When Women Lean In

Oct 04, 2017 4 Min Read
Two women having a conversation at work
Source:Image by Christina on Unsplash
Women, Are We Stepping Up?

[Updated: Oct 3, 2017]

Women leaders and executives, I have a quick question for you: would you walk into your supervisor’s office tomorrow and ask for a raise? The question might make you smile at first.

You should, because you say – you deserve it right?

But then doubt sinks in and you start wondering why. There are so many complicated reasons for it, and being a woman is just one of them.

Overall, women believe that they should negotiate their salaries more often. On a fundamental level, that sounds like the right thing to do. But in reality, it does not happen or not as much as we would like to think it does.

Read More: How to Have A Courageous Conversation With Your Boss?


Research shows that men are four times more likely to negotiate a higher pay, and if granted, it can create the disparity of female to male salaries across the board.

You probably think a few thousand dollars make no difference in the scheme of things, but that difference can lead to larger raises and bigger bonuses annually, not to mention a higher starting rate at their next position. Once the gap widens, it makes it so much harder to catch up or remain on par.

How women react during negotiations

So many emotions – like fear – come into play when leaning in to negotiate. Often, female executives don’t have the skills to negotiate for themselves and are too scared to make the first move.

They would prefer their employer to offer a higher salary or hand them a bigger project rather than go out of their way to ask for it. It is not that men are better negotiators, as there are many empowered women doing it successfully already.

It is the fact that men are almost expected to negotiate so the well-trodden path makes the journey easier. Female executives often feel like they have to negotiate the bramble before the pathway is clear.

Women face both unconscious and conscious biases when it comes to their salary negotiations. They are being evaluated under a separate set of circumstances entirely.

Female executives and leaders are afraid of offending their employer. Will they think of you differently if you ask? Will you be labelled as demanding or challenging for violating non-traditional gender norms?

Related: Gender Bias: COVID-19, The Workplace and The Future

These can have real and disastrous consequences if the situation is not right. And not every situation will be right.

You may have heard the story of an aspiring female professor who challenged a job offer with the Nazareth College in the United States.

She asked for a higher salary, paid maternity leave, a pre-tenure sabbatical, a cap on the classes and a deferred starting date. They rescinded their offer and wished her the best in finding a new position. Too much? Too early? Who knows; either way, they withdrew their job offer.

How to make your approach

If you wish to discuss your salary, avoid entering the room in defence mode as chances are, your case will not be heard. They don’t want to listen to the ‘he gets she gets’ story, even if that is obviously the case.

It should always be about your value to the role, your willingness to take on additional tasks and your position within the organisation.

The fact that not every negotiation will be successful is what puts many females off asking in the first place.

Negotiation techniques and tactics need to be learnt and practised if we are to close the salary gap, and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook knows this as much as anyone. She published a book in 2013 entitled Lean In focusing on women’s ambitions in the workplace.

It is an interesting and worthwhile read for both male and female leaders in the workplace if we are to understand our worth and change our thinking.

Do we really lose?

So do we lose when we lean in? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We must continue to break the gender norms and push the boundaries by asking for more and showing that we are worth more.

However, we must look at each case scenario individually and determine the best way to approach it. What has your experience of leaning in and negotiation brought you? We’d love to know so please share your comments.

Sonia is CEO of LeadershipHQ and has vast experience in organisational development, learning and development, facilitating, and leadership development. She is also passionate about building long-term partnerships with her clients and making sure she achieves the best results for their business and people. To get in touch with Sonia, e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com

Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com


Infographic by Leaderonomics: When Women Lean In - Go Get That Raise!

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Tags: Women & Leadership

Sonia is CEO of LeadershipHQ and has vast experience in organisational development, learning and development, facilitating, and leadership development. She is passionate about building long term partnerships with her clients and making sure she achieves the best results for their business and people.

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