay Finally Equals Men’s … From 2006.”
In the report, the United States was ranked 74th out of 145 countries when it comes to pay equity, behind Burundi and Philippines. There are a host of reasons why women’s pay is still lagging in the United States and around the globe, and a host of remedies prescribed to equalize pay for the future.
But there are things women can do right now to help narrow the gap for themselves.
We spoke to Robin H. Sangston, chief compliance officer of Cox Communications (No. 17 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity), who is also chair of the company’s Women’s Employee Resource Group, to get her take.
Sangston provided us with the following attributes women need to adopt if they want to be satisfied with what they’re paid.
- Be confident
A man will promote himself as qualified for a promotion even if he only meets some of the criteria, while a woman won’t seek the promotion unless she feels confident that she meets all of the criteria. It ultimately comes down to confidence. Whether it is because women undervalue themselves or because women are more inclined to want to be perceived as likable, they tend to negotiate weakly, or not at all, on behalf of themselves.
Just as in any business negotiation, men assume that an employment offer is just that — an offer — and they, as a matter of course, expect a counter offer.
- Be rejection friendly
Women may need to have thicker skins. Many men don’t take rejection personally, which enables them to keep coming back on their own behalf even after having been told “no” before.
I’ve found that women have a great deal of success negotiating on their clients’ or companies’ behalf because they are usually very emotionally intelligent and able to flex their negotiating style to the situation. This also may motivate women to push harder for their clients, but they can also face the double standard of being perceived as “bossy,” “pushy” or the other “b-word” if they negotiate too hard.
- Be collaborative
I think in general women are more successful in business negotiations, and face less of a double standard, if they are perceived as being collaborative – i.e., it’s the adage of “power with” versus “power over.”
I believe there is some truth to the currently trending philosophy that men tend to be more hierarchical and women are collaborative. This ability to see a business negotiation as a collaboration rather than a zero sum game can enable women to find creative ways to solve knotty problems and achieve a win/win.
- Be part of employee groups
As the chair of our Women’s Employee Resource Group I am excited about the many ways ERGs can both inspire women to take appropriate risk and provide valuable resources and training to give them the tools to be more confident personally and professionally.
At Cox, our Women’s ERG recently hosted a moderated panel co-sponsored with the EY Women’s Resource Group on “Redefining Confidence.” The panelists helped debunk many myths about women and confidence, including that you have to be completely ready before taking on new challenges, that acting on intuition is reckless, that self-promotion is in authentic, that women can’t compete for sponsors and that women have a hard time getting a voice at the table.
In addition to these large-scale programs, ERGs can also help create intimate settings through peer-to-peer mentoring circles, where small groups of women can learn from each other in a safe environment by sharing best practices, tips and encouragement.
- Be a mentee
A good mentor should be able to help his or her mentee prepare for any sort of negotiation through role-playing. As in anything in life, and a negotiation is no different, preparation is key.
Before any negotiation — either in a personal or business context — one should play out the possible scenarios just like one studies a chess board to see how one’s opponent might react to a particular move. Given that men and women have different negotiating styles, it is invaluable for women to have both male and female mentors so they can get diverse guidance.