Negotiating for things you deserve—like a good salary—can be empowering, it can also be nerve-racking, stressful, and uncomfortable.
Research has historically indicated that women have trouble asking and advocating for more pay. According to a Glassdoor study, 68 percent of women accept the salary they’re offered and don’t negotiate at all, a 16-percentage point difference when compared to men, and InHerSight data from 2019 shows that about half of women had never negotiated their salary at all.
To gauge if women are still hesitant around negotiation, InHerSight surveyed 1,400-plus people on which ways they’re most and least comfortable advocating for themselves in the workplace. More than half of women respondents (65 percent) say they feel comfortable communicating their work style preferences, boundaries, and communication-related needs, as well as addressing concerns over professionalism, such as dealing with interruptions, passive aggressive, or toxic behavior.
More than half of respondents (55 percent) remain most uncomfortable advocating for themselves around negotiation conversations, such as asking for more money or benefits.
So, why might women struggle with negotiation? Let’s take a look at six reasons why women feel uncomfortable negotiating for themselves and how to break the cycle.
6 reasons you feel uncomfortable negotiating and how to reset
Reason 1: Talking about money feels taboo
We’re taught from a young age that you shouldn’t talk about money, and women especially are discouraged from talking about finances. But in the workplace, talking about money is essential if we want to earn what we deserve.
Meggie Palmer, founder of PepTalkHer, a corporate programming company whose mission is to close the gender pay gap, says, “If we don't talk about money, we don't have the opportunity to demystify it. A lot of the time, young girls aren’t socialized to think that it’s normal to talk about money. But the more we can normalize discussing money, cash, and salaries, the better it is, because it then becomes second nature to talk about it and ask for things like raises.”
To break the stigma around money, start small by having conversations with your close friends and family. The more you speak with friends about topics like retirement plans, student loans, and budgeting openly, the more opportunities you’ll have to learn about finances and feel more comfortable talking about money and salary in the workplace.
Read more: How to Ask Someone How Much Money They Make
Reason 2: You don’t have the resources or support you need to make good financial decisions
Learning about money is intimidating and often challenging, since there’s no comprehensive and standard system in place to teach us about it in school. “It’s difficult for people to discuss money because there’s no real agreed upon standard of measurement for financial metrics,” says Shannon McLay, a financial adviser who launched The Financial Gym, a financial planning firm. “Because of a lack of agreed upon financial metrics, people feel fear or shame around what their finances look like.”
So, what can you do to help educate yourself? Start by reading money-related books and blogs and listening to finance podcasts. Even if you only dedicate half an hour a day to learning about financial literacy, you’ll be in a much better spot than you are now.
Then, talk to your manager about any financial education benefits that are available (negotiation training, access to financial management advisors, information regarding investment and savings strategies, etc.) or inquire if there’s an opportunity to host a lunch and learn related to money, such as inviting a financial advisor to talk about best practices in good money management.
Reason 3: You don’t interact with your manager enough
Another reason you might feel uncomfortable negotiating is because you don’t spend enough time with your manager. If you only get to meet with your manager once or twice a year, you’ll likely feel more on edge and intimidated when you want to bring up a difficult topic like money.
Palmer says that regular 1:1s and check-ins are imperative, because the more one-on-one facetime you get with your manager, the more comfortable you’ll feel advocating for yourself since you’ll know and understand them better. If you don’t have regular check-ins scheduled with your manager, take the initiative to set up standing meetings yourself.
You can say something like, “I’ve noticed that after we meet together and offer feedback, I feel more confident in my work. So, I was wondering if you might consider having regular 1:1s together? I’d love to have some time for just us two to go over what you expect of me and how I can better work with you.”
Reason 4: You feel shut down when you ask for money
Numerous studies suggest that women are not as effective at self-advocacy as their male colleagues because they feel uncomfortable asking, gender roles and stereotypes hold them back, and when they do have the courage to ask for raises, data shows that they’re not as likely to get them—even though they ask for raises just as often as men.
To prevent feeling shut down when you ask for more money, make sure you’re documenting your worth at your organization. Keep a record of your accomplishments—when you receive praise or acknowledgement, when your work helps increase the company's revenue, when you go above and beyond your job description, etc.
If your manager simply can’t afford to offer you more money at the moment, try negotiating for alternatives such as a promotion or job title change. You can show how your role has evolved over time and outline ways that you would add value in a new role.
Reason 5: You don’t have anyone in your court
Studies have suggested that women don’t get credit at work like men do, especially when they’re working on projects alongside men. When women don’t receive the same recognition and praise as their male counterparts, they aren’t being set up to be considered for promotions and raises since no one is in their corner championing them. This is where sponsorship for women can go a long way. A sponsor is a person who actively advocates for employees from underrepresented demographics by helping them network and make the right connections needed to advance in their careers. One study from PayScale showed that people who have a sponsor are paid 11.6 percent more than those who don’t.
To attract a sponsor, make sure you’re sharing your accomplishments, volunteering for highly visible opportunities and projects, and communicating your career goals with leaders. You’ll always be your greatest advocate, so be sure to show your higher-ups how your efforts have contributed to your company’s goals. Communicate your wins in a measurable way, keep track of ideas you’ve implemented, talk about your achievements during 1:1 and reviews, and create a portfolio to showcase your work. Making sure your wins, big and small, don’t go unnoticed will help you feel more confident negotiating down the line.
Reason 6: The environment is not psychologically safe
Pooja Kothari, a diversity, equity, and inclusion trainer and CEO of Boundless Awareness, explains that psychological safety in the workplace involves “cultivating an environment in which all employees are confident that they can fully represent themselves and all of their identities without fear of rejection, embarrassment, or punishment.”
So, how do you know when your workplace isn’t psychologically safe? Licensed psychotherapist Tameka Brewington says that workplaces lacking in psychological safety typically have high turnover rates, suffer from confusion in roles and duties, have a low level of enthusiasm and high level of fear of failure, and are deprived of trust. If you’re operating in this type of toxic environment, you likely won’t feel comfortable speaking up, advocating, and negotiating for what you need.
If you feel stuck, dread going to work everyday, and feel like your voice isn’t being heard, it might be time to get out and look for a new gig. Create a list of what you’re looking for in a next job in terms of salary requirements, benefits, culture, learning opportunities, and more. You deserve to work in an environment that enables and encourages you to reach your full potential and practice your negotiation skills.
About our source
Meggie Palmer founded PepTalkHer with the mission of closing the gender pay gap. Her PepTalkHer team runs corporate programming for brands including JP Morgan & Revlon and works in-house with companies to retain high potential staff, running programs around confidence, negotiation, and fostering an inclusive workplace. Meggie also lectures at Columbia University & Barnard College.