Western women who were seeking to gain the confidence and skills needed to negotiate in the work force attended the event Always Ask: Negotiation Strategies for Women held on campus.
The event, held on Thursday, April 16, hosted three panelists who aimed to help about 30 female students gain confidence in their ability to identify their salary needs. This was meant to help them feel more prepared to evaluate their first salary offers and develop overall strategies for how best to negotiate those offers.
Jenny Spurgin, the employee outreach manager at the Career Services Center, who hosted the event, spoke about the wage gap between men and women that has been garnering a lot of national coverage recently, Spurgin said.
“We wanted to look at what we as a university can do to support students who are graduating and specifically support female students in that process,” Sprugin said. “One really obvious way to do that was to offer support for students in terms of negotiation.”
Negotiation strategies can extend beyond just negotiating starting salaries, the panelists explained. During the presentation, they listed other important things that can be negotiated as well, such as vacation days, healthcare retirement plans and even parking spots.
“There have been a ton of studies that show that women are less likely to negotiate salary, to ask for promotions, to ask for raises,” Aubrey Bach, consumer marketing manager for PayScale and panelist at the event, said. “We want to change that.”
Negotiation will continue to be important once you’re hired, as well, KayCee Luxtrum, panelist and human resources analyst for the city of Bellingham, said.
“What people often don’t realize is that negotiations are actually an integral part of your daily life once you’re in a job,” Luxtrum said.
A recent survey done at PayScale, an online salary and benefits information company, found that about 75 percent of people who said that they negotiated were found to have received some form of a raise or a promotion, Bach said.
Studies have also shown that managers and recruiters of both genders tend to have negative impressions of women who choose to negotiate regardless of the outcome of the negotiation, Bach said.
Bach went on to say that the only way to change this is to make negotiation by women in the workforce become a norm.
The vice president of operations at Society Consulting, Sarah Bingham, who was also a panelist at the event, explained that oftentimes women are underpaid because they try to be people pleasers and undisruptive in the workplace.
“For some reason, we equate the negotiation process with people being frustrated or unhappy with us so we try to fix it by making it go away,” said Bingham.
The panelists also spoke during the presentation about how not only do women sometimes fear negotiation and underestimate themselves, but how recent graduates often do the same thing.
“Students, I think, sometimes undervalue themselves because they are recent graduates and they maybe think they don’t have enough experience to negotiate,” Spurgin said. “It’s always okay to ask.”
Being able to negotiate when first entering the workforce can alter how much someone is paid for the rest of their careers, Bach said. Starting salaries are often the base for all future salaries, and by negotiating early on, students can set themselves up for success later in life, Bach said.
Students who were unable to attend the event can look to the Career Service Center to learn more about negotiation skills when entering the workforce.