A few years ago, I heard Michelle Obama during an interview while she was first lady. When she was offered her first real job upon graduating from law school, she never even considered negotiating for a higher salary. Later when she became a very public figure, she reflected on the hurdles female negotiators face.
“I realize that it’s one of the challenges we have as women: We don’t negotiate for ourselves,” she said. “We don’t negotiate hard.”
After her first child was born, she negotiated with her then-employer, the University of Chicago, to scale back to a part-time position. Again, later she realized that it was a mistake. She found herself working just as much as she had as a full-time attorney, but for a lot less pay. That experience made her conclude that part-time employment was a “bad-deal” for women.
The last job she negotiated before her husband became President was quite different, having learned trench warfare and perhaps with a deeper awareness of what she needed. She brought her baby daughter Sasha to the interview because she did not have a babysitter available. Then she told her future boss: “This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. I can work hard on a flexible schedule.”
The reaction? “He said yes to everything.” She got what she wanted, and the firm got what they needed.
She now advises women to “Negotiate hard and know your worth.”
Recent research depicts that women have historically been far less likely than men to negotiate for higher salaries, promotions, other opportunities or even when purchasing a car. Consequently, over the course of our lives, women can leave hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, on the table. Women entrepreneurs and CEOs of early stage companies have been observed to demonstrate the same tendencies, often reluctant to negotiate funding, business deals or opportunities for the companies they run or the employees they represent. The consequences can deter success in even the most promising product and services companies.
Getting comfortable with who you are, what you need, and what you are worth is the first step in embarking in successful negotiations. Practicing negotiations is the second key to success. Think of negotiations as an opportunity to grow. The more you negotiate, the better you get at it.
But Not Too Comfortable Don’t wing it. Overworked entrepreneurs often overlook the fact that there is a methodology to planning and executing negotiations. Having a plan to win works. It provides you with confidence when presenting your point of view or making an ask. It’s actually critical to getting the wins you need to grow and protect your company. Here’s the good news for women. We tend to over-prepare for most aspects of our jobs. This is a competitive advantage to run with when preparing for a negotiation.
Sharpen your negotiation skills with the most popular and talked about launchpad2x workshop. Click HERE to sign up for the June 8th workshop and lunch - 9 to Noon at Atlanta Tech Village. Bernie Dixon leads this interactive master class in the art of getting your way at the negotiations table. Open to the public.