You have not because you ask not - a guide to salary negotiations by Jenny Cones

Automatic Summary

A Proven Strategy for Women to Excel in Career Negotiations

In my 20-year journey as a tech recruiter, I have spent many weeks negotiating million-dollar worth of salaries and witnessing diverse negotiation approaches taken by women and men. This blog intends to share insightful ideas, tips, and tricks to empower women in their job search and salary negotiation, ultimately fostering equality in the workplace.

The Under-negotiation Dilemma: Its Implications and Ripple Effects

According to one shocking statistic, only 7% of female MBA graduates negotiate their starting salary, compared to 57% of males. Ponder the compounding impact of this discrepancy, as if you've taken out a loan and kept adding to the debt with every career move, raise or promotion.

What's more, recruiters may perceive underpaid candidates as less money-driven or not matching their designated level. Hence, underscoring the long-term effects of not negotiating your worth at every job offer is invaluable.

Anecdotes: The Negotiation Battlefield

Here are the case studies of three individuals:

  1. The first, a male contractor, was offered a lower salary but full-time job complete with benefits. Despite agreeing on $120,000 in the outset, he negotiated to $125,000 and ultimately earned $122,00.
  2. The second, a woman transitioning to a different industry and role, accepted the given offer despite it being lower than market rates. If she'd negotiated, we could've accommodated a better offer.
  3. The third, a DevOps professional transitioning from a state university, was offered a handsome compensation bump. Yet, she didn't inquire about flexibility in the offer.

These instances highlight an interesting negotiation disparity: whereas men negotiate for what they believe they are worth, women accept what they’re offered without questioning.

Understanding 'Good Girl Syndrome' and Its Impact on Negotiations

Good Girl Syndrome characterizes women who have a strong desire to be sensible, right, live up to expectations and avoid mistakes. Stanford University confirms that women typically exude qualities like compassion, warmth, cheerfulness, while men exhibit assertiveness and decisiveness. This disparity may subliminally impact how women approach salary negotiation.

Winning the Negotiation: Practical Tools to Level the Playing Field

Salary negotiation is a business deal. Here's a roadmap to master it:

  • Build a solid case: Demonstrate your value proposition throughout the interview process. The recruiter isn't your friend but your advocate; leverage them.
  • Use compliments strategically: Remember to thank everyone involved and maintain a positive attitude, fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Build bridges, not walls: When conducting negotiations, maintain the same excitement about the opportunity before and after presenting your case.
  • Don't limit negotiation to salary: Consider vacation, bonuses, title, sign-on-bonuses, stock options, etc.
  • Know when to stop: Determine the fine line between an assertive and a mercenary personality. Each organization will have a breaking point, recognize it, and respect it.

In nutshells, practice makes perfect. Regularly exercise your negotiation muscles in non-confrontational scenarios to boost your confidence and know-how for the salary discussion day.


Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. By understanding your worth and effectively leveraging negotiation techniques, you can help bridge the pay gap and promote equality in the workplace. As women, we must ensure we are getting what we deserve by positioning ourselves effectively in negotiations.

Remember, it's essential to negotiate, but respecting the other party and refraining from pushing too hard is equally crucial. Get in touch if you need more tips or assistance in mastering the art of negotiation. Good luck!

Video Transcription

First of all, thank you so much for taking time to spend your afternoon with me. I'm thrilled that you're here. Um My name is Jenny Cos. Um I've been a recruiter in tech for well, over 20 years.There are many weeks in my life where I will be actually negotiating millions of dollars worth of salaries. And what I love most about being a recruiter is, is that people never cease to amaze me and I love being AAA student of human behavior. And during this time, I've really got a chance to see the way that women p uh uh focus on their careers and the way that they approach a job search versus the way that a man approaches a job search. So I'm so excited to share some ideas and tips and tricks with you so that you can be on equal footing. Let's start out um by talking about um something that happened that was absolutely shocking to me. So one morning I'm getting ready to um for work and I hear on the TV, as I'm getting ready doing my makeup, they're talking about how female MB A graduates only 7% of them negotiate their first starting salary versus 57% of men. And when I heard that A it rang really true based on my experience of seeing women negotiate. And B I started thinking about the significant lifetime implications about that.

So what I want you to do is think if you took out a loan when you started your career for maybe five or $10,000 and every year there was 3 to 5% compounding interest on that loan. And every time you change jobs, maybe every 3 to 5 years, you added another 10 or 15 or 20 K to that deficit. And then even as you were going in to get your raise every year, maybe, um you know, you add another 1 to 2% because you're not even negotiating those raises. Think about the lifetime implication of not negotiating each and every time you take AAA job and especially how that compounds, you know, you think about it and if you're underpaid, then the recruiter might be thinking one of two things, either A, you're not money motivated or b maybe you're not uh at that level that you should be associated with that title.

