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 Post subject: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:07 pm 
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I just had a pretty disheartening conversation with my boss. I'm an intern at a big engineering & electronics company, currently interviewing for full time lead scientist positions at other companies. While talking to my current boss about his opinion of a certain company, he went off topic and started to tell me that he would have "reservations" about hiring me full time as a lead scientist because

1) I undersell myself and don't seem like I have confidence in my own ideas/capabilities. I say "I don't know" too much during team meetings to discuss directions we should take our project and I don't push my ideas hard enough. When I have a suggestion, I apparently look around the room and ask what the other team members think rather than making assertive statements. I should note that as an intern it is sort of tough to walk that line of being confident while acknowledging your inexperience.

2) My emails are too terse and sometimes lack all the necessary information, which apparently makes me "untrustworthy" (this is a bit BS in my opinion--he could only cite two examples, one where I neglected to give the complete mailing address to our ordering dept even though they should have already had the address on file, the other is too complicated to get into but it was a case of HIM not communicating his needs to me).

I feel pretty frustrated about both issues and really feel like it comes back to expectations of women in the workplace, especially in STEM. I wanted to scream at him about cultural conditioning and send him these articles, with some choice quotes highlighted:

Quote:
The lack of self-confidence among female scientists ultimately stems from a conflict between the stereotypes associated with a woman’s role in society and a woman’s perception of herself as a scientist. Acknowledging this conflict is crucial; only once we take note of all the consequences of this conflict will we be able to repair the leaky pipeline [of women leaving science].

Quote:
In the workplace the language women use and identify with inadvertently holds them back too. Women tend to use more cautious, less aggressive language, and often apologise for what they are about to say, eg “This isn’t quite my subject area, but perhaps you might consider …” This can be interpreted as weakness and makes what they say easier to dismiss or ignore.

Unfortunately there is a catch to all this. Imagining that women overcome the many cultural barriers we’ve created to enter STEM careers, in my opinion women are penalised for being “too confident”, whereas it’s acceptable behaviour in their male colleagues.

Quote:
Women are more likely than men to be perfectionists, holding themselves back from answering a question, applying for a new job, asking for a raise, until they’re absolutely 100 percent sure we can predict the outcome. (Women applied for a promotion only when they met 100 percent of the qualifications. Men applied when they met 50 percent.)


Excerpted from:
It’s Not You, It’s Science: How Perfectionism Holds Women Back
The Confidence Gap: Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here's why, and what to do about it.
Why women are under-represented in science and engineering

And after busting my balls (ovaries?) about two relatively small admin mistakes in my emails--even though he and my male coworkers make oversights like that all the time--I feel even less confident and that I am disproportionately expected to be perfect compared to my male colleagues. I've spearheaded a bunch of different projects in the 5 months I've been here and pushed the project forward so much. I can't believe that my work doesn't speak for itself and that these other things would actually be grounds to reconsider me for a more senior position (not even team leader, just a research scientist). It feels really unfair and was a total wake up call. This issue isn't going to go away in the near future, so I need to work on how to better project confidence and competence...and somehow not take this criticism too much to heart.

I'm sure a lot of you have had to deal with this, so let's get a conversation going! Advice, stories to share, articles, anything and everything is welcome!

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:15 pm 
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God, I am so sorry! There is so much research on how reviews are disproportionately hard for women because of unacknowledged cultural expectations.

You are definitely not alone! Is there anyone in HR who can help? At my first internship a partner at the law firm recommended not hiring me because I would be better suited to the UN. HR talked to him and he retracted.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:37 pm 
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Thanks T-lish! What does that UN comment even mean--that you were not combative enough??

