Negotiating your way to the top

by Ankita Rao

From fewer front page bylines to lower salaries, it’s not a secret that women in the U.S. are consistently less represented in the professional sphere than their male counterparts.

But with the right attitude and approach, we can negotiate our way to being valued the way we deserve, said Lisa Gates, founder of She Negotiates, an organization that guides women to take advantage of opportunities.

Addressing women of JAWS on Sunday, Gates described the two types of bargaining or negotiation that we can use to make our case for more money, more stories or more voice in the newsroom.

The first, distributive bargaining, requires that we ask for a larger portion of the resources at hand – assuring that we are getting the piece of company pie we deserve. The second, interest-based bargaining, occurs when we expand the idea of what we should be getting, whether it’s more benefits of autonomy.

“We move through our careers as if we’re on this treadmill, not looking for opportunities,” Gates said.

She said women need to know what they want, and how to ask for it, but also should learn how to say no when they are asked to fill roles or produce work that isn’t part of their job description.

Gates gave tips on communicating what you want in the workplace. You can make it clear to an employer than you will walk away if you don’t get what you deserve, or offer an explanation for why you shouldn’t take on a bigger workload.

She recommended having a conversation when asking for something – making sure to ask questions and figure out what is going on in the employers mind without making any assumptions.

Audience members brought up the issue of talking about family or children at work, and how that could limit their opportunities at work. One woman shared her experience of walking away from an employer when she wasn’t promoted, and realizing that it meant quitting her job.

Gates emphasized that women’s choices at work are part of a larger, economic picture. She said every move we make reflects not only our personal lives, but those of women across the country who are held back by a male-dominated workplace.

“How well you do has an impact,” she said, urging JAWS members to help other women in the office as they rise to success. “Take care of yourself first, then go out into the world.”