So it's really important to think about um the, the implications of not negotiating every offer. We know that women only earn 82 cents for every dollar that a man learns earns. So, you know, I heard this, I was getting ready in the morning that particular day, I just happened to have a number of offers to extend. So the first offer that I extended that morning was to a man. Now, this man had been working contract, so he actually had been making more money, been paid for the hour, do every hour rather than a salary. He didn't have benefits. He was assuming risk because it was a contract job. And I told him in the very first interview, I said, look, this job pays 120,000 dollars. You make more than that right now, but you don't have benefits. You know, it's not full time. You'd have our issues, all the things why he should join our company. But I said, do not interview if you're not willing to take 100 and $20,000. So we fast forward two weeks, we went through the interview process. Everyone loves him. I extend the offer. I say, hey, great, guess what? We're gonna be able to offer you 100 and 20 $1000 just like we agreed. And you know what happened? He said, well, you know, really, I want 100 and 25 now. I was like, oh my gosh, you've got to be kidding me.

I told you don't even interview, but the way recruiting works. I said here, I'm gonna go ahead and I'll talk to my hiring manager just to make sure that we have absolutely no more money to give you. But believe me, I think we have no more. So I go back to the hiring manager and I said, hey, he pulled a bait and switch, he wants a little more. And the hiring manager said to me, well, you know, I have given some of my performers raises so we can give him 122 that way. You know, he'll feel good about it and we really want him to join. So chalk went up for the men, right. Well, my next offer that I had to deliver was for a woman. And um she'd been in a managerial role in a different industry. And so she was interviewing with us to change industries. And also, um she was interviewing for an individual contributor role. So, you know, I knew what her expectations were. I knew her value in the market. And when she went through the interview process, because there was so much change in those two roles, the offer that I had to extend to her came out much lower than what I expected. And quite frankly, I was disappointed in that offer and I pushed back on the hiring manager a little bit and she said, ok, I tell you what, let's extend the offer and then if she won't accept it, come back to me and, and, and let's look at it and see all that we can do so I call the woman and I'm, I'm, I'm really heartbroken to dis to extend this offer.

But I tell her exactly what it is and I was even more heartbroken by her reaction because instead of saying, you know what Jenny, that's just lower than I can go, she started explaining to me how, you know, this was really scary for her. But she thought maybe she could make some cut in, in her budget. And um, you know, she decided that it was a good move that it would change her skill set and that she would actually take the offer. Now, in my mind the whole time time, I'm thinking, you know, what don't do it, we can go back and building the business case of how that could change. But because she accepted the first offer on the table, I was disappointed and she even sent me a thank you note, which made me feel even worse. Now, the good news is, is long term. She was able to get some raises because she was a star performer. But it shows you that if she had just said no or if she just asked, I could have done more for her. So let me tell you about the third woman same day, right? This is a woman in Dev Ops. She's been working for a state university system and so she's pretty underpaid. We give her a really nice bump in compensation.

But as I'm going to negotiate the hiring manager and I agree that we will extend the offer, but I have an additional five K that I can offer her if she asks for it. So I extend the offer. And I'm thinking, ok, you know, we've got a, a man that, that negotiated. We have a woman that didn't. But this lady, I'm sure she'll be the one. So I extend the offer and she asks me, hey, um is there flexibility for me to pick up my kids in the morning in the evening? She asks about benefits because she really wants to make sure that her little one can get braces. But unfortunately, she never says even the slightest word about. Is there any flexibility? Is that the best you can do? Now? Some of you might be going. Oh my gosh, recruiter, you are so hard hearted. That's just terrible that you treat people that way. I, I want you to think about it as a recruiter. I work for a company, right? And oftentimes that company is publicly traded or maybe I, I even have a stock in that it's similar to if you negotiated a price with a vendor and then you just gave them additional five K because you thought that that was right thing to do.

I'm in that same position where I want to do the best I can for my candidates. But I also have a fiduciary responsibility to the company that I'm working for. However, if women ask, then I have the opportunity to really make a difference So my point is, is be sure and ask. So, you know, I was really upset at the end of the day and I did what any woman in the South might do. At the end of a hard day, I called my mama and when I called my mama, the first words out of her mouth were, hey, Jenny, are you being a good girl? And I talked to her about things and the last words out of her mouth were, hey, now Jenny, you be a good girl, be sure and be a good girl. What I looked into is actually there's such a thing as called good girl syndrome, right? And so a lot of us, especially if we're from the South were raised with this good girl syndrome and, and I'll tell you what some of the symptoms are, you have um a desire to be, appear very sensible. Um You wanna be and make sure that you're right. You wanna live up to expectations about, you don't want to make mistakes, you keep everything tidy. Um You'll defer to being quiet if there's any risk involved, you smile too much.