It's not really worth talking to anyone because the team doesn't even have the money to hire another person. He wants me to stay another year as an intern, earning only half of what I'd make as a senior scientist. That's why I'm leaving, although now I'm not even sure I would take a position if it were offered. It's so strange because he said I've done a good job taking lead of projects and that I've been very smart in the way I've approached my work, but I guess if I don't *appear* omniscient I'm not worth hiring :-/

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:42 pm 
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It's definitely a thing. I'm sorry to read about your situation C. In some ways it sounds so familiar, and even aside from that, how wretched.

In terms of coping strategies, I have learned not to use any "soft" language in emails-- things like "I think" or "it seems" etc. Actually I do a second pass on my work emails and edit those things out. It's hard to explain/prove it but when I leave the "soft" language in, people take it as some sort of opening to question what I'm saying. The thing is, if I'm sending an email about something, I am generally 8&5+% sure about whatever I'm saying. I always FEEL a hesitation about making a concrete statement anyway but I have to override it.

I think my coworkers are starting to think of me as maybe a bit aggressive and overly forward. It is what it is though? I guess there is no way to win 100%.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:28 pm 
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Yeah, I think being assertive gives an air of knowing things... which you may not know. I have such frustration with some of my coworkers because of some of them being too assertive in their opinion but not doing anything. It is just frustrating.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:02 am 
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coldandsleepy wrote:
In terms of coping strategies, I have learned not to use any "soft" language in emails-- things like "I think" or "it seems" etc. Actually I do a second pass on my work emails and edit those things out. It's hard to explain/prove it but when I leave the "soft" language in, people take it as some sort of opening to question what I'm saying. The thing is, if I'm sending an email about something, I am generally 8&5+% sure about whatever I'm saying. I always FEEL a hesitation about making a concrete statement anyway but I have to override it.

I think my coworkers are starting to think of me as maybe a bit aggressive and overly forward. It is what it is though? I guess there is no way to win 100%.

I actually had to do the opposite, because my supervisors had approached me to tell me that my emails were too "aggressive," "cold," etc. So I have to rewrite my emails to be less assertive, especially to those with higher roles in my company and with clients. And I know it's total bullshiitake because my male coworkers write the same way as I do and no one complains about how they write, or if they do, nothing ever changes. And I do notice that those responding to my "softer" language are less likely to take me seriously. It's a hard line to walk.

linanil wrote:
Yeah, I think being assertive gives an air of knowing things... which you may not know. I have such frustration with some of my coworkers because of some of them being too assertive in their opinion but not doing anything. It is just frustrating.


Yup, when I first started at this job I got annoyed all the time with a male coworker who would declare things "not possible" just because he didn't know how to do them. And of course if I jumped in I would often have to take over whatever he was being asked to do.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:08 am 
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I've had the same problem with work emails. My superviser made me start all my emails with "hi". Blerghhh


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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:27 am 
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coldandsleepy wrote:
In terms of coping strategies, I have learned not to use any "soft" language in emails-- things like "I think" or "it seems" etc. Actually I do a second pass on my work emails and edit those things out. It's hard to explain/prove it but when I leave the "soft" language in, people take it as some sort of opening to question what I'm saying.


I definitely do this too. I go back and take out all of the "I just..." or "I think..." from my work emails. When I'm speaking it's a little harder to keep that language in check, but it's easier in writing (obviously) because you can go back and edit.

That being said, I have a rep at my current workplace for being "intimidating" which hurts me in some regards. Women in my workplace (I work at a non-profit if that makes a difference) are expected to be really warm and friendly and gushy, which I am not.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:13 am 
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linanil wrote:
Yeah, I think being assertive gives an air of knowing things... which you may not know. I have such frustration with some of my coworkers because of some of them being too assertive in their opinion but not doing anything. It is just frustrating.

Yeah this bugs me too. I only have confidence in being totally assertive when I'm 100% sure. When I'm addressing something I do all the research and when making calls or writing emails, have all the available facts at my disposal. I'm a terse email writer too. In person, I've also been described as "brusque" (or maybe it was "abrupt" - but they both sort of mean the same thing) which is just a character trait of mine (I've mostly been described as "friendly" though).

