Why Women Don’t Negotiate Salary (and How to Do it Well), with Tejal Wagadia

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 351:

Why Women Don’t Negotiate Salary (and How to Do it Well), with Tejal Wagadia

Airdate: June 8, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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Research shows that women are less likely than men to negotiate salary offers. 

Why does this happen, and what can women do differently?

Tejal Wagadia is here to talk about why women don’t negotiate salary and how to do it well.

She’s a LinkedIn Top Voice and an award-winning talent leader. 

Tejal helps people learn what recruiters want through her blog, LinkedIn articles, and social media posts.

She joins us from Phoenix, Arizona. 

Well, let’s get started, Tejal. What’s the difference between how women and men approach salary negotiations? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, women don’t negotiate salary. It’s mainly because we don’t know that it’s an option. When I first started my career, and I didn’t, back then, I did not know that negotiating your salary was an option. I thought that whatever the employer was going to pay you is what they are going to pay you, and the more I spoke to other female colleagues and supervisors and people above me, females tended to have the same response as me. It’s like we didn’t know that salary negotiation was an option. We didn’t know that we could even do that, that it was even a thing that we could talk about. And the more I talked to the men, my male colleagues, the more they told me, oh, like, absolutely. What’s the worse thing that can happen? They’re gonna say no. Okay. That’s great. 

So, I feel that that’s based on anecdotal evidence that I have, that that has been the biggest difference of why women don’t negotiate salary as often. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, talk to us more, Tejal, about what accounts for this difference between men and women when it comes to negotiating salary.  

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of fear of repercussions. Right? Because we feel uncomfortable talking about money as we have grown up. We’ve been told, at least in my family, we were always told, “You don’t talk about money with other people. We don’t disclose when we were making. We are not trying to showcase our financial situation either by bragging, making it seem like we were bragging, or making it seem like we didn’t have enough money.” So, we have a mindset that we can’t talk about it and that if we talk about it, we will face repercussions, and I feel that that has translated into our job search and our careers as well, that we don’t want to ask for that higher pay or a higher base or that next promotion. 

Because we feel that, a, if we try to negotiate our salary during job search, that they will take the offer away. That’s always a fear, or if we ask for a promotion, or ask for a higher pay during the promotion cycle, that our promotion or our merit increase, whatever increase that is, is going to be taken away. And that’s an inherent fear that we have. 

The other thing is that we also don’t know how to do it, and women have a tendency – we’ve all heard that statistics. Right? Women only apply to a hundred percent of the jobs that they qualify a hundred percent of the time. It’s the same thing with negotiating salary; because we don’t know how to do it, we don’t do it, or we don’t practice that skill that we don’t have. 

Mac Prichard:

Tejal, you’re a recruiter, you talk to candidates all the time, and you’re part of teams that make offers to candidates. So, you’re on the employer’s side of the table. Do you, on the employer’s side, expect candidates to negotiate when you make an offer of salary?

Tejal Wagadia:

Absolutely, it is hardwired in every recruiter’s brain to be ready for negotiation. We always have a number that we are to offer, and then we have – typically, recruiters have some level of wiggle room. But we almost always expect to negotiate at a certain point to a certain degree. It’s honestly surprising when candidates don’t negotiate their salary. 

Mac Prichard:

So, the candidate who is worried they might upset you or jeopardize the offer, and I respect those feelings, it’s simply not gonna happen. Is it,Tejal?

Tejal Wagadia:

No, absolutely not. I would say ninety percent of the time, one of three things is going to happen if you negotiate properly and respectfully. They’re gonna come back and meet you, what you’re requesting, the total compensation salary that you asked that you’re requesting. Number two is that they might not be able to meet you a hundred percent, but they can come close, or they might be able to come somewhere in the middle. So, that’s option number two, and the option number three is that they’ve already come in at the highest level they can come in, and they can not go any further, and the offer on the table is the offer on the table. 

And any of those situations are totally acceptable. At least as a job seeker, you know what your option is. 