Um You know, and, and um the bad part about being a good girl is, is that um oftentimes you're seen as a pushover, right? Um You're the one that does way too much work and studies show that if you work harder and more than your male colleagues, sometimes you're actually viewed as less competent, right. Um, you know, and, and it's not just me, it's not just my mama thinking that, that there is good girl syndrome. You know, if you look at, um, there was a Stanford University study that shows that women, um, when their most positive traits are described, it's compassionate, it's warm, it's cheerful, it's soft spoken. Alternatively though, if we think of men, you know, they talk about independent, assertive, dominant, decisive.

So good girl syndrome isn't just me. I think that maybe there'll be some people who are listening to this that also suffer from that. So how does being a good girl? Um t back to then the way that we approach negotiating salary, I'll tell you a story. Um One of my dearest recruiter friends and she's actually a lioness. I have seen her go toe to toe with the strongest men in the software business and negotiate really creative and strong packages for her comp her for her candidates and she's incredibly tough. Um She's incredibly brave, right? But I called her. So I said, hey, tell me what you think about women versus men negotiating salaries and the first thing out of her mouth, I was absolutely shocked. She said, you know, Jenny, she said it happened to me. She said the job that I'm currently in, I know that I'm getting paid, my base salary is about $30,000 lower than the market for my skill set in this region. And I said, oh my God, why she said, well, when she extended the offer, I was scared and I really wanted to um, accept the very first thing. I didn't want to lose the offer. I didn't want to harm the relationship. So I just took the very first offer. Now again, she's got two twin boys that are going to college and she's trying to maximize revenue so that her kids have a great college experience. So being afraid really cost her very um significantly in, in that situation.

So we see that there's a problem, but let's talk a little bit about some of the things that you can do to help fix that problem, right? So the rest of this, I really want to give you practical tools and examples and things that you can do. First of all, when you are in an offer negotiation scenario, remember that it's a business deal. So the first thing that you're going to be doing is during the entire interview process, you're going to be building a case and putting together data of how you can transform this company and the value that you bring to the table and you're gonna have really good success stories of things that you've done in the past that will help the company in the future.

Because we know women are evaluated on past performance, men are evaluated on uh potential. So be sure that you're building that superstar um data driven business case, as you're going through the interview process. The second thing to remember is that your recruiter is going to be nice and fun. Maybe the hiring manager is going to be nice and fun. Do not think that they're your friend use them as an advocate. So what do I mean by that? You're going to build your, um, your um likability during the interview process, you're going to make sure that you're complimentary, You're gonna make sure that you're on time, you're gonna be flexible. But the other thing that you're gonna do is you're going to, to stockpile compliments.

You're gonna say, hey, hiring manager, here's what I loved about the interview. Hey, colleague, here's why I'd love to interview with you. And as you're talking to senior leaders, you also are going to say, hey, you know what that recruiter has done a great job and here's the things that they've done well because you want that uh recruiter to be your advocate in the process and you're going to do everything that you can to um really build out um that relationship so that you want them to work for you.

The next thing that you're going to do is you're going to build bridges. And what I mean by that is every time that you um are in this negotiation process, you're going to start with a, hey, I really am excited about the company. I believe that I can help drive revenue. You're gonna put a very good, strong statement in and then you're going to put your asks in, right? You're going to say, um, you know, here's what I'm looking for. Here's what would really make me happy. Here are the things that I need in order to move forward and then you're going to do the next good thing. I'm so excited about this opportunity. And as you work on this, I'm sure that we're going to come to a good resolution. So those are the bridges that you're going to build. And each time you build one of these bridges, what I want you to do is put in multiple items because that way you give your recruiter a better chance of winning for you and you find different levels levers that they can pull within the compensation package. So when you think about it, you know, there are a lot of things we always think about salary and bonus, but there's also title, there's vacation, there's sign on bonuses, there's MB OS, there's a review in six months. Um There's different levels of stock options or RS us.