But yeah, people who are overly assertive without having their facts backed make me very wary and inevitably lose my workplace trust with their first blunder and it's hard to win it back... I aint puttin my livelihood in no one else's hands... I don't think I'm much of a team player though. I mean, you have to be able to work well with others and negotiate on some level and be flexible, but If I don't have confidence in someone, I'm not signing up with them, period. And that's when I get resistant and inflexible.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:36 pm 
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seitanicverses wrote:
linanil wrote:
Yeah, I think being assertive gives an air of knowing things... which you may not know. I have such frustration with some of my coworkers because of some of them being too assertive in their opinion but not doing anything. It is just frustrating.

...
But yeah, people who are overly assertive without having their facts backed make me very wary and inevitably lose my workplace trust with their first blunder and it's hard to win it back.

seriously. i'd rather some baselessly overconfident blowhard not go all Leeroy Jenkins into the housing bubble or whatever.

i really hate how being realistic about the limits of your knowledge is coded as feminine and therefore untrustworthy and not competent.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:44 pm 
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Relevant article posted today at the Hairpin: Do You Have Impostor Syndrome?

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:13 pm 
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I wrote 2 emails to a large audience today and I definitely removed soft language from it! Lets see if I get a promotion or something out of this technique.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:33 pm 
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I hear your frustration, couroupita. Although it's a lot better here in Germany than in any other culture I've worked in before, I too have definitely been dismissed and infantilized for being a woman in engineering.

I recommend the book "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office". It's very bullet-point-y and tactics oriented. Not everything is relevant to all industries, but as a whole it does a good job at pointing out many ways women might sabotage themselves, and offering actionable solutions.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:51 pm 
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b.vicious wrote:
Relevant article posted today at the Hairpin: Do You Have Impostor Syndrome?

I had impostor syndrome for so long (still kinda do! but it's less bad now). Eventually you just have to realize that the people who hired you and put trust in you are competent and experienced, and that if you actually were a fake you would have been figured out within a few weeks.

I work in a female dominated field, and went to a school designed to produce competent, creative professionals. I am so grateful I had the privilege to attend the school because while I got a great education, the most important lessons that were driven home again, and again by our instructors was how to present ourselves and give the appearance of knowing what the fork we were doing. Giving shitty, unprepared presentations was not tolerated. I remember the first time someone in my class apologized for something in their project and the instructor cut her off and made her start over. It was brutal, but effective! A few years late I took some community college classes and was absolutely mortified by all the people (mostly women) apologizing and making excuses for their work. It's kind of painful to watch. We were also encouraged to remove soft language from our presentations and written assignments and to apply for jobs if we met 75% of the qualifications. I'm definitely far from perfect, but having that sort of thing at the forefront of my mind at all times when presenting my work has been such a huge asset in my life and career.

That being said, couroupita, I think the way your boss delivered the information to you was complete bullshiitake. It sounds to be like those are incredibly minor issues that are not at all worth passing over a person who is obviously a smart, driven, worker who is a huge asset to the organization.

I would also like to recommend the awesome podcast, The Broad Experience. It covers all sorts of issues women in the workplace encounter.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:07 pm 
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It kind of reminds me of something I might've mentioned here before but I've noticed how my male coworkers are treated and how I'm treated by various people. The worst are managers and higher ups. They feel they can bully me but given the same task, they will not bother my male coworkers at all. I had one higher up guy calling me daily about something but I pushed that task to my coworker because it fell under his responsibility. I asked my male coworker if the higher up guy contacted him and he said nope... in the end, my coworker dropped the ball and the project fell through. Part of me felt guilty but I really don't deal with overbearing males any more. I don't think assertive emails will help in that but I think it is one way to not be seen as inferior.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 6:59 pm 
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Your feedback has been super helpful! I polled a few friends who are in science last night and there are so many conflicting interactions--several of them have been told they're too aggressive (and they're not aggressive people, just assertive and have opinions), to watch their tone in emails, and that they're not confident enough. It's all over the place. I'm already trying to follow C&S's suggestion to avoid soft language in emails. I had to send to research ideas to my boss today and tried to make them sound as confident as possible.

