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How to Close Your Own Pay Gap

Salary negotiation techniques to start getting what you’re worth

The pay gap is real. In my past career as a cybersecurity products executive, I interviewed and hired a lot of people. The men I interviewed almost always made at least 20% more than the women of equal experience. In one case it was 30% more. I also experienced the difference in how men and women negotiate for their salaries. So while we are learning to “code like a girl”, let’s learn to negotiate like a powerful girl.

  1. Know what you’re worth from the start

I have never had a man, unless he has a lot of “helper” energy, not know what he’s worth. I ask them and they tell me. If there wasn’t a match between my budget and what they thought they were worth, we discussed if there was any flexibility (sometimes there was but it wasn’t much) and if there wasn’t we wished each other well. Many women, on the other hand, will enter into the interview process stating a willingness to negotiate. This hurts the final outcome for women.

If there is a willingness to negotiate stated up front, it sets up the expectation that they should get paid less than they are asking.

Engaging when you aren’t certain you can get what you want can cause attachment to the position as you continue on the interview process. The greater the attachment, the harder it is to negotiate. If they’re not willing to pay you what you’re worth, it’s best to leave the process early.

2. Tell your inner helper to take a break

When many women see a job they want, they focus on how they can help. This is great in job interviews, but when negotiating for salary the helper mentality hurts the final result. Many women I have hired have told me their desired salary but quickly qualified it with an offer of compromise. Why? Because they wanted to help.

The love of helping and emotional attachment to the position, while they are amazing qualities in an employee, hurt these women’s ability to negotiate a higher salary.

Anyone I hire I want as badly as they want the job. It was my job as a hiring manager to fight for getting what I needed. If there was flexibility it hurt my ability to fight. You can always compromise down at the end. No good employer will reject you in the final negotiation stage because you asked for too much. They may counter, but they won’t leave you if they are worth working for.

3. Express your need to provide

Most men, when negotiating their salary, express their need to provide. “I’ve got two kids I need to send to college.” “The cost of living is really expensive in this area.” “I send money back home to my family because they count on me.” Most women don’t. Part of this is that we fear talking about our home life in the interview process because it’s sometimes seen as a conflict.

However, when it comes to money, it’s completely fine and ok to express your need to provide.

It creates an emotional attachment with the hiring manager who wants their employees to be comfortable in their lives. It also gives the hiring manager something additional to tell HR when they are justifying your salary. If they reject you because you expressed your need to provide, the manager is full of unconscious gender bias and you probably don’t want to work there anyway.

4. Don’t second guess your worth

Women are great at putting themselves down. Men aren’t so much. When we second guess our worth, it puts us at a disadvantage. Women are trained to be humble, to see our faults, and to not brag. This needs to be left at the door.

Any time you want to look at yourself as less than when interviewing for a job, shut…it….down.

The hiring manager can read the energy and it hurts your ability to get paid what you're worth. Remind yourself of all the great things you’ve done, know you can do the same things for the company you’re speaking with, and if they see a fit they’ll pay for the benefits.

5. Know that the negotiation process starts with the very first call and ends at the final offer letter

At all times, in all interactions, keep these rules in mind. From the very first moment a hiring manager or recruiter speaks to you, they are trying to see what they need to pay you. Any indication of self doubt and not deserving what you’re worth will take money away in the final offer.

They made the rules. Let’s play the game.

While corporate culture is slowly shifting, the rules of salary negotiation are still very masculine. They haven’t changed much. Giving, helping, and being flexible are wonderful qualities, but put them in a box while you’re negotiating. You are negotiating from the very first moment you enter. Shift the idea “I want to help you win” to “I’m only going to play if there’s a win-win” and you’ll see the returns.

About Me

I work with Tech Professionals and Companies to have amazing careers, rockstar teams and incredible days. With 20 years in tech, over 15 years in cybersecurity and 10 years in executive management, I coach in Tech because I love technology, love tech people, speak the language and understand the unique opportunities and challenges of the industry — both for startups and large companies. I have a BSEE from Santa Clara University and Master Coach training from IPEC.

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