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April 15, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Where Ellen Pao Got it Wrong on Closing the Wage Gap for Women

shutterstock_141679684Ellen Pao’s decision to eliminate salary discussions when hiring at reddit has everyone talking. Her goal appears to be a noble one: to close the wage gap and salary discrimination. Yet she may be going about it all wrong.

“Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate,” Pao said to the Wall Street Journal. “So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates.”

Hey Ellen, that isn’t going to help! Prohibiting women from using negotiation skills and learning more about how to negotiate is at best a band-aid solution to a much bigger problem. Women continue to get paid approximately 80 cents to every dollar a man earns. Cultural stereotypes often follow women throughout their careers, no matter what industry they work in. The glass ceiling is real for far too many female professionals.

Instead of eliminating negotiating, I think we need to focus on teaching women to negotiate more effectively. It is, after all, a skill that virtually every professional needs in order to be successful, whether you need to convince your boss to start a new project or negotiate effectively with vendors and customers.

So are women really bad negotiators? It’s not so much that we’re bad, it’s that we often don’t do it at all. Sheryl Sandberg herself has even stated that women fail to negotiate because they don’t want to deal with a negative reaction. At face value, that makes sense: starting a new job is a big deal and no one wants to appear confrontational or uncooperative, right?

No. Not right. Too often our instinct is to please and it’s causing us to miss out on opportunities to really stand out. I’ve been on both sides of the negotiating table, as a job candidate and as an employer. I also have a 4-year-old daughter who one day will need to negotiate, so I believe in being a good role model to her by standing up for what I think is fair.

If you’re starting a new job, don’t back down when the opportunity to negotiate comes up. Instead, stay optimistic and remember these tips to help you get the salary you deserve:

1. Know what you’re worth
Don’t let the hiring manager dictate what you’re worth; know your value ahead of time. Research salaries for positions at companies close to where you are applying. Experience, geographical location and responsibilities are all influential factors.

2. Be positive and confident
Once you are able to support what you think you’re worth with research and evidence, present your thoughts in a confident and positive manner. Going into it with anxiety and uncertainty can backfire, so stay strong.

3. Listen and collaborate
Negotiating is a two-way street, and in the end it is best if both parties get what they want. Remember to listen to your future employer and use examples to show why hiring you (at your desired salary) is a win-win for all involved. Collaboration instead of competition will likely result in a better outcome.

4. Know your audience
Don’t negotiate on the first phone call. Go through the interview process and wait for the official job offer before starting negotiations. Remember, many companies expect to negotiate and will therefore not lead with thir best offer; it’s up to you not to leave money on the table.

5. Practice
If you’ve never before negotiated for salary or if it’s been a while since you last did, consider role playing to help prepare for discussions. Ask a friend or family member to go over your “pitch,” and he or she can ask questions so you can practice responding appropriately.