Nancy and I bonded in the late ’90′s workaholic days of an internet startup when our kids were little. More than a decade has passed and she’s VP of a growing company and I’m consulting and coaching, both of us busy as can be. We don’t see each other enough now, and the reason I know that is that at the end of every lunch that survives our schedules, we hug and say things like, “which college did Jeff decide to go to? Is Alex already graduated? Really!?” We’ve been so busy talking business, leadership challenges and career strategy that we don’t manage to squeeze the kids in until the end.
And this is so refreshing to me, and Nancy too. How many women’s networking lunches do we go to where everyone is so busy catching up on the personal stuff that we don’t get around to business? Another friend of mine recently complained about her women’s professional group, because the business issues she cares most about haven’t gotten a chance to surface due to others chatting up their family dramas.
Are we too integrated?
I think women are – as a rule – really getting skilled at work-life balance. We, more than the men I know, manage to integrate ourselves into our lives very holistically. Maybe it’s because we’re good at multitasking, maybe it’s because we still carry the larger burden when it comes to kid care, or maybe – most likely – we’re just that good:)
I have heard some women say they value women’s networking groups precisely because they can focus on non-work issues. These women don’t feel like they can “let their hair down” with their staffs and colleagues because they’re afraid of being perceived as not focused on the business, so they rely on their professional gatherings to get that itch for personal sharing with others who understand the stresses of their work-life challenges.
But I’m beginning to wonder if this could be a problem for some women in terms of tapping into the Old Girls Network we talk about needing to create to help each other out. Are we getting good at networking but not using it to build our business and mentoring skills? Are we using our woman-to-woman networking to vent our personal stuff and complain about the system to the point that we don’t coach each other in working the system, using it and dominating it so we can change the rules more directly?
Not like the guys
Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that women put their personal challenges aside completely to be “more like the guys” who focus on the business to the exclusion of personal issues so often. I don’t think that we’re “not ambitious enough” or uninterested in success. I’m also not worried about what “others” think of our proclivity for mixing personal and business issues in our dialog. Overall, I think our ability to integrate our personal and professional selves is a good thing – for our businesses, our families and ourselves. And there is some special bonding that can happen over pictures of the kids.
What I’m wondering is whether many women are missing an opportunity to really mentor each other on the business of business. Are we giving each other a leg up or are we just empathizing and listening sympathetically?
I know some women have particularly negative experiences with other women leaders who actively compete with them and refuse to help them. I think this is a different phenomenon and will cover this research on the Queen Bee/Adult Mean Girl bosses in a separate blog.
What’s Your Experience?
I have no idea what the statistical average of women’s group’s practices are so I’m not trying to come to any grand sweeping conclusions here. But I am curious about your experience. Have you noticed women optimizing the personal bonding to the detriment of the business mentoring and support? Do you know programs that are good at managing this balance? Am I making a mountain out of mole hill or tapping into a deeper theme we’d be advised to examine in more depth. Please share your thoughts.
Let’s start with the notion that you are priceless – an utterly unique mix of experience, judgment and talent. Do you feel resistance to that notion? Not true? Impractical? Culturally irrelevant? Play with me anyway. Let go of those negative ideas for just a minute. Just find that part of you that knows you’re priceless and let’s move on.
Next we’ll accept the fact that there are limited resources in any particular situation – a company, a project, a market, a country – whatever. No matter how limited, it’s important to realize that there are resources and they do find their way to people in a variety of ways. If they’re not coming to you, they’re going to someone else. Does that feel unfair? Hey, I didn’t say you were the only one that was priceless, did I?
People Aren’t Worth Anything
People – including you – are totally priceless, which makes us all worth the same, which makes us all worth nothing – because people aren’t worth money, that’s called slavery. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to access the resources we can because we have mouths to feed, bills to pay and any number of other responsibilities that we can only fulfill with money.
I have always taken an InPower approach to financial compensation – and my satisfaction with financial remuneration has fluxuated with my situation. I’ve given up money in order to obtain experience (new challenges, new expertise, new contacts or lifestyle bennies like flexibility) and I’ve taken money to use my talents on behalf of others. Now that I’m a consultant it’s easier for me to negotiate financial vs. other benefits on a project-by-project basis, but the same dynamic held for me in my corporate jobs. And I don’t regret this approach at all. In some cases, I had to take a job for less (learning later I left money on the table) to learn not to do that anymore!
One thing all this negotiation has taught me was that when it was the right job or project, money has never been the issue. I didn’t say money wasn’t an issue for the jobs I wanted, I said for the right jobs – where my employer/client and I both gained tremendously – it wasn’t an issue. More often than not, for the right job I am compensated more than I expected and sometimes more than I asked for. And what this means is that I know now that I can ask for whatever I want (within “reason”, see below) and the right jobs will give it to me.
In the Equal Pay Gap – What’s “Reasonable” Compensation to Ask For?
Here’s the crux of it. The data tells us that women still make less than men and so I believe that’s true on a statistical and social scale. They also tell you that women often don’t negotiate for as many benefits, making their total package worth less. The science of this is fascinating but here is what struck me most clearly in a recent article at Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge Blog:
Research shows that in conditions of ambiguity, if you bring men and women into the lab and you say either one of two things: “Work until you think you’ve earned the $10 we just gave you,” or “Work and then tell us how much you think you deserve,” the women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay, and pay themselves less for comparable work. But if there’s a standard [that men and women know], then this result goes away. (Hannah Riley Bowles)
If find this hugely empowering because it indicates that ambiguity is often the culprit, and ambiguity is something we as individuals can deal with. How? In applying for the job we need to get information to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about what this employer typically pays, what others make, what are industry standards in our geographical location etc. The research implies that if we’re armed with such information all of us – men and women – will often negotiate for the right sized package.
This is a perfect example of how to turn an unempowering situation – negotiating salary or project fees – into an InPower situation. Armed with knowledge and your own assessment of your value, in that situation for that opportunity, employees feel confident in their ask and are likely to get a fair salary.
If you don’t negotiate for your salary,
they walk away happy that they paid you less
but wonder why they hired you.
— Kathleen McGinn
As a leader, we’re often in the position of hiring, in which case this principle works in reverse and we bear the responsibility for giving all applicants similar information about salary so we don’t unintentionally – or unethically – disadvantage some of the applicants from getting a fair salary.
Standing In Your Power in Salary Negotiations
So knowledge is good and evens the playing field a bit, but it’s not where the true power lies in the negotiation. Here’s the secret to an InPower salary negotiation: as the employee – when you make the informed ask, do you feel worth it? If they say no, do you feel like it’s their loss? If they say yes, do you make your choice fully and freely and 100% unapologetically?
The way to tell if you’re not InPower is that once you give your agreement – freely and of your own volition – you feel abused or regretful the moment you sign the employment contract or send the email saying “no thanks.” Try to work this part out before you close the negotiation. Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve said yes and if you feel at all regretful, review your negotiating position and try to come up with another response – or walk away. The power in any negotiation is held by the person who is most willing to walk.
As the employer you need to make sure you’re InPower also. Did you make a fair offer based on researching the comps? Was the applicant adequately informed of the salary range? Was the applicant fairly treated?
If the answer to all these things is YES! then no matter which side of the negotiation you’re on, you cut a good deal and can feel proud. Even more importantly the actual dollars involved have just become largely irrelevant. Social stats be dammed.
Sure it takes some work to get the information, work through some of your own demons about self-worth and competitiveness and stuff, but hey – what are you worth to you?