I've received a verbal offer from a company I've applied to and they are trying to schedule a meeting with the CEO and COO (maybe to do a formal offer). Who has successfully negotiated salary? It's very easy to accept what's offered and feel grateful, which sets you behind male counterparts right at the beginning. I have a number in mind of what I should be offered, but if that number doesn't match how do you argue your worth and overcome impostor syndrome?

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:35 pm 
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I've negotiated salary and yes, try for more, but you'd have to do some research. What is the average salary of someone in a similar situation as you? What have you done that is above and beyond the average employee? Any highlights? special skills? Also, you don't even have to count technical skills but presentations, papers, (I know you are nearing PhD so this may be all average for you but at my level it isn't), any community outreach, things you do outside of work/school? Really focus on your skills and what you bring to them. Also, if you research their company, is there anything in particular that they are getting into that you know about, have experience with? Basically, boost, boost boost. Because once you are in, it is harder to get promotions.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:05 pm 
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I've negotiated my salary twice, once only semi-successfully (terrible job, terrible boss, ultimately got a much smaller raise than I wanted a few weeks later), and once very successfully. All of Linanil's advice is solid.

Congrats on the offer!

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:14 pm 
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This isn't super relevant to science-fields; but I really liked this TED talk. I think if you looked at her suggestions more abstractly though one could apply her information to all fields. It's about why women aren't getting promoted as much as male counterparts (in for-profit companies).

http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_colantuo ... didn_t_get

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:31 pm 
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couroupita wrote:
Your feedback has been super helpful! I polled a few friends who are in science last night and there are so many conflicting interactions--several of them have been told they're too aggressive (and they're not aggressive people, just assertive and have opinions), to watch their tone in emails, and that they're not confident enough. It's all over the place. I'm already trying to follow C&S's suggestion to avoid soft language in emails. I had to send to research ideas to my boss today and tried to make them sound as confident as possible.

I've received a verbal offer from a company I've applied to and they are trying to schedule a meeting with the CEO and COO (maybe to do a formal offer). Who has successfully negotiated salary? It's very easy to accept what's offered and feel grateful, which sets you behind male counterparts right at the beginning. I have a number in mind of what I should be offered, but if that number doesn't match how do you argue your worth and overcome impostor syndrome?


I successfully negotiated salary for my current job. They offered me X and I said thanks for the offer, I appreciate the thought you've put into this, but I would like more like X+Y. They came back with a revised offer for the full amount I requested pretty rapidly. In my case, I would have taken the X offer so I tried to make it clear that I wasn't saying "you raise it or I walk"... if it had been that sort of situation, I would have been a bit more blunt about it.

I don't know what it's like in non-CS fields, but the general rule of thumb for programming jobs is that you ALWAYS try to negotiate. It was uncomfortable for me but I knew I had to do it. Research has shown that people who don't negotiate starting salaries-- and disproportionately women, I think-- make drastically less money throughout their entire careers. So yeah.

