girl hiding behind a tableSalary negotiation can be a sticky subject, but an important one. In fact, a George Mason University study found that individuals who negotiated their salaries during the hiring process increased their starting salaries by an average of $5,000. But even though negotiation can increase one’s chances of higher compensation, a CareerBuilder survey revealed that 49 percent of job seekers do not participate in the negotiation process. What’s even more surprising is that 45 percent of employers are willing—and expect—to negotiate salary during the job offer.

And if you think the “fear” of negotiating is equal, think again. More than half (54 percent) of men negotiate their salaries versus 49 percent of women, the same CareerBuilder survey explained. I personally know many women who have been hesitant to either negotiate salary and/or pay raises. But, why does this seem to be an issue for most ladies?

Karli Peterson, PH.D. professor at Kaplan University’s School of Business, knows the answer to this question…and it has a lot to do with value. had the opportunity to speak with Peterson about why, according to, 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate salaries at all. Read on to discover what she had to say about women’s views about their “worth” and how these drastically affect their success during salary negotiations:

Why do you think women avoid asking during the salary negotiation process?

Women tend to believe they should follow the leader, stay within the acceptable norms and not be too outspoken. Asking for something that benefits the woman, is not part of the female culture. Women tend to speak up for their families, but they don’t have as much experience speaking up for themselves.

How can Mary Barra, GM’s first female CEO, be used as an example for women who want to negotiate their salaries?

Mary Barra’s compensation is about 1 million below the highest paid GM CEO, Akerson, although this information depends on the source being reviewed, as with upper executive incomes there are many forms of compensation besides the actual negotiated salary. Mary Barra has 33 years of experience with GM. No doubt those years of experience have added to her knowledge of the company, and the compensation system. Knowing the internal compensation system gives anyone negotiating a salary an edge. In these top positions, there are conversations between the departing executive, and the successor. Depending on the organization’s culture and the relationship and trust between these individuals, there are opportunities to discuss the compensation package. All of these advantages would benefit Mary Barra’s ability to negotiate a compensation package that she felt was commiserate with her unique talents.

Explain how women can articulate what they want and how to better market themselves.

Women need to think through what they want, before entering the negotiation process. I recently spoke with a student on his negotiation experience. He accepted a position that he wanted (he did have a few offers) from a company that offered him his desired income goal. He said that he immediately came back with a higher figure, even though the offer was the exact amount he wanted. He said that he knew if they made that first offer, they would be willing to up the offer.  The women in the class were quite surprised by his action. I spoke to a woman a few years back about the fact that her earnings were well below the accepted industry standard. I asked if she had ever scheduled an appointment to discuss her salary. She said she never thought she would make as much as she was making and didn’t feel she was worth a higher amount of pay.

I think the difference here is that women think of their salary as what they are worth, versus men who realize that the salary is about their contributions, the company’s ability to pay, the industry, cost of living, a number of other external factors.

You say mimicking your interviewer/potential employer can put you at an equal standing. How so?

Women can increase their confidence by listing their accomplishments, researching the industry wages for similar positions, and even practicing how to negotiate for a higher pay level.

By mimicking, I mean establishing a rapport with the employer. Remember that this person has an interest in advancing the company. Investing in the people that advance the company is as important to the employer as this is to the employee. Tracking the employer’s non-verbal communication can assist in creating rapport. Both people need to be on the same page with the same goal, to agree upon a mutually acceptable compensation package. karli peterson

Why is a woman knowing her “worth” so important when negotiating salary?

Again, women think of their worth from more of a female perspective. Are we treated respectfully in our personal lives? Who are our role models? Who are our mentors? Many women don’t have mentors or role models that guide them through higher-level income situations. Women are better off if they think about their contributions to the organization, what have they accomplished? How much knowledge and history do they have with the organization, or within the industry? This is what is being negotiated. The person, as an individual person, isn’t what is being negotiated, but rather what the person offers and contributes to the organization. This is a different perspective from, what am I worth as a person, or as a woman.

How can women leverage the power of body language during salary negotiations?

Non-verbal language includes tapping into the positive feedback; a slight nod should encourage additional explanation on the topic to drive home the value of the skill set being negotiated. A move away indicates the agreement is not moving forward. The goal is to keep the topic focused on the negotiation and present the reasons why an increase in pay is the best course of action for both the company and the employee.

Final thoughts?

Take the time to prepare for the negotiation. Do the background research, realize the negotiation process, is a process, and might take a few meetings before an agreement is reached. Of course, there is also that possibility that the negotiation is a one meeting process. Know what you want, know that what you are asking for is reasonable, and if you are truly a valuable employee, the employer will want to keep you. You might also want to point out how your job has changed from the last pay raise. What new responsibilities have you taken on?  Again, this goes back to making that list of your accomplishments. Perhaps you have completed another degree, training, or achieved a certificate, brought in new clients, or developed a new process that saves the company money. Ask a colleague to help you create the list of your accomplishments. I’m not suggesting that you take this list in with you to negotiate. However, having the list in your mind increases your self-worth and creates some easily accessible points that you can bring up in the negotiations.

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