Mac Prichard:

Some listeners might wonder why negotiation is necessary at all. 

Tejal Wagadia:

I would say that employers are making – I would not want to speak for every employer, I don’t want to speak for every recruiter – but as a recruiter, I always try to make my best offer that I can make, and that is based on your skill level, that is based on where the market is for your skill level, and that is based on, like, where you fit in within the band. Right? If you don’t have a hundred percent of the skills and you’re not at the top tenth percentile, you might not get the highest amount. 

So, all of that is based on their some of their own assumptions of your skill, of your talent, as well as the market. So, they think they’re making the best offer, but your expectation is something different, and that’s where the disconnect lies. 

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk more about how to negotiate, but one last point about the importance of negotiation of salary. If you don’t negotiate that first offer, Tejal, how does that affect both future salary increases and your lifetime earnings over the course of your career?

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, that’s a great point, Mac. It significantly impacts your future salary and what you can make in other employers. Because if you don’t negotiate, you’ve not built that skill set, and you are not ready to negotiate the next time. But also if you take the lower pay, if your skills are worth a hundred twenty thousand, hypothetical number, if your skills are worth a hundred twenty thousand; you are requesting eighty thousand; company comes in at a hundred thousand because that’s where your skills are – they feel that’s where your skills are – and if you don’t negotiate, every increase that you get, typically, is three to five percent for merit increase, performance increase, and every job that you change is ten to twenty percent.

So, over the course of your career, you are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars by not negotiating, at least, to see what is negotiable and what is not negotiable, where the room lies. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to negotiate. When is the best time in the application process to bring up salary and negotiate? What’s your recommendation? 

Tejal Wagadia:

My recommendation is going to be similar to most recruiters’ recommendations, which is going to be the first conversation that you have with us. I have that conversation even if the candidate does not bring that up. I will talk to the candidate and say, “Hey, do you have a salary range in mind? Have you thought about this?” And, you know, most of the time, because I’m mostly speaking to candidates that I’m reaching out to, they’re like, “Oh, I haven’t thought about it.” If relocation is a thing, then they don’t really know what the cost of labor is in that new city. 

So, I always say, “Hey,” I always give them resources. I’m like, “Go to this site, go to this site, and look up what your skillset is worth because I want you to have that number for yourself.” And they will ask me what my budget is, and if I do have the budget in the area that they are, I’ll share that with them. If I don’t have it, I’ll say, “Hey, I don’t have that number right now. But let’s talk about it again in our next conversation.” 

So, I always bring that up. I start our conversation very early in the process because if that number does not make sense, if we don’t start having that conversation, it’s going to be hard. You’re going to go through like five-ten hours of conversation with an organization, only to find out that they can’t meet your number that you had in mind. 

Mac Prichard:

Pay transparency is an important issue. It’s coming up a lot in popular culture now, and there are even states that require employers to publish salary ranges. What are your thoughts in terms of negotiation, Tejal, about the benefits, both to employers and applicants of employers publicly posting salary ranges for a position? 

Tejal Wagadia:

I think it’s very much in good step forward for employers to post their salaries and like the total comp, whatever the salary range might be. Right? I think it’s a good first step. However, I don’t think it’s going to solve the issue of the pay inequity. But I feel like that’s such a different conversation, Mac. I do feel that it’s a good step forward and that having the pay conversation early enough creates for that pay transparency and that band that the employer’s posting; you have to know that it’s just a band. That your skills might fit in anywhere between the lower and to the higher end of that band. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, we’re gonna take a break, Tejal, and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation about salary negotiation. Stay with us. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Tejal Wagadia. 

She’s a LinkedIn Top Voice and an award-winning talent leader. 

Tejal helps people learn what recruiters want through her blog, LinkedIn posts, and other social media.

She joins us from Phoenix, Arizona. 

Now, Tejal, before the break, we were talking about why women don’t negotiate salary and beginning to talk about how they can do it well, and we talked about when to bring up salary in the course of an interview. 

