In a recent organizational meeting at SWSG we had a decidedly pointed discussion that began with the value of professional mentoring and evolved into a discussion on women and finances.  In particular, why are women afraid of negotiation and competition when it comes to money?
This is especially perplexing since women are notoriously good at communicating in so many areas of everyday life.   So why then do we clam up, shy away, or even apologize when it comes to going after what we’re worth?
In a related study, John List, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, examined the effect of competition-based salary on men’s and women’s job choice.   List and his colleagues created two gender neutral online job advertisements for an administrative assistant position.  Applicants were told either that the pay was $15/hour, $13.50 with a $3 bonus depending on performance compared with other coworkers, or  $12/ hour with a $6 bonus if the employee outperformed all other coworkers.  At the most competition based salary level men were 94% more likely to apply than women.
List’s finding is only the tip of the iceberg.  According to the most recent statistics from the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, women are still earning $.80 to every $1.00 earned by men.  I don’t know about you, but although I’ve heard this statistic over a hundred times it still enrages me.
What’s going wrong here? Are we secretly afraid of competing with male counterparts, or female counterparts for that matter?  Has the poor economy driven the fight out of us? Are we willing to sacrifice the potential for substantial gain in exchange for consistency? Or worse yet, have we become complacent?
Unfortunately a case could be made for any one of the above.  The social and environmental challenges that women come up against everyday can rapidly deplete what little reserves we have left.  The average workplace environment could be equivocated to the middle school playground with its gender-based stereotypes and abundance of no girls allowed kickball games (or board meetings as it were).  On top of this women generally lack higher up female role models to help navigate the corporate landscape and the ever challenging work/life balance, a balance men are rarely asked to strike.  It is no wonder that women are hesitant to add competition to the mix.
So here is my call to all the potential earners of womankind.   Let’s challenge ourselves to find motivation where there might be fear and find inspiration in competition.  It’s time to worry less about what may happen if we fail or are told “NO” and instead worry about what will happen if we keep settling for less than we’re worth.
For some starter tips on how to negotiate your worth visit .
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.