With all of the impressive professional achievements women have made in the short time we’ve been in the workplace, it’s hard to believe that we are still lagging behind our male counterparts in salary, promotions and self-advocacy. Unfortunately, this happens to be the case, and it has led to a global discussion about why it is that professional women are, more often than not, their own worst enemies.
The reasons for our timidity when it comes to standing up for ourselves can be traced back to a Western gender binary that has always emphasized the importance of humility, complacency and agreeability in women. In the past, it has been considered untoward for a woman to advocate on her own behalf, which has meant that women have been praised for abstaining from self-promotion for centuries. This has carried over into the workplace in contemporary times – but how, exactly, does this conditioning influence how we conduct ourselves in the professional space?
To start, this conditioning severely impacts our ability to negotiate for ourselves. In a world where a closed mouth doesn’t get fed, women consistently remain tight-lipped when it comes to countering salaries and benefits and discussing the possibility of promotions. So, whereas men are groomed to stand up for themselves and to question the status quo, women are taught that it is gauche to argue on one’s own behalf and that keeping our heads down and doing good work will be enough to garner promotions and salary increases. This is, of course, categorically not the case, and it has led to a significant imbalance in the amount of money that women and men get for the same jobs.
As a businessperson, I make a point of mentoring women in my industry, and one skill that I always focus on developing in my mentees is their ability to successfully negotiate for themselves. The most important lesson I could ever impart to the women I coach is that negotiating is an extension of understanding one’s own value. If you accept your company’s offers at face value, then you’re not giving yourself the credit you deserve, and you’re undervaluing yourself. We are just as deserving of raises, promotions and accolades as our male colleagues are – they are just better at asking for these things.
If you’re interested in reading more about improving your negotiation skills, I recommend reading this article, titled “A Woman’s Most Powerful Salary Negotiation Tool? Silence.” I found it to be both eye-opening and informative, and I hope you do, too.