Myth 1: Nice Girls don’t Ask!!!

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Sarika Gupta Bhattacharyya,Co founder at Altavis,Co Founder at Biz Divas Foundation, Convener I INSPIRE

Being brought up in a traditional Marwari Joint family had some pros and cons. Some of the cons were cousins who could snitch on you and comparison on academic performances (well, it didn’t help that I was the black sheep with my brother excelling in all academic pursuits). One of the biggest con was that all girls in that era were brought up to be very prim and proper. One of the main virtues was humility and not brag about your own achievements. For women, it was worse as we were suppose to underplay our performance in front of the boys. When I cleared my CAT exam and got into business school, well meaning relatives suggested that a girl highly educated would be difficult to marry off.

20 years down the line, some of those learning or conditioning is difficult to shake off. I have seen most of the women entrepreneurs playing down their worth as they are not confident about themselves or negotiating makes them feel queasy.

Whenever I changed my jobs or sat through my performance appraisal, I was very reluctant to discuss my achievements and negotiate my salary. The assumption was my boss would know what I have achieved and would be fair. But the world is hardly fair!

This experience continues. As a woman entrepreneur who runs a Diversity or Change Management program, it is always difficult to negotiate on the price you want to ask.

Few months ago, after we successfully concluded our annual Inclusive leadership conference – I Inspire, we received a call from a reputed MNC Banking firm. They wanted us to conduct a half day Unconscious Bias leadership session for their leaders. After a discussion, when it came to charges, they were taken aback that as women we should charge organisations to curate inclusive leadership session. My question is why not?

After much deliberation, the crux of the matter was that they were more keen to have a male facilitator conduct sessions for their leadership team as it mostly consisted of men. This is not the first time, where we have found HR team (predominant with women) preferring male facilitators and paying a hefty fees too!. They take offence when as women we try to negotiate for our price.

Women are termed as aggressive if they negotiate hard.

And our insecurity of losing the business or opportunity, many times we give in…sometimes too easily. Women are less likely than men to negotiate for themselves for several reasons.

First, we have been taught from an early age not to brag or promote our own interests and focus on the needs of others.

The classic example of being an obedient daughter or caring daughter in law. The messages girls receive—from parents, teachers, other children, the media, and society in general—can be so powerful that when we grow up we may not realise that we’ve internalized this behaviour. This impacts our willingness to recognise our true self worth or willingness to negotiate. Women tend to assume that they will be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. Unlike men, they haven’t been taught that they can ask for more.

But in my experience, whenever I have asked for more, I always get it. It might take some time to establish your credentials and hence the merit of asking your price, but trust me it is gives great satisfaction when you are being paid your worth.

Last time when we dug our heels in for the price we wanted to ask for a project, my colleagues were afraid that we are losing on a big opportunity. But 3 months later, the client came back and gave the same project to us at the original price we asked for.

So the lesson out here is while nice girls don’t ask but kickass girls will. 🙂

Cheat Sheet to success:

  • Prepare: Recognize your worth by benchmarking yourself with others and see what is the industry average pay scale is.
  • Build Credibility: While it is important to work hard, it is equally important to market it smart. You will never be able to sell a great product if you don’t package and market it well.
  • Just Ask : At the max, they will say No! But they can say Yes too!!!
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