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Want a better salary? Negotiate your way to fair pay

For women with a less clear-cut case of gender discrimination, negotiation may be the way to a better salary.

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Linda C. Babcock, co-author of "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide," believes that the biggest factor holding back women is their reticence about money. "Men start with higher salaries because they negotiate, and that gap widens over time as they negotiate bigger raises," she says.

She points to a survey conducted at Carnegie-Mellon University, where she teaches economics at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, in Pittsburgh. Graduates with master's degrees were surveyed by the university's career services department about their first job offers. Only 12 percent of women, compared to 51.5 percent of men, negotiated the salary offered. The male graduates, through negotiation, were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000.

Women are less inclined to negotiate because those who do are seen as "pushy," says Babcock. Men, conversely, aren't penalized for asking for more money.

In fact, according to Womensmedia.com, women achieve on average only a 2.7 percent increase when negotiating a raise or entry-level salary, compared to the 4.3 percent increase that men average.

Part of the reason women fail when negotiating is because they communicate differently than men, and men communicate the same way the business world communicates, says Lenora Billings-Harris, president of Excel Development Systems Inc., a diversity consulting firm. "Women have a tendency to communicate for the sake of connection," she says. Men, on the other hand, tend to spew out the facts and get on with it.

That means women tend to dance around a topic instead of getting straight to the point. They also tend to deprecate themselves and their requests. "A woman will rattle on about how she needs the money because of her three kids and how it probably isn't a big deal to her boss, but it is to her and she will get emotional and put her boss on the defensive," says Billings-Harris.

Billings-Harris's negotiating techniques:

To have a successful wage negotiation, also practice and rehearse what you will say before you approach your boss.

When it comes to being emotional, women, of course, aren't the only ones. Very often, supervisors -- male and female -- can become defensive when the subject of pay comes up.

Intentionally or not, you may be interrupted before you've had your say. If that happens, Billings-Harris recommends the "broken record" approach. Every time you are interrupted, just return to what you are saying until you've made your case.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: Nov. 6, 2006
 
 
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