Um So there are a lot of items that you can ask for as you're building those bridges, as women were a little bit afraid of, of team how that relationship. So give um a recruiter a lot of avenues to help you. Now, if you're an executive, feel free to put together a spreadsheet, I have had multiple men that have given me spreadsheets that say, hey, here's how all of my current comp works. Here's where your offer is. Here's the gaps and it makes it very easy for me to present the business case. Now, I have not ever once had a woman put together a spreadsheet for me. I did this talk last year and one of the women that I did found it incredibly helpful as she was negotiating her package. One piece about the spreadsheet though is, is be careful a about anchoring your current compensation unless you know what the salary range is and unless you're really sure of your um value in the market because you don't want to undervalue yourself. And then the last tip that I have is, is that well, I'm telling you to push and to negotiate.

Um There have been times when a candidate has been so insistent and has not built bridges and I felt like everything was for not and they appeared mercenary, only men have done this. But there have been times when in my career, I've said, you know what? I don't think this is a good cultural fit. I think you're really only interested in top dollar and not helping to build a company and I've done everything I can to get a good package and it just doesn't seem to be good for you. Maybe we should part ways. So it's very rare, but just know that you can pa uh pass too much. So let's talk a little bit about what happens then when you're in this negotiations process, right? Um, well, it's a business deal. It, uh feels really, really personal and this is where being from the south, the hoodoo come in for me. My mama would say, who do you think you are? Or she'd say don't go getting beyond your raisin. Um You know, and this is where that imposter syndrome comes out that we've seen other presentations on. So I'm gonna tell you a really quick story of a dear friend of mine that called and, um, she said, oh my gosh, you know, Jenny, um, I just got offered an executive, uh, uh, uh, role, um, moving from the director to executive director, but they offered me a 12% increase when really what, um, I know is, is the job is $30,000 pays more than what I'm getting and she was upset and she was in tears and she was mad and she was ready to quit.

And so I said, hey, hey, hey, wait, you don't want to take it personally and understand that hr only wants to give you a certain percent raise, but yet really, um, you want to focus on what the job is and what the job duties are and what the market of the job is. Don't make this personal. So she went back and forth quite a bit and you know, what happened at the end of the day is it took her about 60 days. And so I would get those calls going. Oh, are you sure? And how do you feel? So, you get that self doubt creep in? But she knew, and her boss was on the same page that, you know, she was, was doing the right thing and that, this is what she needed to do to advocate for herself because she didn't want a job that she was gonna be putting 60 hours a week in and be underpaid, she'd never be happy that way.

So after those 60 days, she was actually able to get a $20,000 increase. So it is, there just know that it's going to be a little bit uncomfortable as you walk through that process. Now, I know we have a lot of questions. Let me get to my last side that practice. Um all that you can um and you know, go to car dealerships, negotiate there, go to yard sales anytime you book a hotel. Um You know, ask, can you give me a better room? Can I get a better rate? Practice those skills in a lot of non confrontational ways it makes or non job related ways. It makes you much better and it saves you some money. Again, we think about that deficit of women not negotiating. There are some phrases that I want you to take away. So, um think about uh phrases like, hey, is there any flexibility in that compensation? Is that the best offer that you can make? Could you consider um you know, extra vacation? Could we consider a higher bonus? Could we adjust this or that? Um So the most, uh and I, I know we're right at time and I really want to be able to give you guys as much help as possible. Um There are some books that you can grab that will help make you a better negotiator, especially if you're in sales or dealing with people. These are absolutely fantastic books.

The spreadsheet that I'm talking about is just one you create and you look at your total compensation package, right? So you put in your base, you put in your bonus, you put any stock that you get, you put in. Um how much money your company is paying for your benefits you put in your 401k match, you put in every single thing that you can think about. You put in tuition reimbursement so that you can say, hey, here is all of the great stuff that I have right now. And if you want me on your team, you better give me a whole bunch of great stuff. Now, um someone asked how do you know when to stop? You'll be able to start getting signals um of when to stop. Because remember how I talked about a friend versus an advocate anytime, even when you're in your personal relationships, you can tell when you push your friends a little bit too far. And you also can see that, you know, maybe you get 60 or 70% of what you want in the negotiation, but you're happy with that. You push until you get the first. No.

And then once you start getting no, I would really back off because you want to make sure that you're, that the company gets to win. You wanna make sure it's fair for you and for them, if your compensation is too high, the expectations of the, that they have of you also might be too high. So you really wanna be judicious about comp uh about negotiating, but women you must negotiate. So I know that we're right at the end of time and I know everyone had some questions that I might not have been able to get to. Um So please don't hesitate to, to reach out to me. Um And, and I'll be more than happy to help you in any way that I can to make sure that you are getting um all of the info information that you need and all the tools that you need. So that the next time you go to the negotiation table, you're really able to um to um get position yourself. Well, so um thank you so much for your time and um really appreciate um everyone spending time with me this afternoon.