Let’s talk about other steps that women can take to negotiate salary well. I know one suggestion you have is to know what the market pays. Why is this important, Tejal? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, so I am a big proponent of telling people, I’m like, it doesn’t matter what the employer’s budget is because if the employer’s budget is not what the market is paying, you’re getting underpaid. Right? And we know that small organizations can’t always pay at the same level as large organizations. 

So, asking about the budget, while is important, I also think it should not be the only tool in your toolbox. And understanding what the market pays helps you know what your skills are worth, and you can bring that to the table when the negotiation conversation comes around. I recommend people, if you’re interviewing at a larger organization, go to levels.fyi and that website typically has a very accurate representation of the compensation, and for non-large organizations, salary.com. I always, almost always, recommend that to everyone. I’m like, go on salary.com, find out what you’re looking for. 

Now, both of these have caveats since COVID because in the last twelve months, I have seen a salary explosion like no other in my career, and I believe the numbers that you’ll find on here are typically ten to twenty percent lower than what companies are offering these days. So, knowing what the market pays and understanding what you’re skills are worth is definitely going to be helpful when you go into that negotiation because if you don’t know that number or that range, whatever that employer’s going to give you, it’s either going to seem like a lot of money or not enough money. 

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned two great online resources for researching salary, Tejal, and but you also mentioned that that data may be out of date because of the dramatic recent increase in wages, partly caused by inflation. Are there other resources that you would recommend a job seeker look at, particularly resources that are gonna be persuasive to employers when it comes time to negotiate? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, I think the two resources that I did mention are definitely going to be helpful when they do go through that negotiation space. The other thing I always recommend people do is make friends with your recruiters. We are great resources. I’ve had friends that come up to me and say, “Hey, do you know what this x, y, z, skillset is going for these days?” And I’m able to give them accurate numbers based on my experience as a recruiter and seeing what other employers are paying them. 

So, I would say if you are trying to be persuasive, both salary.com and levels.fyi are going to be good indicators to take to the table. But even talking to recruiters just to clarify and verify that the numbers are good are going to be a good resource. 

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned in the first segment that you can ask recruiters about the budget for a position, and I think that might surprise some listeners. They might either assume that employers want to keep that information guarded or not share it at all. What would you say to listeners who are worried that they’ll upset a recruiter or an employer by asking about the budget for a position? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, I think that there’s a nuance there. Right? So if, as a job seeker, you’re worried about asking that question, just remember to frame it properly. To say, “Hey, you know, do you have a budget for this position? What does that look like? Would you please share that?” Along with, if they say, you know, they can’t disclose the budget, or it’s based on this skillset or whatever it may be, feel free to share your salary expectations with them because they might have a policy that they can’t share the budget. 

The other thing is, I always say that if a recruiter gets upset at you for asking their budget, it’s probably not a good environment to be in. You know, people show who they are, believe them. If a recruiter gets upset at you asking about the company’s budget, that’s a very good indicator of what that company’s culture is like. 

I never get upset when candidates ask me for a budget. I’m like, “Hey, here’s what we, you know, here’s what we’re looking at.” It’s not an upsetting question to be asked. It’s about transparency, and people want to make sure that they’re getting paid well, so yeah. 

Mac Prichard:

There’s another idea out there that if you are the first person to put a number out in a negotiation, that you’ll lose. So, you should wait for the other party to put the figure out first. What do you think about that, Tejal? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, that’s a great question, and that’s a great point, Mac. I love research. I don’t do anything without anecdotal or enough anecdotal evidence or even like research data. 

So, Adam Grant, who’s a world-renowned IO psychologist, an industrial-organizational psychologist, did a research study about five, maybe seven, years ago that tackled this very question. Who wins in a negotiation? And who gives the number first? And they found out that it’s not always that whoever gives the number first loses. They found that whoever gives the number first actually has the power to drive the conversation. If you ask me how I’m doing, you will have the power to take the conversation wherever you want because I have to respond to you, and then you get to respond to me and move the conversation forward. Salary negotiations are the exact same way. 

