Kristi Nelson

Closing The Negotiation Gap

It's pretty much indisputable that most women are paid less than men, on average, in just about every industry. And if a woman is underpaid, so is her household.

The longterm financial consequences of being underpaid are huge. Some women may need to think of it in practical terms: what could your family do with all of the extra money you'll make if you fight for better compensation? Could it pay for college? Better child care? Better schools? It could also mean a more comfortable retirement -- with lots of extra money going into your social security or other retirement savings.

Despite that, many women will not ever ask for a raise or negotiate for fair compensation -- and that can have serious long term consequences. Leaving just $10,000 on the table every year, over a thirty year career, means your family is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

App developer Stacy Devino is among those women who, in a previous job, experienced the frustration of knowing she was underpaid, and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

"I was doing all the right things -- I was getting recognized by the head of engineering for a very large company, I was winning awards consistently all the time," she said. "On top of that, I wasn't even making what other people on my same team with my same position or even a little bit lower were making, that's ridiculous," said Devino.

And that frustration is not just financial, but psychological -- it's a big hit to a person's self-esteem. People who feel underpaid feel less satisfaction with their work, and that can lead to stress and feelings of resentment.

"You feel as undervalued as they're making you feel," Devino said. 

Lisa Kester, a software engineer, had her own frustrating wake-up call.

"When I talked to my peers, I actually didn't make as much money as a lot of people that I worked with who did the same thing as me," Kester said. She discovered she was making $30,000 less than people doing the same job.

"I was definitely really frustrated," Kester said. "I felt like I do bring a lot of value, and the things I'm doing for the company are clearly making things a lot more efficient."

And at a negotiation for her next job, Kester discovered later she'd asked for less than what she could have gotten, a common mistake women make  -- according to Lauren Hasson, founder of the online negotiation coaching program, DevelopHer.

Hasson said getting paid what you're worth has nothing to do with how well you do your job, but everything to do with your ability to communicate your value and negotiate your worth. And Hasson knows what it's like -- at one point, she was living paycheck-to-paycheck when she discovered an embarrassing truth.

"I found out I was paid 50 percent less than a male peer who was hired at the same level as me, and I had achieved all these awards, all these honors," Hasson said. "I had years more experience, I was managing him, I was training him."

Hasson believes most women can learn to take steps to help themselves. She taught herself and in the course of two years, tripled her salary. That led her to create a podcast and and eventually, a course, to help other women learn steps to overcoming the negotiation gap.

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