My line of thought was, the absolutely worst thing that can happen is that they say no. In which case, you aren't in a _worse_ situation.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:22 pm 
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this thread is relevant to my interests! i was offered an editing job this week (hooray!). i had to submit multiple editing/writing samples, so i know they have a clear picture of my skill level. i also know that at least 100 other people applied for this position in this round and that there was another full round of ads and interviews before this one, but they didn't find anyone they liked in that round (according to the hiring manager). this publication is big in its field, and their standards are no joke, so i should be feeling pretty chuffed. instead, i keep wondering whether they just got tired of looking or couldn't get by without someone in house to do that work anymore. their salary offer was a good bit lower than i had hoped for, and i want to believe that it's because they expect me to counter (we haven't gotten that far yet), but the amount really did shake what little confidence i had and make me wonder how much (not even whether) i overestimate my own worth. i doubt myself so much! at every step of this process i spent a few hours focusing on my accomplishments and finding ways to highlight my value, and then a few days thinking of everything i hadn't done or should have done better or shouldn't have done at all and bracing myself for seemingly inevitable rejection. i thought they'd see i was no good after i sent in the first sample, and when that fooled them i figured i'd never hear from them after the interview, and then i was sure one of my references would reveal some unforgivable shortcoming. and then i got the job! and i'm still not sure i'm good enough for the job! obviously, i'm not stoked about trying to prove i deserve more money.

i'm also really unsure of how best to balance politeness and assertiveness in work situations. when i was preparing for my interview, i read through some sample questions online, and one that stuck out was, "would you rather be loved or feared by your colleagues?" the recommended answer was, "neither; i want to be respected," and that is definitely my answer, but sometimes it seems like that space is so narrow and ambiguously defined. i'm very straightforward with my friends, and they tend to tell me that they appreciate that, but i catch myself falling into more of a customer service role in the office. i've been lucky to have some wonderful, very well-respected, very effective female managers as role models, and some of them did encourage me to speak up and participate more because they thought my ideas were good. but if i did that and the reception was lukewarm, i wanted to go back to my desk and never talk to anyone ever again. i lack the courage of my convictions on the job in a major way.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:28 pm 
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acr wrote:
"would you rather be loved or feared by your colleagues?" the recommended answer was, "neither; i want to be respected,"

Buhhhhhh this is so mind-boggling to me. Like it's really 'recommended' to NOT be loved by people?! Okay, I mean, I get the idea that too much buddying can make work less-productive... but can't people love each other in a way that's more of a productive respect/admiration sort of way? I know I sure can. And do.

Anyways kind of a de-rail. But it really makes me think about the valuing of certain 'types' or personalities over others... even if both the personalities were equally productive, I believe.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:33 pm 
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i don't think the idea is that love and respect are at odds. what they're getting at there is that in a workplace, your primary focus can't be on your popularity; they want you to be willing to sacrifice a little of that in order to do what's best for your team/department/company. if you want love more than you want respect . . . i mean, does that ever lead to anything good?

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:55 pm 
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No, that makes sense. I guess it's just the wording then that gets me then. Like, it's an either/or question!

Onto your question though, my gut is telling me that your instinct for that salary you had hoped for is probably pretty accurate, and they indeed are low-balling. Obviously I have no real knowledge of this, but you've been doing this work or a long time, and I'm sure you've seen enough salaries listed on lots of various jobs that you're probably not just making a number up out of thin-air. On how to gain the confidence to stick to those guns though and actually ask... we'll need another person to chime in there.

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 Post subject: Re: "The Confidence Gap"--women in the workplace
PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 2:30 am 
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
Back when I was interviewing around, I found negotiating for salary so tricky because I didn't know the local market for my industry so well. When I announced my range, for similar positions I had one company tell me "yeah, not gonna happen" (exact words), while another one accepted immediately, actually offering more than the low end of my range (meaning I shot too low). Now having worked for 2 years in this environment, I know that the market is made of a lot of companies that get clients by slashing prices, and one (my current employer) that positions itself as high quality / high price. And salaries follow, with this one company paying a good 20-30% more than its competition for similar positions. I could have applied all the tactics in the world, without this info I wouldn't have understood the (lack of) results.

Find as much info as you can on your potential employer and its local competition on sites like glassdoor.com. If you have acquaintances in the industry willing to talk about their salary history, that can be very useful information too. And take as much time as you can afford - don't feel pressured to accept the first "acceptable" offer you get. Like others said it is much harder to get raises and promotions than to negotiate when hiring.


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