I don’t know who came up with the idea that whoever gives the number first loses, but data suggests that it is not accurate. Whoever gives the number first actually ends up winning because they get to drive the conversation. 

Mac Prichard:

Finally, another step you recommend to your clients is to know your non-negotiables in a salary negotiation. Give us some examples of common non-negotiables and also talk, Tejal, about salary when it comes to non-negotiables. What does that mean? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Yeah, so I have certain non-negotiables when I’m looking at jobs. Base salary is important to me. But what is even more important is health insurance and PTO. If a company only has ten days of PTO but is paying 10K higher than my other offer, and the other company has unlimited PTO without any caveat or needing to request it off, I will go with the company that has unlimited PTO because I am a person that likes to travel. I like to do all of those things. 

So, those are my non-negotiables. Some people, their health insurance is very important to them, and the cost of health insurance is very important to them. The base salary is important because it’s what we take home every paycheck. So, those are your non-negotiables. Know what your non-negotiables are. Know what number is going to make you say no, this company is not the right fit, or if this company comes in at this number, that is going to, it will end all of the other opportunities for me. That’s what I mean when I say non-negotiables. 

And also, there are certain things that are not negotiable from the employer’s perspective. So, health insurance premiums or your medical premiums are not going to be negotiable with most employers because that is set by a contractor with the insurance company and your employer. PTO is not always negotiable at all companies. Some companies do negotiate, but most companies don’t negotiate. Whether you can work from home or whether you have to come into the office, that sometimes is negotiable. 

So, asking the recruiter what in your offer or what about your compensation package is negotiable versus not is going to give you a great understanding of what the company’s compensation philosophy is. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Tejal. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Tejal Wagadia:

Oh yeah, I have been working on a site called caffeinated career. I would like to feel that is the next evolution of my brand, and I have started a LinkedIn newsletter called caffeinated careers, and I’m taking that to the next level with starting a blog as well where all of my content is going to be transferred, and I’m just hoping that it will help more job seekers because, at the end of the day, I don’t do this for money, I don’t do this for awards or anything like that. I do it because, once every couple of weeks, I get a message that says that my advice helped, and that’s all I need in my life. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. Well, I know listeners can learn more about you and your work by connecting with you on LinkedIn, and when they do reach out to you, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job. 

Now, Tejal, given all the useful advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why women don’t negotiate salary and how to do it well. 

Tejal Wagadia:

That the worst thing the other party can do is say no. So, whether it’s how to negotiate, whether it’s whether to negotiate, asking is better than assuming, and if you ask, the worst thing they can do is say no. So, women, if you’re out there, if you’re listening to this, ask if the compensation is negotiable. Ask whether the salary’s negotiable because the worst thing they can do is say no. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Priscilla Weninger Bulcha. 

She’s a human capital management consultant and a Latinx career coach. Patricia is passionate about helping BIPOC professionals change careers with confidence and ease. 

You walk into an interview room. What’s the best way to persuade a hiring manager to pick you for the position?

Join us next week when Priscilla Weninger Bulcha and I talk about how to convince an employer that you’re the right person for the job.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

You’ve been offered a job and you’re seriously considering accepting but the salary isn’t quite what you had hoped for. Do you just accept? Or do you negotiate? Research shows that if you’re a woman, you likely won’t negotiate. According to Find Your Dream Job guest Tejal Wagadia, women fear repercussions of negotiating salary. But employers expect it, so you need to learn to do it well. Be the first to bring up benefits, know what your non-negotiables are, and remember, the worst the employer can do is say no. 

About Our Guest:

Tejal Wagadia is a LinkedIn Top Voice and an award-winning talent leader. Tejal helps people learn what recruiters want through her blog, LinkedIn articles, and social media posts.

Resources in This Episode: